What Can We Learn From Matt Lauer (And Many More Men)

Last week, Matt Lauer was terminated from his position on the Today Show after allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace surfaced. Similar accusations have been rapidly dethroning media and entertainment icons one by one. Bill Cosby: a family man no more. Harvey Weinstein: connections and power let him overstep the line for too long. John Lasseter: an animator who was not as kid-friendly as we believed him to be. Looking at the number of people that have come forward with their stories is unsettling. It is important to remember that while most of the highly publicized stories of sexual misconduct are connected to people in the entertainment industry, the things that have happened to the women in these stories happen just as often to women in every other field of work and life.

The list of offenders grows ever longer. Women have been targets of sexual harassment for years, but the issue is only now garnering a significant amount of attention from the media and the public. Sometimes it takes the dethroning of an icon to make people care about an overlooked issue, even if it's an issue that is affecting tons of "regular" people. It should not have to be this way, but unfortunately, it is. The media’s selectivity on coverage of this problem should be addressed in the future, but for now, it is important to consider what we can learn from recent events and reports.

According to a survey published in the Harvard Business Review, men and women often disagree on what qualifies as sexual harassment in the workplace. Around 2/3 of the men participating in the survey believed that the amount of harassment that occurs at work is greatly exaggerated. The women participating in the survey disagreed. This could be because of the differences in what men and women saw as sexual misconduct. While both groups saw more extreme cases like sexual assault as definite harassment, there were discrepancies when it came to situations that were less extreme or obvious like sexual comments and touching.

Despite the discrepancies, if certain situations make a woman feel uncomfortable they should be addressed accordingly. The people who make the workplace feel unsafe need to know that there are consequences for their behavior. Watching the likes of Matt Lauer fall from grace demonstrates that. All perpetrators, not just the ones who are typically watched by the public eye, need to understand these consequences and be held accountable.  

Women who have faced sexual harassment should not have to be afraid to come forward. In situations like this, victim shaming is not uncommon, instilling a fear of reporting inappropriate situations. As a young woman in college who will soon enter the workforce, that makes me afraid. I do not want to work in a world where people think it is acceptable to make me feel unsafe. I do not want to work in a world where if I am a victim of harassment, I will not be taken seriously because of the way I dress.

 

I hope that the scandals we have been seeing so frequently in the news can create a ripple effect that spreads across all professions and all offers support to all of the women affected by this kind of behavior. Maybe by unearthing everything that is wrong, people can finally understand what is right.

 

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