September 23, 2019 | 90° F

THURAVIL: Public should follow Hollywood’s example

Opinions Column: Sip on Your Chai

On Oct. 5, The New York Times published an exposé on Harvey Weinstein, reporting that he had been paying off those who had accused him of sexual harassment and assault for years. A couple of the most prominent accusers were Ashley Judd — who said Weinstein had her sent up to his hotel room and asked her to give him a massage while he was in a bathrobe and watch him shower — and Rose McGowan, who accused Weinstein of sexually assaulting her during her breakout in Hollywood and who later received a $100,000 settlement from him in 1997. Since then, it has been a tumultuous time in Hollywood with more actors and actresses speaking out about their stories and incidents of sexual abuse not only implicating Weinstein but other powerful figures in the industry, as well. With all the turbulence over the issues of harassment in the film universe, it is easy to overlook the existence of deep-seated misogyny in other spheres. Thanks to the apparent lack of coverage that other industries tend to receive from the media in comparison to film and television, areas extraneous to Hollywood could benefit from riding the current wave of heavy pushback and empowered stance against sexual harassment and abuse.

Politics is a battleground in which misogyny is so rooted that any deviation is seen as a novel and risky choice. Since the political sphere relies mostly on the impressions politicians have left on voting members of society, it is doubly difficult for women, especially women of color, to cover any substantial ground, thanks to preexisting, misinformed stereotypes. American politics have changed in a way that has caused the superficial and judgmental monsters within voters to rear their ugly heads and heavily influence the outcome of any election, solely based off of what the voters already think of the candidate before she or he has even opened her mouth or received a chance to espouse her ideas. Female political candidates and politicians are written off as “emotional” and “difficult to handle” as male-dominated debates surrounding politics start to bear a stronger and stronger resemblance to impassioned shouting matches rather than civil, political discussion. Despite having the same platform and capabilities as her male counterparts, the female politician is belittled and placed under strict, extra standards that she must meet in order to be seen as somewhat of an equal player. Moreover, many female politicians need to deal with heckling from the opposition that usually involves explicit sexually violent threats, sometimes delivered to them in person, not just by angry internet trolls but also by their own male colleagues. In a study conducted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, nearly 44.4 percent of the respondents, all of whom were female parliamentarians and politicians, had frequently been on the receiving end of threats pertaining to sexual violence and bodily harm. When this happens, it is almost impossible to report or react to, because it lowers the perception of the candidate in the eyes of the public — a general mindset is that if a candidate cannot handle criticism, despite it quite literally threatening her existence as a woman in a professional sphere, then she is not fit to lead. Meanwhile, male candidates are rarely held to this standard, as seen quite often in the era of President Donald J. Trump. The threats they face are much less psychologically violent, and their existence in the sphere is only ever threatened by enormous scandals that, if settled out of court, may not ever see the light of prime-time television and newscasts.

In technological spheres, the misogyny is far subtler, but it still exists to dehumanize women in the industry. One of the best current examples of modern-day sexism is the infamous Google memo that illustrated that women were genetically unsuitable for jobs in technology. This caused an uproar in Silicon Valley and tech communities across America, and rightfully so – as it stands, women only make up a very small percentage of the entire industry thanks to systematic discrimination. According to the American Association of University Women, in 2013, just 26 percent of all computing jobs in the United States were held by women as compared to 35 percent in 1990. The numbers are going down, and the stereotypes that girls are inferior to boys in math and science are holding strong. This creates a much rougher path for women to technological careers than it does for men, and for these women who make it, they must face all of this within their own hard-earned jobs.

It is simple to try to argue that women have to face the same number of mechanical obstacles as men do in choosing certain career paths, but the argument would hold no real basis. From Weinstein and the plethora of actresses who have come out accusing him of harassment at the beginnings of their careers, to female politicians being told by male colleagues things like “You would be even better in a porn movie,” to women in tech being told that they essentially do not belong there, we have seen that there is little equality in the ways men and women reach success. The fact that this inequality is based solely on a person’s existence as a woman makes it even more unfair and even more damaging. We cannot get rid of it overnight, but what we can do is take Hollywood’s example and speak out more and more about the misogyny and harassment faced in our respective careers. We can illustrate all the obstacles that have been established to make it more difficult for women to exist in a certain professional space. There is power in numbers, and change will happen because of it, but for now, let us take Hollywood’s lead and speak out.

Neeharika Thuravil is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in computer science and astrophysics. Her column, "Sip on Your Chai," runs on alternate Wednesdays.

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Neeharika Thuravil

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