Harvey Weinstein
Gender |Analysis

Sex and power – a turning point?

  1. Power disparities and gender inequality are at the root of systemic sexual harassment across multiple industries
  2. Change in Hollywood practices dominated Academy Awards and Golden Globes
  3. Hundreds of Hollywood women launched Time's Up, a group to fight inequality, sexual harassment and assault
  4. Media figures, politicians all caught up in what some see as a tectonic shift in attitudes

We started this story in November to try to put the sensationalism around the Weinstein and similar disclosures into a political and social context. Over time we’ve added reporting and background. We closed the story in January but are now reopening it to include latest developments such as the 2018 Oscars.

You can edit or expand this story


What started as a trickle of accusations about leading Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein, Fox television pundit Bill O’Reilly and actor Kevin Spacey, has become a flood of allegations of sexual misconduct from millions of women and men around the world.

The ceremony for the 2018 Oscars capped a difficult year for Hollywood. But “open secrets” were overshadowed by battlecries for action, as the 90th Academy Awards ceremony was dominated by calls for more inclusion and female empowerment in the movie industry (The Guardian) from award winners and presenter Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue.

Actor Frances McDormand made one of the biggest marks on the audience and social media by asking all the women who had been nominated for an award to stand up in a rallying cry for more work for female-led projects. The veteran actor ended her speech with the two words “inclusion rider”, referencing the obscure clause in a contract that lets actors demand diversity on their productions. The term was not well known before, but on early Monday morning, the #inclusionrider hashtag on Twitter and a Google search of the term gathered more than 10 million hits.

‘Me Too’ and ‘Time’s Up’ dominate Golden Globes

The 75th Golden Globe awards were dominated by an organized attempt by the Hollywood elite to demonstrate a shift in attitudes as well as demand more efforts to reduce assault in the workplace.

The first major Hollywood awards ceremony since outrage at sexual harassment gained worldwide momentum, celebrities walked up the red carpet arm in arm with activists and wore black to support “Time’s Up”, a group launched by Hollywood women to turn the #MeToo hashtag into action.

Media mogul and talkshow host Oprah Winfrey used her acceptance speech as the first black woman to win the honorary Golden Globes Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award to declare: “a new day is on the horizon when nobody ever has to say ‘me too’ again.”

Apart from gestures on the night, women dominated the ceremony and “collectively and defiantly, ruled” (New Yorker). Industry figures also noted that the three biggest grossing films of 2017 had female leads (The Guardian) – highlighting the potential power of women in the male-dominated industry.

Looking for evidence of change

Weinstein may be the biggest scalp of the sexual misconduct backlash so far. The New York police department said on March 7 it was “ready” to make an arrest in the Weinstein case after gathering considerable evidence, the Daily Beast reported. But it was waiting for the district attorney to decide whether, and when, the producer would be charged.

The Weinstein Company, the film studio co-founded by Weinstein, was set to file for bankruptcy after talks to sell it failed, according to several media outlets. It eventually agreed to a $500 million deal with an investor group (FT) led by women but it later collapsed after the firm was found to be in $280 million debt rather than the $225 million previously disclosed.

Powerful men from several industries – from Hollywood, the comedy world and British politics, to the armed forcesthe theater and Silicon Valley, are joining President Donald J. Trump, Bill Clinton, O’Reilly, and the deceased head of Fox News, Roger Ailes, in a growing group of figures with tarnished reputations.

The #MeToo hashtag was used in over 1.7 million tweets, Twitter confirmed to CBS News, and 12 million posts and comments engaging with “Me Too” went up on Facebook in less than 24 hours, as women – and a few men – adopted the label to share that they too had faced sexual harassment in the workplace. The “Me Too” movement finally reached China on New Year’s Day, when academic Luo Xixi said she was sexually harassed by one of her professors when studying at Beihang University in Beijing on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

But awareness doesn’t necessarily bring change, according to women’s rights advocates and professors spoken to by WikiTribune late last year as the Weinstein scandal dominated Hollywood news but sexual predators in other industries were exposed. In order to foster a revolution to change behavior toward women at work, they say this outpouring of anger, revelations, and allegations will require something more fundamental than a hashtag.

Our earlier reporting on power and sexual misconduct

Reducing systemic sexual assault requires a rebalancing of the whole concept of power between men and women, women’s rights advocate and lawyer Charlotte Proudman told WikiTribune.

“Until we change male dominance, I don’t think we’re going to see a real transformation in the way in which women are treated in the workplace. It [the focus on harassment is] a good step forward, but I don’t think it’s enough.”

Proudman was herself at the center of a workplace misconduct case in 2015, when a senior partner at a law firm commented on her appearance in her LinkedIn profile photo. According to a Guardian report at the time, Proudman said that the comment on her appearance sought to eroticize her, which was an act of men “exercising power over women.”

Professor Lisa Blackman, Director of the Centre for Feminist Research at Goldsmiths, University of London, said sexual harassment wasn’t new, but now there was a possibility for “genuine cultural change” in light of the deluge of recent accusations.

“There’s still often impunity for perpetrators,” author Natasha Walter told WikiTribune, warning against complacency. “There’s still a lot more work to be done,” she said.

Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor who has studied power for 20 years and teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, believes society has reached a turning point.

“The fact that women have so much voice in this latest effort to curtail male abuses of power vis-a-vis women is really important,” he told WikiTribune.

As well as the need for perpetrators to be punished, Keltner said that if more women were in powerful positions in Hollywood and politics, fewer young women would be abused.

“If you have more women run the show, men aren’t going to act like such animals,” he said. “They’re going to have women reminding them to be better behaved.”

Cut from the same roll

Weinstein is no anomaly. Sexual harassment is one of the most regular abuses of power, Keltner said.

“For 20 years I’ve been watching Bill Clinton, Anthony Weiner, and all down the line you hear these stories.”

The spotlight on powerful men abusing power didn’t start with Weinstein and the potential of power is most clear when considering President Trump.

At least 15 women have accused the president of sexual assault, misconduct or unwanted physical advances. But the allegations failed to damage his campaign for the White House.

American journalist Albert Scardino, in a strongly-worded commentary in the New European, went so far as to say that Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein “were cut from the same roll of toilet paper”.

“Both Trump and Weinstein operate within the triangle of corruption created by money, sex and power,” wrote Scardino.

Berkeley’s Keltner also sees a connection in the way Weinstein and Trump represent the “pervasive attitude of control over women.”

Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein “cut from the same roll of toilet paper” journalist Albert Scardino wrote. (Gage Skidmore/Paul Hudson/US Department of Labor/Thomas Hawk)

The women who accused Trump said they felt dismissed and forgotten after unveiling the allegations during the 2016 presidential race, according to the New York Times. But if a defamation lawsuit being brought by former contestant of The Apprentice, Summer Zervos against Trump is accepted in New York State Supreme Court, the other accusers could testify.

Keltner said that while Trump has been in positions in business and media that allegedly gave him the power to abuse, his mistreatment of women — acknowledged in the so-called “Access Hollywood tape” — has and will come back to haunt him. [December 4, update: The then-presenter of Access Hollywood, Billy Bush, wrote in the New York Times that Trump couldn’t deny or diminish his responsibility for his words — or his behaviour.]

“He’s (Trump’s) not as influential as he could’ve been with the pro-Republican majority … His grotesque treatment of women is why he doesn’t have a lot of respect,” Keltner said.

But sexual harassment is still common and easily explained in relationship with power, Keltner said.

“When you’re powerful you don’t think about what other people think, you are insensitive to the feelings of other people and you think the expression of your desire is justified.”

The political dimensions of the upwelling of harassment allegations are becoming more evident (some time after the original publication date of this story). On November 17 2017, the Financial Times, in a story headlined in the newspaper (paywall) as “Weinstein effect hits Washington” made some of the same points this WikiTribune story did about the issue not being confined to one party or the other and the linkage between the current president’s behavior and that of Clinton. Naturally, it referred to allegations against Democrat Al Franken and would-be Alabama senator Roy Moore.

The paper’s Washington correspondent reported that Washington was asking: “what forms of sexual harassment or bullying are deemed acceptable by a U.S. lawmaker or even president.” Going on to address Moore, Franken, Clinton and Trump.

The presence of power in the framework of sexual harassment has become so clear-cut over the past weeks that Louis C.K. even addressed the disparity between him and five women who accused him of sexual misconduct. As reported by The Washington Post, the comedian accepted that the stories were true, and that he “wielded” his power over the women “irresponsibly.”

Online headline from the Financial Times, Nov 19

The entitlement of power

Those in positions of power were more likely to commit sexual abuses because of a sense of entitlement, according to Mary Evans, the Emeritus Leverhulme Professor for London School of Economics’ department of gender studies.

“[Entitlement] is the kind of behaviour that says, ‘I have a right to having my voice heard, I have a right to express my views more openly than anybody else. I have a right to get my own way’,” Evans told WikiTribune. “Sometimes it expresses itself in forms of unacceptable sexual behavior, but it’s also part of a much larger pattern, which is about the entitlement of privilege.”

Dylan Farrow, Woody Allen’s adopted daughter with Mia Farrow, said in an opinion editorial for the LA Times that for decades, “Allen has used the same defense-through-intimidation techniques that Weinstein allegedly did.” But Farrow said that Allen’s public relations team has kept stories of sexual assault by the prominent director out of the public eye, and maintained that Allen assaulted her when she was seven years old. Despite Allen’s “pattern of inappropriate behavior” being witnessed by friends and family members, he has never been charged with a crime of sexual assault and denies Farrow’s claims to this day, The director’s career is still intact – his latest movie “Wonder Wheel” was released on December 1.

Charlotte Proudman said non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) should be restricted in order to protect people from harassment. Also known as confidentiality agreements, an NDA is a legal contract that sees victims in sexual harassment cases receive a sum of money in exchange for silence about information regarding the abuse. Commonly used between employers and employees, NDAs require both parties who sign the agreement to keep information private.

It’s particularly an issue in the U.S., according to Proudman.

“Effectively, the law is sanctioning the silencing of women because of the wealth and power that men have in contrast to those individuals bringing such claims.”

In a look at sexual harassment in Wall Street, the New Yorker revealed that firms resolve sexual misconduct cases by paying out large settlements that protect perpetrators and companies, while ensuring confidentiality agreements keep incidents under wraps. Women inside the industry, according to the New Yorker, said the system was “rigged” against them to hide Wall Street’s sexual harassment problem.

Stepping over the line

The flood of stories of harassment has prompted queries of whether harassment is a hand on a thigh, a sexual threat from employer to employee, or something more serious.

Men across the U.S. and UK may now be considering if they, too, have been perpetrators of sexual harassment, or inappropriate  behavior at work. But what are the signs of stepping over the line?

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which affects an individual’s employment or working conditions.

“I don’t know about your career, but you’ll be fine.” – Lupita Nyong’o quoting Harvey Weinstein

But in order to prove sexual harassment, an accuser must show they were more than the victim of a grope. Victims often need to show that sexual favors were demanded or hinted at to keep or get a job.

Actress Lupita Nyong’o wrote in The New York Times that she was invited to Weinstein’s bedroom. When she rejected the offer, the producer warned: “I don’t know about your career, but you’ll be fine.” The New York Times updated its Weinstein coverage with a major new set of disclosures on December 6.

The latest person to disclose misconduct by Weinstein was actress Salma Hayek, who wrote in an editorial for The New York Times that Weinstein had harassed her and sexually propositioned her during the making of film “Frida”. Hayek says he even at one point threatened that he could kill her. “Until there is equality in our industry, with men and women having the same value in every aspect of it, our community will continue to be a fertile ground for predators,” Hayek wrote.

The promise of career advancement if a victim is complicit in sex acts is a feature of the recent string of claims of harassment and workplace abuse. It was a feature of other alleged abuses by Harvey Weinstein, as well as a “powerful” man who coerced theatre and film director Sean Mathias into a sex act into the early days of his career.

But other forms of harassment are less obvious.

Professor Lisa Blackman said the definitions of what is meant by sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and sexism were important. “Sometimes we use them interchangeably.”

But the definition of sexual harassment needed to modernize and include details about consent, Blackman said.

“We need to move on the definition and look at relationship between personal and institutional power.”

In industries like politics and the media, where socializing is often a part of the job, blurring the lines between public and private behavior, it is even more difficult to work out what is meant by sexual harassment, according to Blackman.

“There’s a line between ordinary joking around and harassment.”- Berkeley’s Keltner

Harassment is a person in a more powerful position coercing someone else who is subordinate to them into a sexual act, Keltner, who has carried out several studies on flirtation and teasing, said.

Flirtation that is aggressive or domineering is problematic, according to Keltner.

“There’s a line between ordinary joking around and harassment.”

A few months on from the original Weinstein affair, the publication of a story about comedian and actor Aziz Ansari provoked searching questions as to whether the pendulum had swung too far from conduct amounting to assault to what might be thought of as just a bad date.

Commentators who had backed the #MeToo movement of women determined to end silence over sexual assault, leapt on a report on Babe.net  — sourced to an anonymous 23-year-old woman identified as “Grace”, suggesting it had gone too far in connecting an unpleasant experience and misaligned sexual intentions with outright abuse.

A New York Times columnist described the storm over Ansari, who has apologized and said the encounter was “completely consensual” as  “arguably the worst thing that has happened to the #MeToo movement since it began in October.” 

The outpouring of claims of varying degrees of seriousness has pitfalls, according to journalist Cathy Young. In an opinion piece for the LA Times, Young, a frequent critic of feminism, expresses mixed feelings about “Weinsteining” – bringing down a man’s career after allegations of harassment and assault. She said “many people” fear careers will be destroyed over “minor misconduct and ambiguous transgressions.”

Professor Mary Evans said perpetrators need to take more responsibility for their actions. “For adults to say, ‘I didn’t think about my behaviour’ … I don’t think that’s really a defence.”

Power gives people a sense of entitlement that they use to justify their behaviors, she said. “It’s the kind of attitude, which says, ‘Well, actually, it doesn’t matter what these people think because I’m me and I’m so important that actually, I can behave however I want to.'”

We started this story in November to try to put the sensationalism around the Weinstein and similar disclosures into a political and social context and the movement against sexual assault. Over time we’ve added reporting and background. We think this particular article has now run its course and while we will cover the subject under GENDER we intend not to update the story ourselves unless you feel their are gaps which need adding – do so in EDIT or TALK.

Talk (47)

Lydia Morrish

Lydia Morrish

"I am putting together a story on how ..."
Lydia Morrish

Lydia Morrish

"Hey Todd. I'm glad you commented as I..."
Todd Grotenhuis

Todd Grotenhuis

"For example, starting with "loss of r..."
Todd Grotenhuis

Todd Grotenhuis

""Defensive" was too strong. Maybe a b..."

Sources & References

For further thought on this topic I found New Yorker podcast “America After Weinstein” valuable to think about the social and political significance of the row about sexual harassment and how long it might last and how much change it might deliver. The podcast features Ronan Farrow who reported most of the original allegations against Harvey Weinstein and feminist writer bell hooks who looks at the psychopathy of sexual harassment. – Peter Bale

Featured image: Paul Hudson via Flickr. Used under creative commons license CC BY 2.0

Started by

United Kingdom
Lydia is a staff journalist at WikiTribune, where she writes about politics, women's rights, inequality, sexual politics and more. Previously she headed up the women’s rights and political content at Konbini for over two years. In 2016, she made ‘Building Big’, a documentary about bigorexia and male body image. Her work has also been published in Dazed & Confused, Refinery29, Vice, Lyra, Banshee and Buffalo Zine. She is based in London.

History for Story "Sex and power – a turning point?"

Select two items to compare revisions

08 March 2018

11:53:17, 08 Mar 2018 . . Sex and power - a turning point? . .‎ Lydia Morrish (talk | contribs)‎ (updated → updating with NYPD ready to make arrest)

05 March 2018

14:07:12, 05 Mar 2018 . . Sex and power - a turning point? . .‎ Lydia Morrish (talk | contribs)‎ (updated → highlight tweak - change)
14:05:18, 05 Mar 2018 . . Sex and power - a turning point? . .‎ Lydia Morrish (talk | contribs)‎ (updated → updating highlights)
12:36:51, 05 Mar 2018 . . Sex and power - a turning point? . .‎ Lydia Morrish (talk | contribs)‎ (updated → Update: Oscars and moving Ansari down)
10:19:31, 05 Mar 2018 . . Update: Sex and power - a turning point? . .‎ Lydia Morrish (talk | contribs)‎ (updated → Adding Weinstein Company deal)

26 February 2018

10:19:15, 26 Feb 2018 . . Update: Sex and power - a turning point? . .‎ Lydia Morrish (talk | contribs)‎ (updated → adding Weinstein Company bankruptcy)

18 January 2018

13:49:36, 18 Jan 2018 . . Update: Sex and power - a turning point? . .‎ Lydia Morrish (talk | contribs)‎ (updated → missing quotation mark)
13:45:23, 18 Jan 2018 . . Update: Sex and power - a turning point? . .‎ Lydia Morrish (talk | contribs)‎ (updated → Added cropped version of Weinstein image so he is visible on homepage)
12:32:42, 18 Jan 2018 . . Update: Sex and power - a turning point? . .‎ Angela Long (talk | contribs)‎ (updated → avoiding two colons in head (ow))
12:24:44, 18 Jan 2018 . . Sex and power: Is this a turning point? . .‎ Peter Bale (talk | contribs)‎ (updated → Publishing with intent to "park" but be responsive.)

10 January 2018

11:26:30, 10 Jan 2018 . . Sex and power: Is this a turning point? . .‎ Lydia Morrish (talk | contribs)‎ (updated → Edited Me Too statistics)

08 January 2018

15:33:40, 08 Jan 2018 . . Sex and power: Is this a turning point? . .‎ Peter Bale (talk | contribs)‎ (updated → Updating with Golden Globes and action)
14:47:24, 08 Jan 2018 . . Sex and power: Is this a turning point? . .‎ Lydia Morrish (talk | contribs)‎ (updated → Tweak on Time's Up movement)

14 December 2017

08 December 2017

11:17:03, 08 Dec 2017 . . Sex and power: Is this a turning point? . .‎ Lydia Morrish (talk | contribs)‎ (updated → Dylan Farrow update)

06 December 2017

05 December 2017

04 December 2017

12:51:18, 04 Dec 2017 . . Sex and power: Is this a turning point? . .‎ Angela Long (talk | contribs)‎ (updated → 15 numerals instead of word)

24 November 2017

20 November 2017

10:48:49, 20 Nov 2017 . . Sex and power: Is this a turning point? . .‎ WikiTribune Briefing (talk | contribs)‎ (updated → Minor update to add recent New Yorker podcast to the sources & references)

19 November 2017

09 November 2017

07 November 2017

01:03:34, 07 Nov 2017 . . Sex and power: Is this a turning point? . .‎ Aaron Rokoff (talk | contribs)‎ (updated → Fixing a typo: changing, "...if a victim if complicit..." to, "...if a victim is complicit...".)

06 November 2017

11:11:30, 06 Nov 2017 . . Sex and power: Is this a turning point? . .‎ Lydia Morrish (talk | contribs)‎ (updated → Moved Blackman paragraph up)

Talk for Story "Sex and power – a turning point?"

Talk about this Story

  1. Rewrite

    I am putting together a story on how the 100-year suffrage anniversary marks how much still to be done. Please contribute:

  2. Flagged as bias

    Article reads as defensive of the abusers. Why is the aggressor the “casualty” instead of the victims? Why are aggressors’ “reputations” what’s most important? etc.

    1. Rewrite

      Well, that is a first. I think we said his reputation was the first casualty but yours is certainly a different and welcome perspective.

      1. Rewrite

        “Defensive” was too strong. Maybe a better way to say it is that is uses the status quo perspective as the lens by which to view the situations of abuse.

        1. Rewrite

          For example, starting with “loss of reputation” is like starting an apology by saying “this has been hard for all my fans” instead of “I’ve really hurt someone.” It may be true, but it’s privileging the abuser’s perspective.

          1. Rewrite

            Hey Todd. I’m glad you commented as I was also skeptical about this phrasing when writing for the same reasons you outline here. However, the accusations have literally tarnished their reputations, which is largely a first for sexual harassment allegations against powerful men. For example, two of Casey Affleck’s female colleagues sued him for sexual misconduct before he won an Oscar in 2016; Johnny Depp is still enjoying a healthy film career despite a domestic abuse case against him, etc. The recent slew of accusations is maybe the first time a large group of men’s reputations have been tarnished from sexual assault claims.

  3. Other

    As WT continues to gain more exposure and traction, as well as expand its coverage areas, it is due to attract many passionate readers who will use the “TALK” section to advance their (often nasty and unfounded) arguments.

    What will WT do to make sure this section does not actually turn into a Youtube comment section or a political Twitter thread? Even if WT can minimize personal attacks, I would not want to see the Talk section become a forum for political debate, but rather very pointed, actionable feedback on the journalism itself.

    1. Rewrite

      Hi Leo, thank you for your comment. We hope that TALK will be used for astute conversations about the material in stories and journalistic practices. We have community moderators and a code of conduct [https://www.wikitribune.com/project/conduct-on-wikitribune-what-you-can-expect-what-we-expect/] that we expect our community contributors to adhere to. There is also a blocking policy in place to prevent ongoing disruption or personal attacks.

      Thankfully, so far most comments have been respectful and add to the conversation about quality journalism.

      Hope that helps!

  4. Rewrite

    Looking forward to guidelines regarding, as Jimmy put it, “fixing the news”, which implies that something is wrong with the news. We can’t fix it until we identify what is wrong, and for each thing, agree on how WikiTribune presumes to fix it.
    Is there a list of things that are broken in the news and how WikiTribune’s design fixes those things?
    One way that bias shows is through word choice, and carefully selected quotes out of context. This technique is insidious because it can often escape detection and influences readers in subtle ways.
    May I suggest that rooting out these behaviors is the highest good that a citizen-journalism news service could achieve?
    If the discussions about removing bias were public, wouldn’t that truly make WikiTribune a news service that people could trust? But if there are no standards or guidelines that we all can look to when there is disagreement, then it fails before it starts IMO.
    Can we at least follow basic journalism standards that are already documented in wikipedia? Otherwise this is just another opinion outlet controlled by those who have an agenda.

    1. Rewrite

      We will shortly be publishing the guidelines the staff are working towards but they very much in line with this: https://www.wikitribune.com/project/conduct-on-wikitribune-what-you-can-expect-what-we-expect/
      I can also share with you an interview with Poynter which explains what we are trying to achieve: https://www.poynter.org/news/how-will-wikitribune-actually-work-heres-man-responsible-figuring-it-out
      These discussions about suggestions of bias are public. In the case of this particular story I personally don’t see the question of bias arising unless one believes in some idea of an “anti-man” bias or that there is somehow a countervailing view that sexual harassment is arguable.

      1. Rewrite

        With the state of the world, especially politics, I was hopeful about the concept of WikiTribune, and the two articles you reference seem to exemplify what is great about the idea. However, the article under discussion is the opposite of journalism and I have nearly lost hope in the whole endeavor. If you, the leader of this great experiment, with your impressive background and experience, are unable to see what is wrong with the article and continue to support it (it’s not the underlying message, but rather the poor journalism), then there really is no hope for WikiTribune to be something new and unique. That would be a real shame. Others on this page have stated the case better than I, even some that you didn’t respond to. I hope that you will take those suggestions to heart and include them in the standard. May I also suggest that you spend some time reading or listening to conservative commentary to better understand that perspective. Amongst the fear-mongering nonsense are some truths about the liberal bent and lack of honest journalism in most media outlets. This feeds their paranoia. It’s the polarization that we should be fighting, rather than taking sides, or even appearing to take sides which happens through the use of cherry-picked quotes from cherry-picked “experts”, along with fluff adjectives that move opinion without being technically dishonest.

  5. Rewrite

    If the source cited is CNN – it makes the point of wikitribune (an attack on fake-news) a circular argument. I understand that sometime this is inevitable but frankly this kind of fact can easily be found directly using Twitter’s advanced search:
    “According to CNN, the #MeToo hashtag was used more than 825,000 times on Twitter”

    1. Rewrite

      Good point. We’ll look at replacing that note with the Twitter analytics. It’s not something I would expect CNN could be accused of faking though.

  6. Rewrite

    Here are a few things that could lead a reader to believe this article was written by a biased author.
    1. The headline image of Kevin Spacey. It already could be taken as anti-male. As an alternative, what about a graph of the explosion of the use of the #metoo hashtag over time.
    2. The subheading “Reducing systemic sexual assault requires more than a hashtag: it’s really about redefining power”. This statement assumes that “systemic” sexual assault exists. Combined with the image, it clearly implies “by men”. Is that the case? Honestly, I have never in my 54 years seen it occur, and have never heard a man discuss it. I’m pretty sure I haven’t been living in a cultural cave either. What is the evidence that systemic sexual assault exists. Also, there is a mixture of using “sexual assault”, “sexual misbehavior”, and counting “interactions with” the metoo hashtag. It almost seems to be implying that millions of people have been sexually assaulted.
    I’m fair minded and willing to put aside my concerns to keep reading and look for the gold, but anyone with an anti-MSM bent will be gone and never come back. It’s THOSE folks who we need to keep IMO. Especially those whose primary source of news is Fox News, or even MSNBC, both of which seem to offer up poorly vetted “fake news” and emotion-bait. I’ll stop there, but I think it’s fair to say that there are a number of adjectives used in the article that appear to show an author bias and would definitely turn off at least 37% of readers. Again, THOSE are the people who most need an alternative to the emotion baiting networks.

    1. Rewrite

      I’ve read your note several times and thought about it.
      I struggle to see how one could be “biased” about sexual harassment — or take a contrary view of it somehow either not existing or a positive view of it.
      I can see how someone might find this or any piece which mentions a political figure to be biased – though in this case I believe we have been at pains to make clear that political figures of all stripes have been caught up in both allegations, their own admissions of bad behaviour and even resigned as a result.
      I think the story also makes clear with its multiple “expert” academic sources that the concept of “systemic” sexual harassment does appear to be a “thing”.
      We deliberately chose to leave stepping in to this story — and not for example follow Weinstein blow by blow as it were — to allow space to ask the questions on what it all actually meant and whether it might lead to a shift in general attitudes. I’m not sure when we will tackle it again but I doubt it is going to go away. Regards,

  7. Other

    When I first read the title, I didn’t want to read the article. It gave me the feeling…another biased article against men. Power must be defined. This type of misconduct happens at all levels of society. Men and women in powerful and lesser positions can abuse their titles. “Sexual misconduct is once again in the spotlight, when will it be you”…that would have my attention. But that’s just my thought.

    1. Rewrite

      Thanks. Once you got behind the headline did you feel it addressed the subject in a valuable way? The point was to get beyond the saga of the Weinstein case and look a little more broadly on the issues of power and relationships — particularly through the range of academics quoted in the piece.

      1. Rewrite

        Yes, i feel there was value in the material presented.

  8. Other

    The accounts posted under the MeToo hashtag are many and varied, as are those covered on mainstream media. Whilst all harrassment is unacceptable, some allegations are much more severe than the rest and I worry that these are getting lost in the sheer scale of the conversation, which does those particular victims a disservice. Has anyone done a statistical analysis of the types of harrassment appearing under the hashtag as well as the comments attached to them?

  9. Rewrite

    Although important to discuss, the topic of this article doesn’t seem to jive with the purpose of WikiTribune. It’s too subjective and controversial. Even the words used are fraught with ambiguity and easily classified as politically correct or SJW by some readers. We need to pull in both sides of the divide, and I’m afraid this article would make it appear to a large portion of the potential audience as just another PC main stream media piece.
    By the way, in another venue, (Wikipinion?), if I was writing on the topic I’d broaden it to include any form of abuse of power. I’ve seen far more non-sexual misconduct in the workplace related to power plays that effectively say “toe the line, or you are on your way to getting fired”. I think the root problem is a lack of respect and honesty. The lack of honest discussion in the workplace is pervasive and is on the same continuum as sexual misconduct in terms of ethical behavior. Also, it’s not just men doing the misbehaving. I had a female boss once who loved to humiliate men, forcing them to grovel before her in front of others. I didn’t last long at that job. Although I understand that due to men generally being more physically intimidating the fear factor is much higher for women.

  10. Other

    ‘At least fifteen women have accused the president of sexual assault, misconduct or unwanted physical advances. But the allegations failed to damage his campaign for the White House.’

    I’d like to see a piece exploring this idea. Why did the allegations of sexual assault have little effect on Trump’s campaign? If we posit that it’s because the majority or Americans (or at least, American voters) don’t think of sexual assault as an issue that makes or breaks a campaign, what does this mean for the idea of Sex and Power more broadly?

  11. Other

    I agree with the point made by Chris Johnson and some other people that “this article gets pretty close to being an opinion piece sculpted around under-developed data points. It’s an interesting and valuable discussion, but is it news?” I happen to largely agree with the point of view which it presents, but it definitely expresses a point of view. For example, it is clearly a point of view to say that Trump and Weiner “were cut from the same roll of toilet paper.” The fact that a person quoted in the article actually said that does not make it any less of a point of view. This in fact is an old game among journalists in traditional media. If a reporter wants to promote his/her point of view in a story, the simple trick for doing so is to find someone who will express that point of view, and then just quote them. The sources in this article are in fact all feminists. Again, I don’t have a problem with that point of view. I agree with it. But it neither reflects “just the facts” nor a representative sampling of currently-accepted points of view.

    As an example of a point of view that is not represented in this story, here is op-ed piece by Cathy Young (a frequent critic of feminism), who expresses concern that “Weinsteining” may go “too far” and destroy careers over “minor misconduct and ambiguous transgressions,” while “stereotyping men as abusers and women as perpetual victims in need of quasi-Victorian protections.”


    I’m not sure what can or should be done about this. Wikipedia’s “neutral point of view” policy has always been a bit of a slippery concept, but overall I think it has served the project well. Journalism, though, is a different thing than creating creating an encyclopedia. Traditional journalism has always included editorials and other opinion pieces in addition to straight reporting, and I don’t know if it is going to be possible for WikiTribune to do otherwise. Then however begs the question of how WikiTribune is going to differ fundamentally from websites such as Medium.

    1. Rewrite

      We’ll take a look at including that Cathy Young reference, thanks. I cannot agree that the piece is slanted. Neutrality doesn’t mean uninterested and sexual harassment isn’t a one side or the other issue I’d have thought. It’s also why we did it as a story about power and whether this is a watershed moment rather than another catalogue of the various reported abuses. Thanks.

      1. Rewrite

        This might be a watershed article. Please review what you regard as ‘an analysis of power’. I imagine that will be a make or break issue for WikiTribune and it seems to me this is a generic opinion piece that joins current mainstream commentary.

        1. Rewrite

          This discussion is taking time and energy away from more productive work. Maybe we need a document that provides some guidelines that we could look to in the future to ensure that we are writing articles that match the vision of this service. At a minimum we might follow the excellent wikipedia style guidelines, but possibly with some journalism-specific additions. Wikipedia already has specific guidelines that help us avoid inadvertently sneaking our opinion into the article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Writing_better_articles#Avoid_peacock_and_weasel_terms

          Worth a read.

          1. Rewrite

            I’ll post more of our guidelines on what is and is not a Wikitribune piece this week. I’d say this is absolutely not an opinion piece and nor are we running commentary. In this case I think we source it clearly and in the case of academics and people who study this sort of power issue for a living they are both varied geographically, by institution and by discipline. Peter

            1. Rewrite

              Well, I can see that I’m wasting my time here.

  12. Other

    While sexual harassment is the hot topic of the day, much of this starts with a person in power testing out who is vulnerable in their area of influence by creating a hostile work environment or picking at people that they hope they can control. It may start with one person, it may progress to the whole of the team.

    The point is, there is always someone vulnerable. Even the strongest of us can have a bad week or bad month and can succumb to manipulation by someone in power over us. It starts there – then if the perpetrator gets away with it and HR does nothing to reign in the offender, it only progresses from there. The person in power thinks they are untouchable, and keeps raising the stakes.

    I think the discussion starts there.

    1. Rewrite

      That’s really interesting, thank you. Finding that point on when to enter the story is one reason we did the piece this way because the Weinstein affair on its own is not the whole story. Peter

  13. Rewrite

    I agree that this article gets pretty close to being an opinion piece sculpted around under-developed data points. It’s an interesting and valuable discussion, but is it news?

    The power aspect is certainly an important perspective, and I’m reminded of this article by Brit Marling: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/10/harvey-weinstein-and-the-economics-of-consent/543618/

    “Consent is a function of power. You have to have a modicum of power to give it.”

    You could lose the “is this a turning point?” speculation and expand on the power imbalance. If your options are to be abused to lose your income, how much of a choice is there? Once abused, if your choice is to accept a payout or have your life totally destroyed, again what choice is there? The article could explore this well-worn playbook of threats vs bribes, and how forced acceptance of money is a deliberate insurance policy against anyone who has a change of heart and tries to speak out, far more effective than an NDA.

    -or- if you want to talk turning points, then that needs to be developed. I’m of the opinion (and it is just opinion) that for much of the western population there was, until recently, a belief that this problem had been “solved” (like racism had been “solved”), that abuse of this magnitude no longer occurred because protections and processes had been put in place. Now I feel that this belief actually protected the worst offenders, as it made victims feel that they wouldn’t be believed.

    So, if you want to ask “Is this a turning point?”, you need to look at why previous attempts to solve this problem failed and why offenders continued to offend without any effective action to stop them. It isn’t just “rich white men will be rich white men”. And if you want to examine change, or the lack of it, you should at least include some sort of mention of the Italian reaction to the Weinstein scandal:


    Particularly Libero’s “…column about the Weinstein accusations by Renato Forina with the headline “Prima la danno poi frignano e fingono di pentirsi” (“First I Give It Away, Then I Whine and Pretend to Repent”), in which Farina writes that “falling for the boss’ advances to make a career is prostitution, not rape.””

    I guess I’m suggesting a rewrite. Either focus on power or focus on change.

    1. Rewrite

      We’ll take a look at the Slate piece. Thanks. The story is deliberately billed as an analysis which I believe it it to be.

  14. Flagged as bias

    > Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein “were cut from the same roll of toilet paper.”

    This turns the article in to a typical Trump hit piece. Comparing the President to a “roll of toilet paper”. This would turn any conservative, or Trump-supporter (25% of the USA) off immediately.

    Even though its a quote, the decision to use this comment implies bias.

    I read an [earlier version](https://www.wikitribune.com/wp-admin/revision.php?revision=16320) of this piece before it was published, and it had no mention of Trump and I had no complaints. But now he has become a huge focus in the article. If you drag in Trump, you drag in partisan politics, which distracts from the issue.

    1. Rewrite

      Jessie, i think it would be hard to do this piece without reference to the fallout from the Access Hollywood tapes during the campaign and of course the earlier behaviour of President Clinton. They are both in there in what I’d argue is a proportionate way. Peter

      1. Rewrite

        But are you really going to leave the toilet paper quote in there? It really ruins the piece and will drive away readers. Just imagine a Trump supporter reading that and how they would respond.

  15. Flagged as bias

    The selective name-dropping in the opening two paragraphs may be interpreted as bias by some and put them off the rest of the article.

    Something like “The issue of sexual misconduct does not discriminate by political leaning.” Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_federal_political_sex_scandals_in_the_United_States#2010.E2.80.932017

    Or: “President’s Donald Trump and Bill Clinton”, “Head of Fox News Roger Ailes and NPR chief Michael Oreskes”, etc.

    1. Rewrite

      Hi Jessie, I have added in President Clinton to the opening. He was already mentioned in the piece, along with former U.S. rep Democrat Anthony Weiner, in what I would argue is showing the case that sexual misconduct does not discriminate by political position.

      1. Rewrite

        Cool. Also, don’t you think the “Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein were cut from the same roll of toilet paper” quote is a bit much?

    2. Rewrite

      I agree completely. May I suggest that you make that change? I can make it later today but I am working from my phone right now and I am not confident that I won’t mess something up!

  16. Other

    The title marks this as a speculation piece: Is it a turning point? Let’s speculate.

    Speculation is interesting, and it’s a great way to dig down for a better understanding of things, but it’s not NEWS.
    Now, on the other hand, if you define objectively what a turning point is, and you show, with objective facts, that such a turning point has been reached, then it might be news. You might title it: Sex and power: Now is the turning point.
    Asking the question is simply an invitation to debate.

  17. Rewrite

    I’m wondering how this fullfils the mandate of “evidence-based journalism”. Yes, there’s lots of evidence that people are making accusations, and there’s pretty solid evidence that there’s a lot of truth to them. Dig up some more evidence or end the story there.

    But instead the article goes right into beating the “partriarchy” drum. There are quite a few quotes from people expressing opinions, but they’re all expressing the same opinion, the same viewpoint, the usual suspects, and the same solution. There are people who might see this as part of a broader untold story about abuse of power in general, not just males abusing power for sex. There might be stories about how women have abused power. I bet James Damore might have something to say there. I know I’ve witnessed it.

    But really, the whole notion of doing an “analysis” piece like this when our goal is evidence-based journalism is fraught with problems. I think the more we do it here, the more we’ll find ourselves in the same hole that every other news outlet is in.

  18. Other

    What’s the old saying? For any headline in the form of a question, the answer is always ‘No’.

  19. Other

    I wonder how this story would be elevated with a wider discussion of the male/male-identifying victims of these cases of harassment and assault? I feel that the fact that there are some men who have come out against their perpetrator, namely Anthony Rapp and the other young men accusing Kevin Spacey, is blown over in this article. I completely agree that the sexual misconduct against women is much larger, much more pervasive issue in America, but that does not mean that sexual assault against men and boys is less important. If this article wants to maintain its focus on the female/female-identifying victims, then perhaps we should consider changing the name? “Sex and Power” implies we are talking about all forms of sexual abuse in a power complex, which is not the case in this article. Other opinions, of course, are welcome!

    1. Rewrite

      Hi Spencer, thanks for the feedback. I do agree that there needs to be a wider discussion on male/male-identifying victims – it’s an issue that has been glossed over quite starkly during this whole debate and I agree it is not less important. There is always a danger with writing on these subjects in a concise way that elements get left out, which is of course not the aim. However, I really wanted to focus this piece on power, and power over women which is far more rampant. This doesn’t mean a piece on abuse against males could be on the cards. As for the title, it’s a good point. What would you change it to?

      1. Rewrite

        “Sexual abuse of power by males in the spotlight”? Maybe something more like that?

        1. Rewrite

          Yes, Gareth, that does focus on the article’s point. I wonder, though, is that eye-catching enough? What’s more important in a title: Clarity or Class?

      2. Rewrite

        You bring up great points, Lydia. Maybe a separate piece focusing on the male/male-identifying victims alone is the route to go. I do wonder, though, if Spacey’s presence at the head of the article is necessary? In my mind, I categorize him as a powerful sexual abuser of men and boys, specifically. Unless my awareness isn’t up to date, I think it has been only male victims coming out against him?
        As for a title, I think some emphasis on the focus of female victims in this piece would be helpful. Something like “Sex and Power: Is this turning point for women?” That’s pretty lame, I know. I just don’t want others like myself, interested in learning more about the accusations against Spacey and what that means for male/male-identifying victims of sexual assault to be misled by the title and the picture in any way.

      3. Rewrite

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive news, alerts and updates

Support Us

Why this is important and why you should care about facts, journalism and democracy

WikiTribune Open menu Close Search Like Previous page Next page Back Next Open menu Close menu RSS Feed Share on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Instagram Follow us on Youtube Connect with us on Linkedin Email us Message us on Facebook Messenger Save for Later