Would the New York Times have gone after Harvey Weinstein with such determination had not Donald Trump, with his own sleazy history of bad behavior toward women, been elected president? Would there have been such a deluge of victims past and present joining together and taking a stand against the physical, economic and psychic violence they've suffered?
I can hardly stand to read all the sordid details in all the sordid stories because they're bringing up such unpleasant repressed memories for me personally. I had to leave journalism for more than a decade as a result of my own experiences.
The publisher of the first newspaper I worked for attacked me the same night I won a reporting award. A bunch of us had gone out for celebratory drinks after the ceremony, and as he was dropping me off at my own car, the groping and sloppy kisses ensued. I managed to fend him off and escaped. Needless to say, my big moment of professional recognition had been forever spoiled.
After that, I noticed that I wasn't getting the same number and caliber of reporting assignments from the all-male editing desk. The silent freeze-out, the constructive eviction, had begun.
A second incident happened when I'd been transferred back to the graveyard shift, and had gone into the tiny alcove off the main newsroom to rip out the AP wire reports. The sports editor had silently followed me, cornered me and grabbed me with no warning. Again, I managed to fend off the attack while making no attempt to hide my disgust.
I fit the usual pattern. I only complained to the few women I worked with. Back then, in the late 70s, there were no laws against sexual harassment in the workplace. The term "sexual harassment" was not even in the lexicon yet.
And these incidents adversely affected my entire professional career. Like so many of the women who are speaking out today, I was "blackballed." When my newspaper was sold by the Gannet chain to a foreign investor, I finally left and immediately was offered another job at a local weekly paper. Everything was hunky-dory, or so I thought.
The editor who had hired me so enthusiastically because of my excellent journalistic credentials and writing skills suddenly became distant and wouldn't name the day for me to report to work. He hemmed and he hawed, and he hawed and he hemmed, something about the budget and health insurance issues. I finally realized he was blowing me off, and I angrily told him so.
My suspicions about why the job offer was so suddenly and so passive-aggressively rescinded were confirmed a short time later. I found out from a mutual acquaintance that the sports editor who'd attacked me in the wire room had contacted his good friend, the weekly newspaper editor, and bad-mouthed me behind my back. I never learned precisely what he said, but I can imagine.
I gave up looking for another reporting job, and left the field entirely to help my husband open his medical clinic and later to raise my children. The next newspaper I worked for had a female editor and a much more sensitive and respectful group of male colleagues.
Of course, by then I was no longer a cute 20-something in a miniskirt. I was a matronly-looking woman in my 40s. And that's certainly the best part of getting older: the gropers start to leave you alone. The invisibility of the mature woman does have its perks, that's for sure.
So I feel angry and wistful at the same time as I read the stories of my modern-day reporting counterparts. With the closings of so many local newspapers and radio stations, and the consolidation of the media, it's harder than ever for talented women to not only break in, but to survive in this cutthroat competitive field.
The gruesome details of the Charlie Rose spree of both abusive verbal behavior and sexual predation were particularly galling to me. Here was a plutocrat who lived a luxury life, complete with private jets and four homes, but was too cheap to even pay some of his victims. He literally owned slaves, or as they're more euphemistically known these days, unpaid interns.
From the shattering and detail-rich Washington Post story:
Working for the “Charlie Rose” show was a longtime dream for Reah Bravo, who in 2007 was a 29-year-old graduate student studying international affairs at Columbia University. She struggled to make ends meet during her unpaid internship, accruing credit card debt and eating free cereal in the Bloomberg food court.As cathartic as it must be for Bravo and other women to be finally spilling their guts in public about their ordeals, the economic and emotional prices they have paid and continue to pay will last them their whole lives. Already labeled "difficult," their career opportunities will suffer, especially in the Google age. When highly credentialed young graduates are forced to enter the servant "gig" economy to make ends barely meet, the predation is not only sexual and financial. It is literally life and soul-destroying.
One day, several months into the internship, Rose offered her a side gig at his home in Bellport on Long Island.
“Here is the deal: I’ll pay you $2,500 for the week plus all expenses for food, movies etc.,” he wrote to her on Aug. 9, 2007. “You will be there from Monday August 13-Friday afternoon, August 17. Your primary responsibilities are to organize and catalogue all my books and tapes and files ... It will help me a lot, be fun for you, and you will have a car all the time for whatever you need to do.”
So I'm glad the ugly truth is coming out, at long last.