My reaction to witnessing the well-deserved comeuppance of powerful sexual harassers lately is probably the same as most people.
In the beginning—with Harvey Weinstein—it was disgust, shock, and horror. Not because I didn’t believe it could happen or even that it wasn’t happening every single day, because I knew that it could, and it was. I think the horror came from the outrageousness of the acts, how long it had been going on, and the extent to which it was covered up by those around him. I was especially naïve about that last part.
But then, brave women everywhere who were assaulted finally felt empowered enough to break their silence and come forward, one by one, accusing their own alleged attackers, and the list of perpetrators started growing.
Here is the list. I don’t know about you, but to see this chronological list, compiled by AJC.com, of 35 cases of sexual misconduct that have happened since the story about Harvey Weinstein broke on October 5th, it’s nothing less than overwhelming, exhausting, and maddening.
Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood producer and co-founder of the Weinstein Company
Ben Affleck, Actor
Roy Price, Amazon executive
Chris Savino, Nickelodeon producer
Lockhart Steele, Vox Media Editorial Director
John Besh, Celebrity Chef
James Toback, Writer/Director
Terry Richardson, Fashion Photographer
Leon Wieseltier, New Republic editor
Knight Landesman, Artforum publisher
Mark Halperin, MSNBC political analyst, co-author of Game Change
Ken Baker, E! News Correspondent
Kevin Spacey, Actor
Jeremy Piven, Actor
Hamilton Fish, New Republic president and publisher
Michael Oreskes, NPR Chief Editor
Andy Dick, Comedian
Brett Ratner, Filmmaker
Jeff Hoover, Kentucky House Speaker
Dustin Hoffman, Actor
David Guillod, Primary Wave Entertainment co-CEO
Ed Westwick, Actor known for “Gossip Girl”
Jeffrey Tambor, Actor
Matthew Weiner, “Mad Men” creator
Roy Moore, Alabama judge and politician, U.S. Senate candidate (R.-Ala.)
Louis C.K., Comedian
Andrew Kreisberg, Executive producer of “Arrow,” “Supergirl,” “The Flash”
Eddie Berganza, Editor of DC Comics
Gary Goddard, CEO of The Goddard Group, behind the creation of theme park attractions including the Georgia Aquarium and the Monster Plantation ride at Six Flags Over Georgia
Al Franken, U.S. Senator (D-Minn.)
John Conyers, U.S. Senator (D-Mich.)
Glenn Thrush, New York Times White House reporter
Charlie Rose, PBS and CBS host
John Lasseter, Pixar and Disney Animation chief
Nick Carter, Backstreet Boys member
Matt Lauer, NBC “Today” show morning host
Garrison Keillor, Creator and former host of “A Prairie Home Companion”
Russell Simmons, Entrepreneur, co-founder of Def Jam Recordings
Some of these names I had even already forgotten about, like Dustin Hoffman and Jeffrey Tambor. Some of them, I hadn’t forgotten about at all because I was so mad at them. Kevin Spacey didn’t seem to surprise many people, and maybe I wasn’t too surprised either. But still so disappointed.
Jeremey Piven was an actor I had loved since 1986 when he was in the movie “One Crazy Summer” with John Cusack and Demi Moore. Not to mention one of my favorite movies of all time—“Serendipity.” And I was even enjoying his recent television show, “Wisdom of the Crowd.” I was pissed at him for being such a dickhead. I was glad his show got canceled and hoped his victims get the vindication they deserve.
But then—Matt Lauer.
I’m not going to lie. I had more than one friend tell me that they cried when they heard the news. Tears of what—betrayal? Disbelief? I don’t know, but I absolutely understood how they felt. I was completely shocked when I heard the news and no matter how many times in my life I have said, “Believe the women,” I hoped the accusations were wrong.
I noticed that people were quickly calling each other out on social media for immediately believing the accusations about Harvey Weinstein, but having a harder time processing that someone like Matt Lauer could have been capable of something like this.
So then I got curious.
What is it that makes the accusations about Matt Lauer so much harder for some of us to process, if not believe?
I am the first to admit that I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe too much. And probably too often. There have been people immediately claiming that they thought he seemed like a smug SOB all along, but I guess I didn’t see it. I had heard that he had trouble in his marriage at one point, but that was the extent of my knowledge about anything beyond what I saw on the “Today Show.”
I don’t know why I felt like he was trustworthy. Is it because he came into my home most mornings to share the news of the world with me? Was it because he was the one who was there with me when 9/11 happened and my husband was flying (ultimately safely) cross-country on a plane while the Twin Towers came down? Was it because, some days, he and the rest of the “Today Show” family were the only adult conversation I had when I was home with my toddler and baby?
But then I started thinking about the accused men who upset me the most, and understood why they—and especially Matt Lauer—bothered me so much.
I realized it’s because, as an outsider looking in—albeit with her rose-colored glasses planted firmly on her face—he seemed like a “good man.” And if this supposed “good man” could do things like this, what about the good men I surround myself with?
Obviously, I don’t know him, and how the hell would I know if he was a good man or not?! This is simply the image I had created of him in my mind, based on the superficial reality of what I saw on television. The details that have come out since he was fired have definitely provided testimony of actions that a supposed “good man” would never take. Right?
I saw someone reach out on social media today to a man who is the figurehead of an organization I admire and ask him, “Please reassure us. Please, not you, too?” And I realized that in light of all the accusations, some of us have been forced to take a second look at the good men we see around us.
Did this man I know ever do something similar? Did that one ever comment to his worker, as Lauer did, about his desire for her to keep bending over because he liked the view down her blouse? And did he actually think it was just fun teasing at the time, or does he see that behavior now for what it is?
In fact, that might be what’s most disturbing about all of these allegations to me. Time after time, the accused men say that their actions were taken the wrong way, were misconstrued or mischaracterized, or they didn’t remember it happening that way.
So I’m left to wonder if they are truly that idiotic that they can’t tell the difference between flirting and inappropriate actions and comments? Or are they just trying to cover up the heinous acts that have left their victims picking up the pieces of their own lives and careers?
I’m not sure either answer would make me feel any better. And it sure as hell wouldn’t make a difference to the women affected. Either way, I’m left heartbroken and pissed off.
And that’s nothing compared to what their victims must be feeling.
Author: Christy Williams
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman
Social Editor: Callie Rushton