A Culture of Abuse

Last week, The New York Times published a disturbing expose on Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. The article revealed allegations that Weinstein is a predator who paid off women he had sexually harassed for decades. The public outcry was swift, and Weinstein was fired by the board of his own company, The Weinstein Company. The revelations and subsequent actions are all thanks to the brave women who spoke out against this man’s alleged abuse of female coworkers and acquaintances.

Following Weinstein’s firing, Jenni Konner, the executive producer of “Girls,” said that this would “scare any man in Hollywood [from] using his power for anything but making movies and television.” While it’s nice to believe that this would be the case, the culture of sexual harassment and abuse extends far beyond Weinstein. There seems to have been a flurry of similar allegations recently, from Bill O’Reilly to Woody Allen and Bill Cosby. This abuse isn’t contained in Hollywood. It goes all the way up to the Oval Office. And it also extends to workplaces across the country. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, nearly one-third of the 91,503 charges they received involved some allegation of harassment (this includes race, sex, age, disability— all forms of harassment). Of those harassment charges, 45 percent involved allegations of sex-based harassment.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The EEOC reports that harassment is often under-reported and, while research varies widely, a recent poll found that one in every three women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. What is essential is to create a workplace culture that neither condones nor dismisses harassment as just locker-room talk or horseplay. And, it means creating an environment where victims are not fearful that their complaints won’t be believed, and compliance with the law is a top priority. The Center for American Progress’s recent event on the economics of misogyny focused on the need to combat the harmful stereotypes, both subtle and overt, that undermine women’s ability to participate in the workforce. This means pushing back on Trump Administration rollbacks, but it also means all of us taking responsibility within our own workplaces. To learn more about your rights at work and what to do if you are experiencing harassment, check out this quick explainer.


Trump Tax Toolkit. Last week, the House passed a budget that will slash funding for programs crucial to working families, all to pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and large corporations. As the tax fight moves to the Senate, visit TrumpTaxToolkit.org to tell your senators to vote no on this horrible tax plan, which will only increase wealth inequality in this country. And make sure your share your own story about how budget cuts would affect you at HandsOff.org.


Grass Not Greener. On Sunday, President Trump tweeted a lengthy video, sugarcoating the speed of the relief efforts in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. The purpose of the video was to spread a message that “the fake news media will not show you in Puerto Rico.” The footage shows personnel cutting down trees and clearing brush, a ship being used as a hospital, the Coast Guard delivering supplies to a nursing home, among other relief images. But Trump’s attempt to convince the American public that he is doing everything in his power to help the millions of U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico is misleading at best and malicious at worst. Nearly 90 percent of the island is still without power. Only 43 hospitals are working with electricity. About 40% of the island still does not have clean drinking water. And Buzzfeed talked with morgue employees that are contesting the reported death count, saying it’s actually much higher. Trump’s misleading video could serve to curtail donations to Puerto Rico just so that he can paint himself as a better leader who is sacrificing himself for the island.

California Ablaze. Devastating wildfires continue to rage in California – the worst in the state’s history. By the latest count, at least 17 people are dead, and more than 122,000 acres have been decimated. These events coincide with the EPA’s dismantling of the Clean Power Plan and a DOE proposal to bail out coal power plants – the latest attack by the Trump Administration on environmental rules meant to protect Americans and the environment. It is no coincidence that natural disasters are becoming more devastating over the years. Human-caused climate change certainly plays a role, as dry areas become drier and more susceptible to wildfires because of poor environmental conditions.

Iran Deal. New reports indicate that President Trump is poised to back out of the Iran Deal this week. The agreement, signed in 2015 by then-President Obama, four other permanent members of the UN Security Council, and Germany, “lifts international sanctions on Iran in return for a long-term suspension of its nuclear development program.” Two former Pentagon officials write in The Atlantic that such a move could “shak[e] the confidence of the international community and giv[e] Iran the high ground in arguing that the United States is not acting in good faith.” Experts at the Center for American Progress add that the decision “would invite global instability in a Middle East region already ravaged by civil war and terrorism and create a second nuclear crisis.” What should the U.S. do in terms of Iran? Find some options to strengthen our security and future diplomatic agreements in this report from the Center for American Progress.

Anti-Choice Administration. Two weeks ago, the Department of Health and Human Service released its draft strategic plan. In the memo, HHS defined life as “beginning at conception.” This falls in line with the anti-choice—and anti-science—agenda pushed by Trump and his administration, which on Friday rolled back the Obama-era birth control mandate. The plan also included a nod to the administration’s rhetoric around religious “liberty,” saying it plans to, “reduce burdens on the exercise of religious and moral convictions.” Again, this draft plan is already taking effect, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued guidance giving significant leeway to staff, recipients of federal grants, and government contractors seeking religious exemptions from federal laws, rules, and regulations, which could have drastic, negative consequences for millions of Americans. Trump began his attacks on reproductive justice on his first day in office, when he reinstated the global gag rule which, “strip[s] funding from any international NGO that provides abortion services or even discusses abortion with patients seeking educational materials or referrals.”

Bowing Under Pressure. Yesterday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent a statement to all teams saying that it was time “to move past this controversy,” referring to the protests by many NFL athletes. His solution to the problem is simply to have all players stand for the anthem. This latest move comes after Trump has continued his attacks on NFL players, and Trump supporter and Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones said his team wouldn’t play if they “disrespect the flag.” Clearly, Goodell is bowing to pressure from the President and others–but his statement fails to discuss the reasons why players are kneeling and why these protests are so important to forcing discussions on issues such as criminal justice reform, police abuse of African Americans and Latinos, and this Administration’s continued support of racists and white supremacist agendas.


National Coming Out Day. Today is National Coming Out Day, which highlights the importance of safe environments where LGBTQ individuals can come out without fear. Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said, “As LGBTQ people across the nation and around the world continue to come out, opposition to equality will continue to crumble. Sharing our stories is a key way each of us can fight back against attempts to turn back the clock on LGBTQ equality.” One of the most at-risk communities is LGBTQ Dreamers. A new report by the Center for American Progress presents first-of-its-kind analyses of the impact DACA has had on unauthorized LGBTQ immigrants. Approximately 94% of LGBT survey respondents are currently employed and contributing to the economy and 93% of those currently in school are pursuing educational opportunities not available to them before DACA. The consequences of rescinding DACA are particularly dire for these individuals since they would be at risk of not only being deported to countries they haven’t set foot in since they were children but where their lives could be in jeopardy.

International Day of the Girl. In 2012, the United Nations declared October 11 the International Day of the Girl. This day celebrates the progress made towards ensuring a more equal and just world for girls and women, while also recognizing that there is much work ahead for the 1.1 billion girls in the world today. This year, the focus is on girls who lives in areas experiencing conflict. According to UNICEF, an adolescent girl is killed by violence every 10 minutes, and girls in areas with conflict are “90 percent more likely to be out of school when compared to girls in conflict-free countries.” To learn more, go to unwomen.org, or join the conversation on Twitter with #DayOfTheGirl.

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