A growing list of powerful men have faced serious consequences for sexual misconduct allegations but the most powerful one of all has faced none. Instead Donald Trump’s official position, as his spokeswoman Sarah Sanders recently clarified in a White House press briefing, is that the 20 women accusing him of assault and harassment are lying. Trump has also suggested some were not attractive enough for him to want to sexually assault. As the conversation around sexual conduct continues to evolve, and new abusers are revealed, here are the cases against the president.
For almost two decades Don Burke was one of the most powerful men in Australia’s entertainment industry. His popular gardening program Burke’s Backyard was a ratings juggernaut for the Nine Network until it was unceremoniously axed in 2004.
But now a major Fairfax Media/ABC investigation can reveal that behind the scenes those who worked with Burke claim he was a “psychotic bully”, a “misogynist” and a “sexual predator” who indecently assaulted, sexually harassed and bullied a string of female employees.
“Cross your legs.” “Don’t sit like that.” “Be more ladylike.” Like most women, I’ve been subjected to these kinds of messages since I was a child. Everyone from my mum to primary school teachers and distant relatives has chastised me to “sit like a lady”. Translation: rest your legs together, Duchess of Cambridge-style, and take up as little space as possible.
But now #womanspreading is officially having its moment. Women all over the world are uncrossing their legs in the name of feminism. Fashion models including Bella Hadid and Chrissy Teigen and the actor Emily Ratajkowski are all starting to ignore the female-only rules about sitting “nicely”. Instead they’re spreading out as wide as they want, and sharing the results on Instagram. Hundreds of women have joined them with similar posts.
WHAT are “pleasure parlours” packed with raunchy lingerie, sex toys and bondage items such as whips, paddles, bridles and harnesses doing in the middle of mainstream shopping centres?
I don’t blame one Melbourne father for objecting this week to the Honey Birdette store in his local Westfield Shoppingtown. His change.org petition attacking their large pornographic advertising images has now been signed by 43,000 people.
Late last year, a number of former employees claimed they were encouraged to see sexual harassment as part of the job and a legitimate way to encourage sales. One worker says she was whipped by a customer with a riding crop and was encouraged to hand out her phone number. Another said she was encouraged to flirt with customers and was “harassed on every shift”. Others have left similar comments on online job boards.
Sexual harassment is a serious workplace safety issue, not a flirty selling point. Young women should not have to put up with such behaviour in order to make a sale.
It is beginning to look as if not a single industry will escape allegations of sexual harassment – something that will not, of course, come as a surprise to most working women. The explosive allegations of sexual assault by the film producer Harvey Weinstein, spanning several decades, have become a huge talking point because his victims are well-known names. And this has led to an outpouring, in Hollywood and far beyond.
“This time, it feels a little bit different,” says Kimmel. “It feels like the women are being believed publicly, and women are lining up to talk about this. I think this is another moment in the long progression of the renegotiation of the relationship between women and men at work. This is about the entitlement felt by men in power that they can do these sorts of things. We’ve witnessed over the past 25 years the gradual believing of women when they tell these stories.”