It was said almost immediately in early October, when dual articles in the New York Times and the New Yorker exposed an alarming pattern of inappropriate and abusive sexual behavior by film mogul Harvey Weinstein, that this was a watershed moment.
But it’s hard to tell if something truly is a watershed moment while it is happening. It’s the events and reactions that occur after that determine that.
Three months later, there’s no doubt it was a watershed moment, indeed.
Women have been racking their memories of all the times they have inappropriately harassed and kept their silence, the victims of an existing punitive culture that deterred women from speaking out against powerful men.
Men, conversely, have reflected on all the times that their behavior towards women may have crossed the line and if they, too, are guilty of sexual impropriety.
What’s different now is we’ve finally entered a new age where we, as a society at large, are ready to listen to women and accept their stories.
And my how the floodgates have opened. Kevin Spacey. Louis CK. Charlie Rose. Matt Lauer. The list goes on of men who have been publicly accused and subsequently lost their jobs, or faced punishment and public shaming.
My worry is that people will get lost in this cloud of constant accusations. I worry that the discussions will devolve to “Who’s next?” followed by, “Will he lose their job?”
Because if that is the case, then we lose the question that truly matters: Where do we go from here?
Moving forward, will we now live and work in an environment where men, knowing that they will be held accountable for their actions, will think twice before they act? Will we begin educating youths of the improper nature of sexual misconduct, even before they know what sex is – like we do with drugs?
What’s happening now will not matter if we don’t learn anything moving forward, and that is where conversations need to be directed.
Exposing people for their past behavior is a good start, but more important is making sure that this behavior doesn’t persist.
As far as how to deal with the accused, well, that’s another discussion. What we’ve obviously learned is that this issue is not black and white. When hearing about alleged misconduct, we need to decipher if the accused has exhibited a lifelong pattern of pervasive sexual misconduct, or if they made a mistake.
Will they vehemently deny the allegations and demean their accusers, or will they accept responsibility and strive to become a better person? Those are the questions we need to ask ourselves, and judge accordingly.
There’s a lot of ugliness being reported now. I’m sure there will be more accusations coming. But often, the brightest times emerge after the darkest storms.
Let’s hope there is brightness ahead.