This column may contain strong language, sexual content, adult humor, and other themes that may not be suitable for minors. Parental guidance is strongly advised.
Another week, another titan of the media industry is toppled from his lofty throne.
I can’t say I’m particularly gutted to learn that Matt Lauer is the latest media bigwig to lose his job over allegations of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. Though at one point in my life I spent a couple of mornings a week tuned into the Today Show (Matt Lauer then had all his hair and was engaged to the J. Crew model—yes, that long ago), he never quite grew on me the way, say, Al Roker or Katie Couric did. He just seemed too enamoured of himself; in those days he was obviously the pretty boy brought in woo women viewers, while Katie was America’s sweetheart and Al was the affable, jovial everyman.
Turns out, my instincts were right: Matt Lauer is a d*ck. And his d*ckishness, it would appear, increased as his hairline decreased. Perhaps he knew, deep down, that he was a mediocre journalist. Or perhaps he believed he was the network’s golden boy who could get away with anything as long as the ratings remained high. In the end, he’s just another creep in a long line of entitled male creeps who have promoted the myth of their own manufactured stature, and believed in their own invincibility. So much so that they could give a female colleague a dildo and explain how it’s used, drop their pants in front of a female employee and force her to stare at their penis, install a button underneath their desks to automatically lock their office doors and trap an unwitting female intern inside, and generally harass women at work—because they believed they could get away with it.
And until recently, they did, thanks to the power they wielded and the culture that enabled them to wield that power. And they helped to create that culture because they made themselves the arbiter of the news. They decided, on a daily—and nightly—basis, what stories would be told, what perceptions would be formed, what understanding we could glean of the world from the way they chose to filter the news to us, who got lionized (mostly men) and who got objectified (mostly women). And their decisions, it would seem now, have tended to be gendered. The likes of Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, and Mark Halperin, according to Regina Lawrence, a University of Oregon professor quoted in a New York Times piece, “have become stark examples of how powerful men can enforce a culture of abuse while having substantial control over what the public sees, consumes and ultimately feels.”
Then there’s the galling hypocrisy of these men covering the sexual harassment scandals of Harvey Weinstein or Bill O’Reilly or Louis C.K. before them. Did they wonder, even if only fleetingly, whether the next bombshell would finally expose them as predators? Or did they think their victims were sufficiently intimidated to denounce them? Worse, did they actually believe every incident was premised on mutual attraction and consent? That women really and truly wanted to be trapped in a locked room with the network’s highest paid morning show host? That they liked being shown a bag of sex toys at work? That they looked forward to being groped at by an old man’s crusty paws? Considering how these men held themselves in such a high esteem, they probably thought, #NoNeverMe, as women bravely proclaimed #MeToo.
While women in the Philippines are becoming emboldened to speak up against sexual harassment and assault, leading to a popular band being dropped from a festival line-up when several women made claims of sexually inappropriate behavior by certain members of the band.
The Rest is Noise organizers released a statement saying, “In light of several deeply disturbing allegations, one of which was confirmed by the accused band member, we’ve decided to withdraw our invitation to Jensen and the Flips to perform in our year-end show.
“We are reaffirming our position: we do not and will not condone, tolerate, or enable any vile or reprehensible behavior that exploits and abuses women.”
It’s heartening to see, for a change, that women are finally being listened to, their claims being taken seriously, and action being taken swiftly and decisively. It’s encouraging to see, for a change, that no one raised the question of what the women were wearing, or why they shared a cab with the guitarist, or whether they were drunk and coming on to the band members. It’s in fact quite revolutionary to realize, for a change, that a woman’s word matters.
However, it is downright sickening that the very people who should be upholding women’s safety in our society are the ones who think nothing of denigrating at every opportunity the women who threaten and intimidate them.
For Christ’s sake, so what if Pope Francis gave Leila de Lima a rosary? Does that justify Duterte saying, with that kanto-boy candor he deludes himself into thinking is part of his charm, that the Pope should have had a peek at her purported sex video before gifting her with a rosary? And Duterte’s new lapdog Harry Roque chiming in on cue to say that the Pope had no idea of De Lima’s true character?
Listen up, men. Take your cue from Matt Lauer and all the other disgraced men before him. You don’t control the narrative about women anymore.
B. Wiser is the author of Making Love in Spanish, a novel published by Anvil Publishing and available in National Book Store and Powerbooks, as well as online. When not assuming her Sasha Fierce alter-ego, she takes on the role of serious journalist and media consultant.
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Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.
Art by Lara Intong
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The Predatory Side of the Local Band Scene
READ: One Woman’s Story Against a Local Artist Who Allegedly Groped Her