Tue, Nov 14, 2017 - Page 9 News List

What is the common denominator among sexual harassers?

The greater the imbalance of income and power, the more opportunity there is to take advantage. As a result, many women feel trapped by their abusers

By Alissa Quart  /  The Guardian

Meanwhile, “the more educated and the more socioeconomic up the ladder women are, the more bosses are afraid to harass them because they fear they will push back.”

They think confident strong women with “real careers” will draw the line somewhere and go to a lawyer or report their actions to a government office, Bright said.

The male harassers making headlines are the multimillionaires, the centers of big companies or brands or magazines. And their victims were assistants, drama students, junior reporters and aspirants.

This latter category even included celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Lupita Nyong’o, harassed or violated by film business brokers before they were full-on stars. They shared the fear that cruel, influential men could nullify everything they had achieved.

Women with more quotidian jobs also have this fear, women like the account executive I spoke with who earned a salary in the mid-five figures.

With this decent paycheck, she stayed with the company — where she was sexually harassed for five years, she said — for fiscal reasons.

She had bought a house and had US$40,000 in college debt to pay off.

“I didn’t walk out of that job because I don’t sit on a trust fund,” she told me after detailing her harassment with pointillist specificity. “I have no rich grandmother. I put out 300 resumes and waited.”

Her boss’ only real edge over her, she said, was economic privilege, which he would underline with his Black Card, his boat and his multimillion-dollar house.

Another underreported element of this spate of high-profile harassment is just how many victims work freelance.

More US workers are freelance than ever before, up to 55 million, or more than one in three of the US workforce.

Actors and writers and adjuncts are always looking for their next job: They find common cause with the female Uber drivers on contracts who have also been famously unprotected victims of sexual harassment.

According to employment lawyer Daniela Nanau, freelance workers who meet the legal definition of independent contractors “have no standing under the federal civil-rights law, Title VII, which prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. So this workforce is actually legally more vulnerable if they complain about sexual harassment because they have little ability to sue for violations of federal law,” although there are some exceptions.

I know this firsthand. In my 20s, I was a freelance writer with little money and living in a rabbit warren one-and-a-half-bedroom with a roommate.

I felt that my male editors could smell my desperation for assignments, and that need made me vulnerable, so I was indeed harassed — but not to the pervasive or severe degree of the many women who have now come forward publicly.

There was the editor who called me in the middle of the night to curse me out for not dating him and left message after message on my answering machine about sex; the job interview working as editorial editor at a trade magazine where the much older boss asked me to walk around his office, muttering approvingly, “Nice legs,” as he literally chewed on his cigar.

I imagine that he must have seen that I craved a paycheck and an editorial foothold so much I would not ever complain. After all, I walked everywhere to save money. Dinners often consisted of the breadbasket at restaurants. I literally could not afford to get blacklisted.

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