Views / Opinion

Stop being surprised by allegations of sexual misconduct: Westwood

We shouldn't be shocked as more women, like actress Olivia Munn, come forward with stories of assault.

Olivia Munn has called this moment ‘pruning the tree — cutting off the wilder vines. And the disease still remains in the tree.’

Richard Shotwell / AP

Olivia Munn has called this moment ‘pruning the tree — cutting off the wilder vines. And the disease still remains in the tree.’

Writing a column about sexual assault and harassment at this point feels like juggling twelve cats using your knees.

Who can analyze every development on every front, the new revelations, and the way each story is twisting mid-air, all at once? The issues of silencing, of fear, of who facilitated predation. Of the structural forces that keep women, and some men, quiet, the HR departments, the complaint protocols. Of the fate — and appropriate fate — of the accused (Fired? Arrested? Re-investigated?). Of the loss of talent these men represent (one of the swiftest responses to allegations, still). Of how many unknown women’s talent has been lost (a question I’ve only seen women raise). Of the innumerable women who may never see justice because they’re working-class, and thus a far less juicy story. Of why women are still the ones taking each other most seriously. Of so-called good men and women failing to make change, and whether we really care. Or care enough.

Take the organizations — Democrats, Republicans, media outlets, Hollywood companies — tasked with responding to sexual assault and harassment who are now weighing what they stand to lose if an important man is held accountable.

Actress Olivia Munn, whose allegations that director Brett Ratner masturbated in front of her have thus far left his career unscathed, called this period “pruning the tree — cutting off the wilder vines. And the disease still remains in the tree.”

Not every guilty man will be sacrificed to this catharsis, she said. I agree.

Not least because the alleged assaulter and admitted groper in the White House just tacitly endorsed the accused pedophile Senate candidate from Alabama. A simple denial from Roy Moore was all Donald Trump needed: “You have to listen to him, also,” Trump told reporters.

Saturday is the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and Republicans will mark it with even more evidence of deep ambivalence toward sexual violence.

In a new Quinnipiac University poll, 43 per cent of Republicans (and 81 per cent of Democrats) said they’d consider voting for a political candidate accused of sexual harassment. Only 28 per cent think Trump should be impeached if harassment claims against him are proven, compared to 88 per cent of Democrats.

If you’re from the left and any of that makes you feel good about yourself, I urge you to reconsider. No woman will be spared by your moral superiority.

But there is one step we can all take to feel a little less dizzy: Stop being surprised.

Shock can only come from feigned obliviousness (common among men) to the pervasiveness and power of sexual harassment. It’s a useless response, able to stop us in our tracks and confuse us. If you want to see change, start seeing things clearly.

Beginning with: This injustice is everywhere.

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