It’s 2017, and yet women are still fighting for equality. Data suggests it will take until 2152 to close the gender wage gap, but it shouldn’t take a century to get what we want. We want more, and Refinery29 is here to help — because 135 years is too long to wait for what we deserve today.
If there is one lesson that many Americans are learning recently, it is the power of collective action. When people stand up en masse to fight injustice, change is possible. When an outrageous affront to women’s rights and dignity is perpetrated, we must stand up and insist it stop. That is why I’m calling on all the women and men who work at or contribute to Fox News to refuse to appear until Bill O’Reilly is fired and the network takes serious steps to deal with the culture of harassment and sexism that it clearly proliferates.
In July 2016, my friend Gretchen Carlson courageously stepped forward and sued Fox News chairman Roger Ailes for sexual harassment. At the time, he was the most powerful man in media, and the lawsuit was explosive. What came to light in her bombshell story and the ensuing investigation confirmed not just the illegal behavior that women like Carlson were routinely subject to, but the culture within Fox that allowed this behavior to continue. It’s worth remembering that many of the on-air Fox personalities — including some women — initially not only defended Ailes but publicly attacked Carlson. In the huge and unprecedented settlement that Fox News came to with her, the company also apologized for the harassment she endured. I was hopeful then that this signaled a serious effort by the network to root out illegal behavior and deal seriously with the culture that allowed it to happen. Apparently not.
Now, it has become clear that over the last 15 years, the network has paid out a whopping $13 million to quietly settle sexual harassment claims against Bill O’Reilly — two of these settlements took place after Ailes was fired. The fact that O’Reilly is still in his job while these allegations are investigated, even as advertisers flee, tells you everything you need to know about how seriously the network takes this issue. (O’Reilly has denied the merit of the claims, and settlement agreements often include a clause of no wrongdoing.)
over the last 15 years, the network has paid out a whopping $13 million to quietly settle sexual harassment claims against Bill O’Reilly.
I have been a regular unpaid contributor to Fox for the past 18 months. I have valued the experience, am grateful for the opportunity, and have never personally experienced the harassment that has come to light recently. But I will not appear again on the network until O’Reilly is fired. As a feminist and defender of women’s rights and equality, I cannot in any way condone the appalling culture at the network which allows someone who has clearly broken the law over and over again to remain. Neither should anyone else.
I have had the pleasure of knowing many smart and talented people who work at or contribute to Fox News. I know that many of them, like Maria Bartiromo, Meghan McCain, Abby Huntsman and others, are fierce advocates for women’s equality. But by continuing to appear on the network, they are unwitting enablers of the most appalling and unacceptable workplace discrimination against women. Yes, I understand they have contracts and could be fired, but many people have taken far greater risks in defense of what’s right.
Of course, it is not just the responsibility of women to stand up for other women. I would hope that any of the men at the network who would not want their wives, daughters, or mothers to ever face this kind of workplace harassment would also refuse to support the culture at the network that has allowed O’Reilly’s alleged behavior.
Lauren Leader-Chivée is an author, advocate, and advisor on diversity and women’s issues. She is the cofounder and CEO of the All In Together Campaign, a non-partisan non-profit organization focused on women’s political participation. Her book Crossing the Thinnest Line argues for the importance of diversity to the future of the country.