Over the past few months, there’s been a seemingly endless stream of reports about sexual assault and misconduct on the part of powerful men. It makes you stop and wonder, how could so many bystanders let these incidents got by unnoticed and unchallenged.
Which is why when we read that Brad Pitt once threatened Harvey Weinstein with a “Missouri whooping” if Weinstein ever harassed Pitt’s then-girlfriend, Gwyneth Paltrow, ever again we felt like there was still good out there. Keep in mind this was before Pitt had become a mega-celebrity—he was putting his career on the line (although to a lesser extent than a woman in his position would have been). And no, we’re not saying it’s ever a good idea to threaten anyone with any kind of whooping, but in this case, it’s a lot more than what many of Pitt’s peers did: remain silent.
Howard Mavity, co-chair of Fisher Phillips’ Workplace Safety and Catastrophe Management Practice Group, says it better than we could:
Putting aside the issue of how a Missouri Whooping differs from the North Georgia whoopings handed out where I grew up, it is depressing that few people have come out looking responsible. Fellow actors, executives and attorneys are all accused of at best, standing by…
I do not think that Brad Pitt would overplay his courage, although there was some risk in any confrontation with Harvey Weinstein at the peak of his power, but at least Pitt did something.
Hollywood and the entertainment industry is unique. While it is a commercial enterprise, some behavior is tolerated and even encouraged that would not fit within many business efforts. Let’s just be honest, even those of us who enjoy that industry, we must admit that the process of delivering entertainment requires unique people and settings. But harassment is not among Hollywood’s acceptable behavior. Nor is the problem limited to the entertainment industry.
The sheer volume of apparently valid reports suggest a serious problem with subordinates being reluctant to complain about harassment and bad behavior by others. Equally disturbing is the fact that others took no action. Some people’s inaction was due to fear but other reasons also account for inaction.
In “I Wonder How Many Other Hollywood Personalities Wish That They Had Promised Their Boss a Missouri Whooping?”, Mavity discusses what happens when people fail to speak up about harassment, as well as unsafe behavior, in the workplace. He arrives at two conclusions: that “we need to do more to make employees and others feel comfortable reporting harassment, discrimination, and bullying”; and that “we need to also ensure that employees feel equally comfortable reporting unsafe situations.”
For more articles about sexual harassment in the workplace, click here.
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