The #MeToo movement has arguably brought down scores of men who have been credibly accused of sexual harassment or misconduct, along with colleagues and executives who had looked the other way in the past. That may give the impression that the goal of filing a sexual harassment complaint is to get the harasser fired. In many or even most cases, that is not true.
Consider Dinah Kirgo, an Emmy-winning writer and television producer who, along with five other women, has accused CBS chairman Les Moonves of sexual harassment and misconduct. She recently told NPR that her goal is not to destroy Moonves but to destroy the culture that allows sexual misconduct to continue.
“People think that we’re trying to take these guys down, and that is, at least in my case, that is so not true,” she said on All Things Considered. “It’s about stopping this behavior.”
As you may be aware, The New Yorker magazine published a long article detailing the allegations against Moonves, who denies all of the allegations. He admits that he might have made some women uncomfortable by his advances decades ago, but that such incidents were regrettable mistakes. He claims to understand and respect that “no means no.” He denies ever misusing his position to harm or hinder someone’s career.
Yet all six of the women alleging misconduct claim their careers were harmed after they rejected Moonves’ advances.
In at least one case, those advances were aggressive. One actress told the New Yorker that Moonves forcibly kissed her and pinned her down onto a couch during one meeting. He had requested the meeting allegedly to discuss her acting.
“It was so invasive,” she says. “It has stayed with me the rest of my life, that terror.”
Interestingly, Moonves has been a high-profile part of gender equity reform, according to NPR. For example, he is a part of Anita Hill’s Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace.
“I think when you’re trying to redefine a culture it’s just … it’s messy and it’s hard and difficult,” commented Kirgo.
In reality, many alleged harassers and abusers have positive aspects to their careers. They may even have made concrete, positive steps toward improving gender equality in the workplace, and it may be difficult to reconcile their positive behavior with the allegations against them. When the allegations themselves are credible, however, the complainant deserves a full, unbiased investigation.
After all, most complainants aren’t trying to score points against the accused. They simply want to be listened to — and to have the behavior stop.