The evidence is mounting – a man’s place is in the home | Hadley Freeman
“Oh, that’s just Fox News,” people said when Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly were exposed as revolting sexual harassers. “Oh, that’s just the movie business,” people said when the Weinstein scandal unrolled. “Oh, that’s just the fashion industry,” people said when Terry Richardson was blacklisted by Condé Nast International a decade after women started speaking out about him. By the time harassment stories were emerging from journalism, politics, the arts, it felt like maybe this wasn’t about a single industry, a few bad apples here and there. This is about men. Men harassing women, men dismissing women who say they’ve been harassed and now men bleating that they don’t know how to behave around women today, because not inserting sexualised banter into every conversation they have with women is apparently too difficult a concept for them to handle.
So I’d like to make A Modest Proposal: men need to be banned from the workplace.
You’ve had a good run, men. You’ve been running literally everything for, well, ever. You’ve been writing the narratives. Unfortunately, some of the most prominent American political narrative writers, including Mark Halperin, Leon Wieseltier and Matt Taibbi, to say nothing of the Fox News Assaulters, have now been accused of disgusting behaviour with women – which may at least partly explain their uniformly negative depictions of Hillary Clinton. (Wieseltier, editor of the New Republic, once compared Clinton to “some hellish housewife who has seen something that she really, really wants and won’t stop nagging you about it.”) And what has been the end result of those narratives? A man who brags about assaulting women was elected president. Funny, that.
“But why are these women sharing a cab with a man / in a room with a man / breathing air near a man?” has long been the response to allegations of sexual harassment, as if men just can’t control their inherent rapey nature. Vice-president Mike Pence endorses this theory, refusing to have a meal alone with a woman who isn’t his wife, because he can’t trust his manly urges.
Not all men! I hear men cry. And this is indeed true... But quite a few men, no? And I’m guessing no woman has ever masturbated into a plant in front of a horrified journalist, as Weinstein allegedly did. No woman has dismissed stories of her partner being sexually harassed and then continued to work with that sexual harasser, as Quentin Tarantino did when his then partner, Mira Sorvino, told him she had been harassed by Weinstein. Daryl Hannah has since claimed that Weinstein tried to assault her when she was promoting Kill Bill: Volume 2, and when she complained to Tarantino he, again, did nothing.
And lest anyone be tempted to dismiss this as beyond their sphere of experience – oh, those crazy celebrities! – here’s a more prosaic story for you. When British freelance journalist, Sam Kriss, was accused last month of being sexually aggressive, one of Kriss’ male friends tweeted that the accusations were “harrowing”. But, this story wasn’t “harrowing” – it was grimly everyday. It is in no way a defence of Kriss to say that his alleged behaviour – refusing to buy a woman a drink unless it had alcohol in it, forcibly trying to go home with her – is familiar to every woman who has been on dates with men. Women have been talking about this for decades, and what has been the response? Men shrugging their shoulders, men telling women it’s “sexist” to demand “women-only” spaces, men then expressing shock when one of their own admits culpability.
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Which brings us back to Weinstein, who I met a few times through work but who, thankfully, never assaulted me. Three years ago he did write a completely insane article about me in this paper, when I said one of his parties was boring. The last sentence was, “Next time Hadley Freeman comes to one of our parties she should relax, loosen up, have a glass of champagne and be sure to stay the whole night and really, truly… enjoy herself.” That sounds totally un-menacing and professional, right? Enjoy your time at home now, Harvey.
But given that last week Roman Polanski was honoured with a retrospective, despite further rape allegations having recently emerged against him (which he denies), Weinstein’s time out is by no means guaranteed to be permanent. So it is clearly time to ban men from the workplace. They obviously cannot handle working with women and we’ve been through sagas like this too many times now to expect them to change, really. So stay at home, men: take some time to think about your collective behaviour, have cold baths, grill some meat. Leave the grown-up work to women now.