Much of the Golden Globes Awards telecast Sunday focused on sexual harassment and the “new day” Oprah Winfrey said is on the horizon — a day when no one will feel pressured to endure sexual harassment rather than lose employment.
That point certainly has been made in Hollywood and Washington. But the question remains as to how well it has been made on the lower rungs of the U.S. job market where victims and perpetrators alike do not operate in the glare of public attention.
Hollywood elites already occupy privileged places in the social hierarchy. Their showy displays on prime-time television have little relevance to blue-collar America where workers are more vulnerable and paychecks, though small, carry enormous weight.
An open letter recently sent to women in Hollywood from 700,000 farmworkers reminded the entertainment industry that most harassment and abuse happens without the opportunity for high-profile condemnation and recourse. The Ford Motor Co. recently apologized for allowing sexual harassment to continue at two Chicago plants despite complaints dating back more than 25 years but only after a New York Times expose on the problem.
A CNBC report said many large corporations are not worried that a flood of sexual harassment claims will come. They already have strong policies in place for reporting abuses, they said. That is certainly true in many cases. Yet, power and intimidation have arisen as the key players in this MeToo-New Day moment, and corporate America, like everyone else, would do well to undergo self-examination.
So would those who fail to look at the underlying causes of bad behavior — a loss of common decency, common values and respect for others. Those who focus only on themselves or accept a moral relativism as its own “new day” invite a culture that breeds abuses of all kinds, whether in a political sphere, college campus, classroom or workplace.
In May of last year, a Gallup poll noted that more than 4 in 5 Americans — 81 percent — think the overall state of moral values in the country is only “fair” or “poor.” That was a seven-year low for the poll. Those numbers are falling in tandem with declining rates of religiosity. Gallup data from 2016 shows self-reported church attendance hovering at 36 percent, the lowest point since the organization began tracking that statistic in 1939.
So what now?
Last week, more than 300 influencers from the media and political elite released an advocacy campaign aiming to give the rhetorical #MeToo movement staying power. Their new campaign, titled “Time’s Up,” is an advocacy agenda backed by some of the highest-profile women in the entertainment industry.
Their involvement alone may not mean as much as their money. The organizers have articulated a clear intent to ensure actionable and meaningful change — most specifically through the creation of a legal defense fund to support accusers from lower socioeconomic brackets. The campaign’s GoFundMe page has almost reached its $16.5 million fundraising goal.
The leaders of this effort have expertise in public relations. They have sought to leverage the influence of many prominent women in powerful positions, and they hope to reach out to as many victims as possible in their work.
Their efforts should be commended. It is also time to pay attention to the breakdown of social structures and the loss of shared values to begin a dialogue that isn’t immediately criticized or shouted down by those who disagree with those morals.