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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 19, 2018

The value of a woman

By By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News | Apr 21, 2017

When did it become more acceptable to be a sexual predator than a woman?

The quandary has been quietly lurking in the back of my brain, querulously waiting to be addressed ever since I saw a sign begging the same question during the Women’s March in January.

In the same month, The New York Times reported Bill O’Reilly and 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News where “The O’Reilly Factor” has been a prime-time “news” staple for two decades, reached a $13 million settlement with five women who have accused the host of sexual harassment and misconduct.

According to the Times, O’Reilly, who was influential within the media company, would take the women under his wing, offering advice and the promise of helping them professionally. Then, he would pursue them sexually, making unwanted advancements and lewd remarks, according to reports.

One woman even alleged O’Reilly would call her repeatedly and that “it sometimes sounded as if he was masturbating.”

The women claimed they feared O’Reilly would retaliate and sink their careers if they turned him down. And when they did refuse his advances, he became verbally abusive.

You would think allegations of this manner would elicit some outrage. And it did. People started calling for O’Reilly’s removal from Fox News, but even as sponsors began pulling out of the show (60 companies as of April 11 had withdrawn their ads) O’Reilly’s ratings soared. Washington Post reporter Cleve R. Wootson Jr. wrote “More than 3.71 million people tuned into “The O’Reilly Factor” last week, giving him a 12 percent bump from viewership he attracted the week before, and up a staggering 28 percent from the same week in 2016…”

That’s right, (allegedly) sexually harass women and your viewership goes up!

Now, O’Reilly has been canned and is no longer a part of “The Factor”, or Fox News.

Don’t worry about O’Reilly, though, he still has his publishing empire. I’m sure his next title won’t be “Killing My Career” because had advertisers not balked at his behavior I’d bet he’d still be in his chair tonight. And it’s not like he’s leaving empty handed. According to a New York Times article Thursday night, O’Reilly could be leaving with a payout of as much as $25 million.

O’Reilly recently renegotiated his contract, which was set to expire this year. His contract had been extended for four years, even though at the time Fox News and 21st Century Fox were aware of the “multiple allegations of sexual harassment against him and had even reached two settlements involving the complaints. His payout would essentially be a severance of one year’s salary.

But should we really have been shocked by this or Fox News slow and begrudging response? Former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, who resigned last year amid a staggering number of sexual harassment lawsuits, created a culture of terrorizing women at the media company.

Sexual harassment doesn’t just happen at Fox News. It’s in every work place. But this series of settlements and payouts, like what we’ve seen from Fox News, just continues the cycle of harassment.

In the same New York Times article, it states 21st Century Fox has paid out more than $85 million for sexual harassment allegations. But that’s not even the most appalling part. “The vast majority of that – up to $65 million in exit packages – is being paid to the men who were ousted from the network because of the harassment allegations.”

There it is again. It’s not even the woman who is being compensated, if there even is a thing, for the disgusting, unsettling and vile actions against her; it’s the man. The inconvenience of letting him go for his appalling actions is worth more than the woman’s pain, suffering and humiliation.

NPR recently published an article about how the turmoil at Fox News is simply highlighting the culture of sexual harassment within the workplace.

Within the article, a human resource manager from Ft. Smith, Ark., Jeff Owens, recalls how a firm he worked for ended up enabling their executive to continue sexually harassing their employees.

The company had settled a sexual harassment claim against the executive. “The thought was, ‘This (has) been resolved, and we’re covering up and we’re moving on,’” Owens said.

“But that settlement enabled the executive’s bad behavior to continue…Although the settlement wasn’t public, it telegraphed a strong message back to the company and its culture.”

Six months later, however, a second complaint was filed on the same executive. He was then fired.

“That had a very different effect on the victim and, in short order, the company’s culture. It validated both the victim’s decision to come forward, and her experience.”

Hopefully we start seeing more companies making better choices like the one outlined in the NPR article, but then again, we did elect a man who was caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting a woman, so I guess that sign was right: “America: Where it’s more acceptable to be a sexual predator than a woman.”

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