All we can say about the Harvey Weinstein case is “there is nothing new under the sun“ especially when it comes to sexual impropriety and worse.
Last week’s Torah portion ends with a very strange story. Divine beings “bnai Elohim” saw how beautiful the daughters of men were and took wives from amongst those that please them (6: 2) Prof. Sarna in his new JPS commentary comments on the phrase ”saw how beautiful they were” “the implication is that they were driven by lust so that external beauty, and not character, was there so criterion…”
This week’s Torah portion begins with ”when God saw how corrupt the earth was, for all flesh had corrupted its ways on earth, God said to Noah, ‘I have decided to put an end to all flesh…” (6:12- 3) The verb corrupt is key to understanding this story for the Hebrew stem ,ja appears seven times. Rashi defines this corruption as sexual immorality.
The rabbis didn’t have a term for sexual harassment, but that didn’t mean it didn’t happen. Lin Farely wrote in October 18, 2017, New York Times “It wasn’t until April 1975 that women had a word for talking about what their male bosses were doing to them.It was that month that I first used the phrase “sexual harassment” in public, during a hearing on women in the workplace by the New York City Human Rights Commission, at which I was testifying as an instructor at Cornell University. The New York Times covered the hearing in an article that was reprinted across the country. And thus, a concept was born.”
One out of every six women have been sexually harassed. Too many women are ashamed or afraid of reprisals to lodge complaints. In a campaign to break the silence in less than 24 hours more than 12 million women posted #MeTo from countries all around the world and in every language.
The media world is staggering under all the recent disclosures. Fox fired Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly for their sexual harassment of women in the workplace. We have a president who has said on the air in the past that basically he is a sexual predator grabbing women’s pussies and going into the dressing room where teenage beauty contestants were dressing in order to see them naked just because he could. And now we become aware of Weinstein’s criminal behavior that has gone on for decades.
This problem won’t go away because some people write off statements like our president’s as just boy’s locker room talk and most of the sexual predators never pay a heavy price for their crimes. For example, although Roger Ailes lost his job at Fox, he immediately became a senior advisor to Pres. Trump.
Perhaps you read the article by the actress Mayim Bialik and the pushback found in this week’s Jewish News. Even though Mayim who dressed modestly was never harassed, the article cited too many Orthodox women who dressed modestly and still were sexually harassed. To blame the women for the advances of men because of the close they were seems to me a classic example of blaming the victim instead the perpetrator.
Remember the 1970s movie Network? The news anchor Howard Beale was going crazy starts yelling on the air “I’m mad as hell and not going take it any longer.” That becomes a catchphrase for the common citizen unhappy the way things were. In one scene people leaning out of their apartment windows start shouting “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it !” I’m mad as hell am not going take it any longer has to be our response when it comes to sexual harassment. No one institution and nobody including religious figures is immune. We need a zero tolerance policy to ensure the God given dignity to each human being which means women too needs to be protected. We need to do more than just post #MeTo. We need to yell at the top of our lungs I’m mad as hell and I’m not going take it any longer because they are sisters, wives, and daughters, and granddaughters.