#METOO AND SPEAKING OUT AGAINST HARASSMENT

The “Silence Breakers” started the “MeToo” movement that tumbled the pillars of power. As we head into 2018, can we expect more of the same. Jessica Bennett, first-ever gender editor for the New York Times joins us.

Aired December 21, 2017.

TRANSCRIPT

THE YEAR THAT WAS WILL FOREVER BE REMEMBERED AS THE YEAR THAT WOMEN AND MEN IN THE WORKPLACE SAID ENOUGH TO SEXUAL HARASSMENT.

THE SILENCE BREAKERS AND THE ME, TOO, MOVEMENT BECAME A RALLY CRY FOR ALL WHO HAVE HAD TO ENDURE THE PAIN AND SHAME THAT COMES WITH THE CRIME.

THE FALL OF HARVEY WEINSTEIN SHOOK THE PILLARS OF POWER IN HOLLYWOOD AND AROUND THE COUNTRY.

BUT IT BECAME MUCH MORE THAN THAT.

HERE WITH INSIGHT INTO JUST HOW BIG OF A CULTURAL MILESTONE THIS HAS BECOME IS 'THE NEW YORK TIMES' GENDER EDITOR JESSICA BENNETT.

JESSICA, WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

THERE'S A LOT OF TALK ABOUT WHERE THIS BEGINS.

FOR ME, IT SEEMS LIKE AT LEAST IN THIS YEAR IT BEGAN WITH THE WOMEN'S MARCH WHERE THEY WERE ALL OVER THE COUNTRY AND THERE WAS THIS HUGE, PHYSICAL MOVEMENT OF WOMEN WHO WANTED TO STAND UP AND SAY, NO, WE'RE DONE.

SO TAKE US BACK TO WHERE YOU THINK THIS STARTS.

SO I THINK IT BEGAN WITH THE ELECTION OF DONALD TRUMP, A PRESIDENT WHO HAS BRAGGED OPENLY ABOUT SOMETHING THAT CAN BE PERCEIVED AS SOMETHING AS SEXUAL ASSAULT AND A NUMBER OF WOMEN HAVE COME FORWARD AND ACCUSED HIM.

ALL OF THAT BUBBLED UP.

WE SAW THE WOMEN'S MARCH HAPPEN.

THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFETIME THAT I'VE SEEN THAT MANY WOMEN OUT AND MEN AS WELL MARCHING IN REAL LIFE.

THIS WASN'T JUST A HASH TAG OR US GALVANIZING ON TWITTER.

THIS WAS US IN THE STREETS MARCHING AND I THINK SLOWLY BUT SURELY THIS ANGER HAS CONTINUED TO BUBBLE UP.

SO WHEN THE HARVEY WEINSTEIN STORY BROKE AND HE WAS THIS ULTIMATE PILLAR OF POWER IN HOLLYWOOD AND HAD INCREDIBLE INFLUENCE OVER, YOU KNOW, JUST THE WAY THAT WE CONSUME CULTURE, SOMETIME REALLY SNAPPED FOR A LOT OF WOMEN.

WAS IT ALSO THE ME, TOO, HASH TAG?

BECAUSE EVEN THOUGH WE HAD THIS PHYSICAL MOVEMENT OF ALL OF THE WOMEN HITTING THE STREETS, THIS HASH TAG ALSO DID A LOT.

COMPLETELY.

IT'S GALVANIZED AND ALLOWED PEOPLE TO FIND EACH OTHER SO WHAT HAPPENED AND SORT OF THE UNTOLD STORY IS THAT THE ME, TOO, MOVEMENT BEGAN A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO STARTED BY AN ACTIVIST AND SHE WAS A SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIM AS WELL.

SO THEN FAST FORWARD, WEINSTEIN BREAKS, ALL OF THESE OTHER PEOPLE START COMING OUT OF THE WOODWORK AND ALYSSA MILANO, THE ACTRESS, USING THE #METOO, AND IT COMPLETELY EXPLODES.

WITHIN DAYS THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE TWEETING THEIR OWN STORIES OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AND ABUSE.

IT'S GONE INTERNATIONAL AS WELL.

THERE'S A ME, TOO, IN ITALIAN AND FRENCH AND SPANISH.

IT TRANSLATES TO OUT YOUR PIG AND SO WOMEN ALL OVER THE WORLD ARE SHARING THESE STORIES AND, TO SOME EXTENT, THERE WAS THIS SENSE OF, OH, MY GOD, THIS MANY WOMEN HAVE EXPERIENCED THIS IN THEIR EVERY DAY WORK LIVES AND SO IT REALLY PUT SORT OF A BROADER FACE TO THIS LARGE-SCALE PROBLEM THAT WASN'T SIMPLY FOCUSED ON THE ACCUSERS OF HARVEY WEINSTEIN.

IT BROUGHT IT TO THE MASSES.

WELL, TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR BOOK BECAUSE IN YOUR BOOK YOU USE HUMOR, IF YOU CAN BELIEVE IT, TO APPROACH THIS INREDIBLY DIFFICULT AND SEA CHANGING SUBJECT.

MY BOOK CAME OUT ABOUT A YEAR AGO AND IT'S CALLED 'FEMINIST FIGHT CLUB.'

IT'S A TONGUE IN CHEEK FOR BATTLING SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE.

IT'S BEEN INTERESTING BECAUSE THIS WASN'T FUNNY.

THIS IS VERY SERIOUS.

BUT THE WAY I TRIED TO USE HUMOR THROUGHOUT THE BOOK IS TO TRY TO BRING A LIGHTNESS OF TOUCH TO VERY SERIOUS ISSUES THAT IN THE MODERN WORKPLACE AND PARTICULARLY INCORPORATE OFFICES PEOPLE FEEL VERY UNCOMFORTABLE TALKING ABOUT AND SO I DO THINK HUMOR CAN BE A REALLY POWERFUL TOOL TO OPEN UP CONVERSATIONS BUT CERTAINLY WHEN WE'RE TALKING ABOUT WIDESPREAD MASSIVE SEXUAL HARASSMENT, NO LAUGHING MATTER.

THAT'S ALL SO TRUE.

ONE OF THE ISSUES THAT SEEMS TO BE COMING UP IS THE COUNTERPOINT OF THE FACT THAT WHAT A LOT OF WOMEN ARE NOW SAYING, WHAT SOME WOMEN HAVE ACCUSED AND THERE'S A GENERATIONAL DIVIDE IN THIS.

SOME WOMEN SEE IT AS PERHAPS A BAD DATE OR SOMETHING WENT WRONG OR YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE DRESSED THAT WAY.

WE SAW THAT COME UP OVER THE SUMMER WHEREAS ON THE OTHER HAND YOU HAVE PEOPLE SAYING ABSOLUTELY NO, IN NO UNCERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES IS THIS EVER OKAY BEHAVIOR.

IS THERE MIDDLE GROUND THAT WOMEN HAVE TO COME TO FOR US ALL TO CONTINUE TO PUSH THIS TO THE GOAL LINE OR IS THIS MOVING IN THAT DIRECTION ANYWAY?

YOU KNOW, IT'S BEEN FASCINATING TO WATCH FROM A MEDIA PERSPECTIVE BECAUSE THESE TYPES OF STORIES HAPPEN AND THEY HAVE A CYCLE AND YOU THINK THERE'S GOING TO BE AN END POINT AND WITH THIS THERE TRULY SEEMS TO BE NO END POINT.

IT JUST KEEPS GOING.

THE DOMINOS KEEP CONTINUING TO FALL AND FALL.

WE'LL SEE MORE OF A FOCUS ON WORKING-CLASS WOMEN, WOMEN ON COLOR, ON THOSE WHO DON'T HAVE THE PRIVILEGE TO AUTOMATICALLY SPEAK UP ABOUT THESE POWERFUL MEN OR MAY NOT EVEN NECESSARILY HAVE THE ACCESS TO MEDIA TO TALK ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCES.

BUT THIS IS SUCH A WIDESPREAD PROBLEM AND SO TO OBSERVE IT AS A JOURNALIST, THERE SEEMS TO BE NO END IN SIGHT.

YOU KNOW, WHAT I HAVE FOUND REALLY INTERESTING, I RECORDED A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO ABOUT A NEW YORK PLAYWRIGHT WHO WAS ACCUSED OF NINE WOMEN OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND ABUSE AND TWO OF THEM WERE 16 AT THE TIME AND ONE ALLEGED RAPE.

MOST OF THE WOMEN WERE IN THEIR 40s AND 50s SO THIS HAD HAPPENED A NUMBER OF YEARS AGO.

THERE WERE A COUPLE OF WOMEN IN THEIR 20s AND THE WOMEN IN THEIR 20s IMMEDIATELY WENT TO SOCIAL MEDIA TO TALK ABOUT THE ASSAULT.

THEY WERE COMPLETELY PUBLIC ABOUT IT, THEY WERE COMFORTABLE USING THEIR NAMES WHEREAS THE OLDER WOMEN IT TOOK THEM 30 YEARS, IN SOME CASES, TO COME OUT AND EXPLAIN AND TALK ABOUT IT AND SO I DO THINK THERE IS A GENERATIONAL DIVIDE OR PERHAPS WE'RE STARTING TO COME TOGETHER FOR THE FIRST TIME IN A SENSE THAT THIS IS A REALLY PERVASIVE PROBLEM THAT MOST WOMEN HAVE EXPERIENCED AT SOME POINT IN THEIR CAREERS.

AND IT IS OKAY TO TALK ABOUT IT OPENLY.

AND SO IN SOME SENSE MAYBE THEIR GENERATION IS GIVING AN EDUCATION TO THE OLDER GENERATION TO SAY, HEY, THIS HAPPENED TO ME AND I'M NOT GOING TO BE ASHAMED OF IT.

WELL, IT DOES SEEM LIKE THIS HAS BEEN A MOTIVATOR.

FROM WHAT I UNDERSTAND, THERE'S BEEN A RECORD NUMBER OF WOMEN LOOKING TO RUN FOR OFFICE TO START TO CHANGE THE CULTURE.

22,000.

EXACTLY.

IT'S REMARKABLE.

EXACTLY.

GOING INTO 2018, AS WOMEN DEALING WITH THESE ISSUES, DOES THE CONVERSATION CONTINUE?

BECAUSE IT SEEMS LIKE THERE'S A SENSE OF ANXIETY AMONGST EVERYBODY.

OR DOES IT MOVE INTO A MORE CONVERSATIONAL PLACE WHERE WE CAN JUST BE ABLE TO TALK TO EACH OTHER?

RIGHT.

IT'S SORT OF WHAT IS NEXT.

I MEAN, IT'S INTERESTING FROM A REPORTING PERSPECTIVE BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, THE DOMINOS CONTINUE TO FALL, ONE AFTER THE NEXT.

BUT THE QUESTION, I THINK, BECOMES, ALL RIGHT, WHAT DO WE DO?

CLEARLY THERE IS AN ISSUE HERE.

EXACTLY.

CLEARLY SEXUAL HARASSMENT TRAINING IN WORKPLACES IS NOT WORKING.

SOMETHING IS NOT GETTING ACROSS OR PERHAPS EVEN MORE DEEPLY, LIKE, WE HAVE A LACK OF UNDERSTANDING IN OUR CULTURE ABOUT WHAT CONSENT MEANS AND WHAT IS OKAY AND LIKE HOW POWER DYNAMICS PLAY INTO THIS.

SO WHAT I HOPE WILL HAPPEN IS WE START TALKING ABOUT SOLUTIONS AS WELL AS THE PROBLEMS, BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT THE PROBLEMS EXIST.

EXACTLY.

SOLUTIONS ARE WHAT WE NEED.

YEAH, WHAT DO WE DO.

I WAS EDITING A PIECE THE OTHER DAY FROM A WOMAN IN OUR SAN FRANCISCO BUREAU AND SHE HAD GONE AND OBSERVED ALL OF THESE DIFFERENT SEXUAL HARASSMENT TRAININGS AND WHAT THE EXPERT SAID ABOUT THEM IS THEY ARE PRETTY INEFFECTIVE.

YOU DON'T INTERNALIZE ANY OF IT AND WHAT ACTUALLY DOES WORK IS BYSTANDERS.

SO ONE OF US OBSERVING A WEIRD BEHAVIOR HAPPENING AND SAY, HEY, THAT WAS INAPPROPRIATE OR TAKE SOMEONE ASIDE AND SAY, HEY, DID YOU FEEL OKAY IN THAT SITUATION?

I THINK WE CAN ALL DEFINITELY EXPECT A MUCH DIFFERENT WORKPLACE GOING FORWARD.

I HOPE SO.

LISTEN, JESSICA BENNETT, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR BOOK BECAUSE GOD KNOWS WE ALL NEED A LAUGH.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US ON 'METROFOCUS..'

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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