When news of famed Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s alleged predatory behavior first made headlines last month, the revelation felt like a bombshell in itself. But, little did we know, the initial stories were only a crack in the dam of understanding Weinstein’s decades of disturbing supposed behavior, or the systematic culture of sexism, coercion, and sexual violence hiding underneath the glitz and glamour of media and entertainment. Since then, everyone from House Of Cards actor Kevin Spacey to mega producer-slash-director Brett Ratner has fallen, and countless other men have been accused of assault, harassment, and rape.
This is the climate that led CBS This Morning anchor and media icon Gayle King to comment on the avalanche of scandals during a recent panel event at New York City’s Paley Center. During the conversation celebrating her morning show, which she anchors with cohosts Charlie Rose and Norah O'Donnell, King noted even colleague and journalist Jodi Kantor, who originally broke the Weinstein story, “Didn’t know it was going to lead to this.” Yet, lead to this it did.
Despite the dark cloud currently hanging over the media, King sees all of this fearless truth telling as a step forward. “Just the fact we’re talking about it is a very important sign. The fact people at all different levels and all different jobs, men and women, are talking about it,” the award-winning journalist told Refinery29 following her panel appearance. “I see already people are taking their own counsel, they’re maybe reevaluating their behavior, and I think women now feel empowered to speak up.”
Although King understands whether or not these endless scandals will prove to be a for-good “game changer” or not “remains to be seen,” she does seem pretty sure certain indefensible tendencies are over forever. “I think we’re sending a warning signal that this kind of behavior will no longer be tolerated,” the CBS anchor said. “I would like to think there will be a zero tolerance policy for men and women who engage in this behavior.”
Yet, enacting a “zero tolerance policy” means more than people quietly rethinking their bad behavior solo — it means calling out offenders when they're right in your midst. That’s the only real way to change the culture. This explains why King said, “I hope it’s no longer... going to be kind of slapping on the back [for offensive behavior] and ‘Oh, isn’t that fun.’ I just think those days are over.”
As the world is heralding the end to the sexist “Boy’s Club” culture in multiple industries — “We know it’s not exclusive to the movie business. This kind of stuff has been happening for a very long time,” King reminds us — it also gives men a new way to exclude women. From Twitter to op-ed pages, many have questioned whether men’s burgeoning new fear of seeming like a predator will lead male bosses to limit the amount of time they spend getting to know their young women employees. We’re talking about business trip invitations, stops at happy hour, and golf outings, which are all ways younger professions climb the corporate ladder by making invaluable connections. If women are left out these activities, it will likely be even harder for them to break their own corporate glass ceilings.
King, however, doesn’t think these hypothetical excuses hold much water. “There’s a whole wide range between ‘I’m a sexual predator’ and a guy saying, ‘Hey, you look really nice today,’” she countered. “I actually think most women know the difference about that, and, newsflash: so do the men.” King said a good “guide” to figuring out whether a boss’ behavior falls on the Predator-to-Compliment scale is asking, “Would you want somebody doing that to your mother or your daughter?” Of course the average person would be fine with a colleague inviting a woman in their life to an out-of-town conference. But, demanding that woman comes to your hotel room after said conference to watch you shower? Absolutely not.
While young women everywhere might feel overwhelmed by all of the terrible news currently out there, and the fact we might end up getting the short end of the business stick thanks to other people’s misdeeds, King believes we’re better equipped than prior generations to fight for our rights. “I actually think young women today are a little more savvy,” she said. “I don’t think they have the same hesitation that women did back in the day to speak up.”
Whatever obstacles are ahead, the broadcast anchor has an optimistic viewpoint going forward. “Listen, women aren’t going anywhere. We. Are. Not. Going. Anywhere,” King promises. “Sort of like, ‘I am woman, hear me roar.’”
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