Matt Lauer of NBC’s “Today” joins the list of men in positions of power being accused of sexual misconduct. This list continues to have unprecedented rapid growth. The news seems inundated with new coverage on male leaders being exposed for inappropriate behavior in the workplace and poor treatment of women.
News broke this week of Matt Lauer’s being fired by NBC. The network says it received a detailed complaint of Lauer’s inappropriate conduct toward her. They did not believe the incident was isolated, and since his firing, other women have come out with claims of of sexual assault by Lauer spanning several years.
For many folks, the news about this particular individual brought to mind flashbacks of the 2016 presidential forum with presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. People have recalled a Matt Lauer who moderated the forum and interrupted Clinton time after time as she attempted to lay out her plans for dealing with the Islamic State in the Middle East.
If those actions were seen as inappropriate then (and according to Twitter, they were), now it looks like a siren blaring, signaling to this moment now. That moment and the many moments that have made 2017 the year of #MeToo.
From politics to media, from Roy Moore and Al Franken to Harvey Weinstein and Garrison Keillor, women have found the courage to tell their #metoo stories from distant and recent past. And to the rest of the world, proving that sexual assault is not something even the powerful can diminish.
While it didn’t necessarily come solely as a result of the social media phenomenon of the “me too” hashtag, many experts consider it to be something like a dam breaking or the straw that broke the camel’s back. Publicly disapproving and protesting sexual harassment in the workplace is not new. History reminds of of the 1977 Ms. article that covered the topic for the first time or the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas and the allegations Anita Hill made against him and testified to.
But this is different, somehow. The powerful male figures seem to be falling like dominoes as women are heard and believed. According to New York Times editor Jessica Bennett, “The #MeToo moment has become something larger: a lens through which we view the world, a sense of blinders being taken off.”
And she is not wrong. This downfall might be unprecedented, but it is justified. As the accusations continue to pour out and more careers spiral as a result of inappropriate actions, it is time for the accused to take responsibility for the pain and hurt they have caused and for everyone else to take up the challenge of changing the culture.