Harassment Rooted in Inequality

Member Group : Reflections

With the floodgates open on accusations of sexual harassment (and worse) following the bombshell report that surfaced in October about Harvey Weinstein and the subsequent tidal wave of cases that have spotlighted purported male lechery and illegitimate and illegal workplace conduct, it appears that the leading commentators in academia, law, entertainment, government, publishing and broadcasting have reached a consensus about the common denominator among the ever-growing list of suspects and defendants.

The apparent agreement regarding the common factor among those accused of harassment is that the problem is generally caused by men with disproportionate power, wealth and influence, by the top dogs operating and dominating in organizations that have large imbalances of power and income and where bullying, pursuing, injuring and harassing feed on the inequality.

As defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the mistreatment, intimidation and harassment of women (and sometimes men) generally consists of “unwelcome sexual advances, verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature, or requests for sexual favors,” the latter often sought in exchange for favoritism in the workplace or quid pro quo boosts up the socioeconomic ladder to higher levels of income, wealth, autonomy and fame.

Writing recently in the Guardian, Alissa Quart, executive editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project in Washington, D.C., reported on the similarities in several high profile harassment cases where all the accused were charged with intense sexual harassment, and in some cases violent assault. “All also had inordinate economic advantage over their female employees and colleagues,” explained Quart. “Their quarry ranged from actresses to journalists to female entrepreneurs. And what their prey all had in common was a fear of financial or professional retribution that could destabilize already precarious careers.”

The correlation between dissimilar levels of clout and wealth, gender inequalities in terms of income and power, and sexual harassment is clear in a listing of the most recent sexual harassment accusations, lawsuits, payoffs, resignations or firings: producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein, co-creator, CEO and Chairman of Fox News Roger Ailes, Fox News host and ratings leader Bill O’Reilly, actors Casey Affleck, Dustin Hoffman, Danny Masterson, Ed Westwick, George Takei, Jeffrey Tambor, Jeremy Piven and Kevin Spacey, Warner Bros. director and producer, respectively, Brett Ratner and Andrew Kreisberg, comedians Louis C.K. and Andy Dick, Bloomberg reporter and MSNBC pundit Mark Halperin, long-running literary editor of The New Republic Leon Wieseltier, publisher and president of The New Republic Hamilton Fish, Mother Jones magazine editor and chief executive David Corn, Rolling Stone magazine founder and publisher Jann Wenner, NPR’s chief news editor and senior vice president of news, respectively, David Sweeny and Michael Oreskes, longtime television host Charlie Rose, co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Animation CEO John Lasseter, co-host of NBC’s “Today” show Matt Lauer, and an expanding lineup of politicians, most recently U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota), former president George H.W. Bush, former Congressman (D-Tennessee) and MSNBC pundit Harold Ford Jr., U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore (R-Alabama) , Congressman Trent Franks (R-Arizona), Congressman Ruben Kihuen (D-Nevada), and Congressman John Conyers Jr. (D-Michigan), co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, and the longest-serving active member of Congress until his retirement announcement on December 5th.

“Nearly all men can stand adversity,” stated Abraham Lincoln, “but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

Ralph R. Reiland is Associate Professor of Economics Emeritus at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.

Ralph R. Reiland
Phone: 412-527-2199
Email: [email protected]