Rodenbaugh: Weinstein sex scandal indicates deeper issue with powerful abusers

Mikaela Rodenbaugh

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board.

Recently, allegations of sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein have gained attention and outrage.

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Victims of Weinstein are stepping forward, and his decision to flee to an out of country rehabilitation center for treatment of ‘sex addiction’ feel like an intense miscarriage of justice. People have come out in droves to condemn Hollywoodfor its enabling attitude towards sex abuse—which they absolutely should, as recent cases like Weinstein and Cosby prove—but as many express their rage about rape culture in the movie industry, less thought has been given to various clear abuses of power by rich and powerful men.

Those who have been quick to condemn this as a Hollywood problem are missing the point. Almost universally, powerful men in our culture get away with sexual misconduct on a terrifying scale.Whether these men are movie moguls, athletes, publishers, technology giants, politicians or religious clergy.

When wealth and power mix with rape culture, results can be devastating. And while there are many who have used the Weinstein scandal as an opportunity to start real conversations, it is disappointing to see how many people are quick to pin the problem on Hollywood.

The biggest problem with our society’s dealings with sexual misconduct stem from our tendencies towards hero worship of celebrities and authority figures, and our disbelief of victims. A great example of this is the recent outpouring of support for Playboy founder, Hugh Hefner after his death, which completely ignored the darker side to the man. Several former bunnies have come forward with disturbing accounts, one such employee even alleged rape, but was later given hush money and instructed to change the term to ‘forced sex’ by the publishing mogul’s lawyers. When Hugh died, but also throughout his life, his treatment of women never seemed to matter to the public, as long as his magazines were flying off the shelves.

Closer to home, there was the sexual assault case of Denver Broncos retired quarterback, Peyton Manning, who’s former incident of ‘tea bagging’ a former female athletic trainer in college was barely even talked about in the news. It was such an afterthought in coverage, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who even remembers it.

Celebrity culture doesn’t even need to be a factor, which is proven by the Catholic church shielding countless priests from legal punishment after sexually abusing children and congregation members.

In Hollywood and beyond, powerful men treat women as commodities and don’t receive just punishments for sexual misconduct and misogyny. Donald Trump’s infamous remark,“when you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything. Grab ‘em by the pussy. You can do anything,” illustrate this painfully. Even the occupant of highest office of the American public is not barred from treating women like animals.

Even when there is not direct abuse, we as a society enable bad behavior and treatment towards women by powerful men. Steve Jobs claimed he was infertile to dodge paternity claims of his first daughter despite a later marriage producing two children, and yet he is only remembered for his company, Apple.  

Condemning celebrity culture as the sole cause of abuse is not the right course of action. The truth is that culturally, we need to change our pattern of allowing powerful men to carry out abuse, and that means we need to hold the powerful to account.

As a public, we must expect more from the ‘Harvey Weinsteins’ of the world. We must also expect more from ourselves. Let’s acknowledge that there is a problem in our country with systemic misogyny, and then let’s push for justice for the victims in its wake. If we only see the problem as Hollywood’s issue, we have failed.

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Mikaela Rodenbaugh can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online @mikarodenbaugh