Harvey Weinstein. Kevin Spacey. Casey Affleck. The allegations against these men have brought national discussion of the “elephant in the room” in Hollywood. Virtually everyone in the entertainment industry was privy to pervasive sexual harassment within it. Recall the “casting couch” that symbolized acts of some men who would provide roles to female actors if they indulged the sexual desires of these men.
Sexual harassment is widespread outside the entertainment industry as well, but typically doesn’t get the headlines of those we have recently seen. People with any type of authority or respect can leverage their elevated position because of the “halo effect” – where opinion in one area can affect opinion in a different area.
I am a physician and also a parent. My wife and I have used these current events to have the important conversation with our twin 11-year-old girls. One might think children this age are too young to discuss predatory male behaviors. It’s just the opposite. This age is the ideal time.
Girls (and boys, which I discuss below) need parents to discuss this topic and it is just about as uncomfortable as talking about the “birds and the bees” for the first time for many parents. Girls need to grow up knowing sexual harassment exists, is wrong, and should be resisted and reported. By doing so, girls educated on this topic will be grown women educated on this topic. This should empower girls and women should they be in a sexual harassment situation.
Even less obvious to parents is to have this conversation with their young sons. You might ask, “Why? Women are victims of sexual harassment.” All predatory men were young sons of a parent or parents at some stage. If parents discussed and educated their sons about the ills of sexual harassment, would that have prevented some of these future men from committing this crime? I think it makes sense as parents play a powerful role in shaping their children’s attitudes.
More revelations will likely emerge from the entertainment industry. Parents should consider this as a strong reminder to have the uncomfortable, yet necessary conversations with their daughters and sons. By doing so, future women will be more empowered and future men will more educated about this abuse, thereby curbing its prevalence.
Brian Boxer Wachler