The courage of women who are going public to detail unwanted, sleazy, aggressive or predatory sexual behaviour by powerful men now has global momentum.
The allegations of serial predation by Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has become such a phenomenon it is now exposing powerful men across politics and the private corporate and public sectors.
At issue in the Weinstein scandal is the persistent abuse of power in personal, career and workplace relationships.
Coincidentally going viral at this time are two long-form video dramas, The Hand Maid’s Tale and Alias Grace, by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. They depict the palpable fear and terror experienced by women in patriarchal hierarchies.
All this is opening up a new chapter in the struggle for women’s rights, and so it should. Men must think more deeply about the human rights of women.
Behind this is a growing public consciousness, particularly in Australia, about domestic violence with its traumatic – and sometimes lethal – consequences for women and children.
It stems from deeply held misogyny in men. Misogyny means hatred of women, often still unconsciously present in many men who may believe they are enlightened and progressive.
And the roots of misogyny, according to experts, come from men’s sense of superiority, entitlement and the objectification of women.
In the recently published Making Caring Common project from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, an extensive survey found that 87 per cent, or nine out of 10 young women, have been sexually harassed.
“Virtually no woman is safe from the threat of sexual violence, unwanted sexual advances or crude remarks,” the survey found. “These numbers represent the tragic degree to which our societies have been overtaken by misogyny … and the massive amount of work required to mitigate the problem.”
Through Harvey Weinstein’s public disgrace it seems the long overdue mitigation work started. No longer is public shaming of sexual harassers just for dirt files as a party political tactic.
Until now women who spoke out publicly were frequently disbelieved and belittled.
Now the complainants are going public in spite of the clear risk of retaliatory law suits where any published allegation could be rejected as her word against his.
The telepathy among women seems to be there is protective strength in numbers, even for sleazy behaviour that may have happened decades ago.
When outed through the current Weinstein rolling coverage, some men have simply owned up and apologised, asking people to accept that they now realise such behaviour is not appropriate.
These men are taking the reputational hit. There is no escape.
Cheating, misogynist politicians and celebrities are having to confront their infidelities, gropings, assaults and ugly character flaws.