Helen Lewis has a few words for the men of journalism (which also apply to every other area). It’s easy to deplore acts you haven’t done, but that by your behavior you may have enabled.
The response to the Weinstein coverage has borne this out. Over the last week, my phone has lit up with female journalists silently screaming: have you seen him decrying Weinstein? The hypocrite!
In private, there has been a cathartic outpouring of Bastards We Have Known. The colleague who texted a friend of mine, Ros Urwin of the Standard, promising that “before I die, I will kiss every freckle on your lips”. The man who told my colleague Amelia Tait that she’d have to have sex to get ahead. The sub-editor who stalked a junior member of his team, turning up outside restaurants she was at with her boyfriend. The magazine journalist who developed an obsession with a female colleague and put her on late shifts to ruin her social life. The arts journalist who would take out new colleagues for a “welcome drink” at his London club – where they’d discover he had a room booked upstairs. The guy who put his hands down a colleague’s trousers at the Christmas party. More than one man in journalism, feeling spurned, has taken to ringing his love interest’s doorbell late at night.
Those are just the overt acts of egregious harassment. She also points out that a casual boy’s club atmosphere of little crappy jokes and disparagement in bad taste fuels the confidence of the worst offenders, and that we men all contribute in various ways to a culture of entitled oppression. Have I ever actively harassed anyone? No. But have I ever trivialized the atmosphere of sexual exploitation with a lazy joke or blithe acceptance of the status quo? Yes. Should I change? Yes. Will I change? I’ll try my hardest. You have permission to slap me when I screw up.