Sexual harassment scandals have rocked some of the bastions of American media and entertainment industries over the past few years. From Fox News to Hollywood to college campuses and the tech industry, the issue has been creating massive ripple effects across multiple industries and various different levels of the American social structure. When tracing the line all the way back, it’s fair to say the initial spark that lit this most recent fuse was the moment Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against then-Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. The allegation, made by one of Fox’s most popular pundits, against the lead man at the news division rocked the media world.
Rumors and More Rumors
Ailes’ dismissal and subsequent death only fanned the flames. More accusations came out, along with rumors of huge payouts for a series of Fox employees, including even more big names. Soon, Bill O’Reilly was sent packing, and the scandalous headlines spilled over into other industries. Was Bill Cosby really a rapist? Was Harvey Weinstein really a serial sexual harasser? Is harassment in the tech industry really as rampant as some believe? As more and more people answer these questions in the affirmative, Carlson has chosen this moment to weigh in once again.
Speaking to CNN, the former anchor said, “The floodgates have opened… Everyone is talking about this now. And more and more women every day are saying, ‘Oh, my gosh. If they did it, I can do it, too.’”
This is a big moment for the burgeoning social movement. For many millions of harassed and abused women, Carlson is a hero. Not only did she receive a whopping $20 million settlement, as well as a very public apology from the company, Carlson never shied away from speaking out for other women who either never received justice or suffered in silence … or both.
Carlson’s New Responsibility
In her CNN interview, Carlson said, “The two prevailing things that these women said to me, besides their stories of shame and pain, were ‘Thank you for being our voice because nobody ever heard us… They felt a sense of victory through my story being so public.”
The question for Carlson, now, is what will she do with that public story and her new responsibility to all the women who are looking to her for leadership? She has taken one step along that path with her new book, “Be Fierce,” in which Carlson talks about how to fight harassment and inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace. She wants women to speak up, and she hopes to give them the tools to do just that.