Sexual Assault

Harvey Weinstein's Downfall Marks the Rise of Sexual Equality

The Harvey Weinstein story is not just about the end of a career. It's about the end of an era.

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As disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein half-asses his way through sex-addiction rehab, more and more women, ranging from Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o to former teen star Molly Ringwald, keep coming forward with stories about his abusive and sometimes criminal behavior. Even his brother and longtime business partner Bob Weinstein has disowned him, calling him "indefensible," "crazy," and "remorseless."

But the Weinstein story is not just about the end of a career. It's about the end of an era.

The Miramax co-founder is only the latest in a long line of powerful older men whose professional lives ended with revelations of long-term harassment and worse. Fox News cashiered its founder Roger Ailes and star host Bill O'Reilly because of similar charges and Bill Cosby's 2014 comeback was destroyed after claims surfaced that he drugged and raped over a dozen women. The head of Amazon Studios was forced to resign last week after he was accused of "repeatedly and insistently" propositioning the producer of the streaming service's acclaimed series, The Man in the High Castle.

Weinstein was widely (and rightly) derided for blaming his decades-long behavior on having "come of age in the 60's and 70's, when all the rules about behavior and work places were different." Among other things, such a defense ignores the inconvenient fact that the Seventies ended nearly four decades ago.

But he is right that workplace expectations have changed–and that's largely because the workplace itself has changed. About 60 percent of women are in the workforce–compared to just 43 percent in 1970–and they are more likely to hold managerial or leadership roles than ever before. In fact, more than half of management, professional, and related positions are held by women. The pay gap has also essentially vanished. A study of 33 countries, including the United States, found that when comparing workers doing the same job, men made just 1.6 percent more than women.

With higher pay, positions, and status comes more workplace power–power that is amplified by social media and other technologies that empower dissent and make it harder and harder to maintain a sexist status quo.

There's a real issue that in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein revelations, behavior that is merely boorish or one-time-only will be conflated with systemic sexism and far-more-reprehensible crimes.

That's something we will sort through as a society. But surely it's more than coincidence that the Weinstein scandal broke just after Hugh Hefner, the absolute personification of old-school, pre-equality male sexual identity was being lowered into the ground.

The old days–and the old ways–are being laid to rest. And that's a very good thing, for all of us regardless of gender.

Produced and edited by Todd Krainin. Written and narrated by Nick Gillespie.

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