Two different stories this week frame an important issue. First, I read an article that said 15% of undergraduate women who attended the University of Texas at Austin had been raped. That is appalling.
Second, Bill O’Reilly has been re-signed under another Fox contract. This is after a story of five settlements of sexual harassment claims were unearthed by The New York Times. It should be noted the network who signed him let go Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News, for similar sexual harassment issues, but felt so badly they did not do it for “cause” and he was punished with a $38 million go-away settlement. Since O’Reilly has a following, his sexual harassment must be less relevant to the network.
These two stories come on the heels of the US Marine Corp sexual harassment scandal and the Baylor University football team rape scandal through a hostess recruiting program for players. And, we should not forget our President has admitted on at least two occasions that he sexually harassed or assaulted women because of his celebrity and power.
Women and girls are maltreated around the globe. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s powerful book “Half the Sky” graphically describes sexual slavery, trafficking, mutilation, domestic violence, rape and second class citizen treatment. But, we have sexual slavery, trafficking, domestic violence, rape and harassment here in the Western world, too. Former President Jimmy Carter wrote of this in his book “A Call to Action,” which is an excellent follow up to the Kristof/ WuDunn book.
Western women have made huge strides in gaining more opportunity, yet the level of sexual maltreatment has seemingly risen. Perhaps, it is due to more rapes and harassment being reported. Or, maybe it is due to women being framed as sexual objects though advertising, marketing and entertainment media. Sexual harassment and rapes continue to be a huge problem for the military (even before the Marine scandal) and college campuses.
What do we do about this? We need to say very loudly this is not right. We need to come down hard on leaders and institutions who have looked the other way. We need to vote with our feet and not attend universities who don’t have their act together.
We should not vote for politicians who have maltreated women. I am still stunned that our President was elected after more of his sexual harassment was revealed. In my view, there were several reasons not to vote for him, but how could anyone do so after the Howard Stern interview and Access Hollywood tape became public?
To lessen this maltreatment, it has to have more than women’s voices behind the effort. All of us need to stand up to people and organizations that maltreat women or look the other way. Women hold up “half the sky,” so we all benefit by treating women like we want to be treated.