Speaking out against male predators

By Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

MEVASERET ZION, Israel — “Predators.”

No, the term doesn’t apply to all men, but it would seem to be a corollary of the power that many men have obtained, by fair means or foul, over women, particularly in the workplace.

The recent revelations about the way Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein appears to have made a habit of molesting, harassing, and pestering women for sexual favors have given rise to a wide range of expressions of shock, horror and disgust.

What a bunch of hypocrites! Especially the men.

It now transpires that everyone knew about Weinstein’s shenanigans. And nobody spoke up because he was all-powerful in Hollywood. And that, of course, is the devastating combination: men and power.

It’s not so long ago that we witnessed a tape of the current president of the USA boasting about molesting young women because of the power he wielded as a TV personality and owner of the Miss World beauty pageant. Yet it didn’t stop him getting elected to the highest office, probably because many men either identified with him or admired him for his (mis)behavior. Why any women voted for him is beyond me, but that’s another matter.

Mr. Weinstein is far from being alone in the field of sexual harassment. Not so long ago Mr. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, or DSK as he was popularly known in his homeland, France, was the very powerful head of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and on the verge of becoming the leading candidate for the French Presidency, But then he tried to molest a maid in a New York hotel, and was accused and found guilty of sexual assault and attempted rape. Then it transpired that he was widely known to have been a sexual predator, only nobody had had the courage to speak out.

The Fox News Channel has recently had to fire or accept the resignation of several of its leading anchor-men (not women) because it transpired that the sexual harassment of female colleagues was virtually part of the organization’s culture. Something similar seems to have been going on in the administration of the Uber ride-hailing company, though details have not been made public. As in the other cases cited above, women and girls who rejected the advances of the predatory men were threatened, bullied, fired, or paid off.

In England in recent years horrifying reports have emerged of the sexual abuse of young girls, often in institutions for the disabled, by leading entertainer Jimmy Saville. Saville was a national figure whose name and face were universally known and who counted prominent politicians and media personalities among his friends. Everyone knew about it at the time. Everyone turned a blind eye. And only when a few brave women spoke up, after Saville’s death and very grand official funeral, did the truth begin to emerge. Subsequently he was disinterred and reburied in an unmarked grave somewhere on a Yorkshire hillside, but the damage to countless young women had been done, and gone unpunished.

It’s hard not to wonder what makes some men behave in this way, but I suppose the simple answer is ‘because they can.’ Being in a position of power seems to do something to the male brain, or rather some other part of their anatomy, and they do not hesitate to take advantage of their situation.

Let’s not kid ourselves, Harvey Weinstein isn’t alone in Hollywood in using his power to demand sexual favors. In fact, this is virtually a tradition in the movie industry, dating back to the time of the original ‘movie moguls’ and the concept of the ‘casting couch.’ Reports abound of similar behavior by male actors, directors, producers and others employed in the movie industry.

Some people blame the way women dress, walk, behave, or otherwise comport themselves. Others point the finger at the lax morals of our generation, the messages projected by many movies, the easy access to methods of birth control, or the general atmosphere of modern life.

Let’s face it, rape has existed for as long as humans have been around. It’s reported in the Bible, it’s part of the weaponry of warfare, and it can only be perpetrated by the male of the species. In the past it was by virtue of superior physical strength that men were able to overcome women’s resistance and today it’s their power in the workplace that has given them an additional edge.

One can only hope that naming and shaming the most blatant perpetrators will serve as a salutory lesson and serve to dissuade others from emulating them.

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Shefer-Vanson is an author and freelance writer based in the Jerusalem suburb of Mevaseret Zion.  She may be contacted via [email protected]

 

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