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Millennials take up mantle of fighting sexual harassment

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-10-23

Harvey Weinstein is merely the latest in a line of powerful, establishment men to fall from grace over sexual harassment and assault allegations. A recent series of similar scandals shows Millennials are ready to speak out.

Ronan Farrow, who published a story on Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s "secret habits" in The New Yorker magazine earlier this month, has seen the realities of sexual harassment committed by powerful Hollywood men spill into his personal life. In 1992, his mother Mia Farrow ended her relationship with Woody Allen when she found naked pictures of Soon-Yi, her 21-year-old adopted daughter, in Allen’s possession (Allen later married Soon-Yi). And he has consistently defended his sister, Dylan, who alleges that Allen sexually assaulted her when she was 7 years old.

It’s easy to imagine that this personal history provided an early motivation to investigate the “open secret” of Weinstein’s decades-long history of sexual harassment and assault. And maybe Farrow’s status as a Hollywood insider by birth left him particularly well placed to do so. But perhaps more telling is how the story of the 29-year-old Farrow bringing down the 65-year-old Weinstein is emblematic of a larger cultural shift in Hollywood: Namely, that Millennials (the generation born between 1982 and 2002) are taking up the mantle of so many generations that came before them to denounce harassment.

In the past few years, the media industry has been hit by a series of high-profile sexual assault cases involving public figures, from Bill Cosby to Bill O’Reilly. So has Silicon Valley, where scandals have hit companies ranging from Uber to Google to the latest resignation of Amazon Studios head Roy Price over accusations of sexual harassment from his producers.

The young women who spoke out publicly likely did so in the knowledge that there's often a high price to pay.

“I am actually in debt for whistleblowing,” Susan Fowler, 26, wrote on Twitter, after her blog post ignited the storm around Uber that culminated with the company’s founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick, stepping down.

AJ Vandermeyden, 33, filed a lawsuit against Tesla after complaints of “pervasive harassment” went unaddressed.

Emily Steele, the New York Times reporter who first broke the sexual harassment story that ultimately forced Bill O’Reilly off the airwaves, is also 33.

Recent polling by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that women under 34 are most likely to self-identify as "feminist" and by far the most ready to describe feminism as “empowering”. But while they may not be any more activist than previous generations – contacting public officials at roughly the same rate on women's rights – they can take advantage of having access to a plethora of new communication outlets via social media to express their views and to reach vaster audiences than their elders did.

And in light of Farrow’s persistence in pursuing his inquiry into Weinstein’s alleged sexual assaults, at least some young men seem to be willing to contribute their voices. Indeed, the General Social Survey from the Council on Contemporary Families, which has gathered Americans’ views on gender since 1977, shows that amid evolving attitudes on gender, Millennials, perhaps unsurprisingly, remain the most progressive.

Even so, from Silicon Valley to Hollywood, the culture in industries where sexual harassment can be an “open secret” is often made possible by male silence. Days after the revelation of the accusations against Weinstein, The Guardian contacted more than 20 male actors and directors who had worked with Weinstein at some point: All declined to comment.

Date created : 2017-10-14

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