Communities

Ex-Fox News Host Gretchen Carlson Says We’ve Reached A ‘Watershed Moment’ In Sexual Assault Cases

by Eric Pfeiffer

October 23, 2017
Photo by USMC/Wikicommons.

15 months ago, former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson stood seemingly alone in her high-profile battle against sexual harassment in the workplace.

But after an endless cycle of recent headlines centering on figures from former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, all the way up to President Trump himself, Carlson says we are now at a “watershed moment” she believes will fundamentally change the way women are treated in the workplace.

“More women are saying enough is enough,” Carlson said. “The national conversation doesn’t seem to be dying down.”

Carlson has been speaking out on behalf of her Gretchen Carlson Leadership Initiative, a project she launched with the All In Together Campaign to help “empower women across the nation.” Carlson also recently published a book: “Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back.”

The GCLI is a one-year campaign Carlson says will help train women in civic leadership and advocacy, with a particular focus on women who have experienced “gender-based violence, discrimination, or harassment.”

Noting that “98 percent of Fortune 500 companies are still run by men,” Carlson says that getting more women into leadership positions in both government and corporate sectors will itself go a long way toward combatting the systemic problems of gender discrimination and harassment.

“If you add more women to the ranks of higher positions, by the nature of having women there, it’s not going to happen as much,” she said. “The more women you have in higher positions, or just women in general, would cut down on this problem.”

Of course, there’s no higher position of power than the president of the United States. When asked what she thinks of the still unresolved allegations of sexual harassment against President Trump, Carlson doesn’t mince words. She wants to put Trump directly under the spotlight in a new age of transparency.

“I’ve been doing a lot of work on Capitol Hill to get the secrecy taken out of arbitration clauses,” Carlson says, noting that perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault often stay in their jobs after such cases are resolved. She says she’s currently working with Republicans and Democrats to promote legislation that would make such encounters more transparent.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we got a bill that was co-sponsored by both parties and President Trump had to decide whether he was going to sign it?”

While Carlson’s initiative is directed at women, she said men are also a “crucial part of the equation” when it comes to combatting harassment and assault. While she argues it’s the responsibility of men to behave decently, she also notes that men who have reported cases of harassment against women have themselves been victimized by a system that often marginalizes whistleblowers or pushes them out of their careers entirely.

Noting that men can effectively “stop it cold” when confronting other male colleagues about inappropriate behavior. “I’m not really sure why it’s become a women’s issue since most of these decisions are still made by men,” she noted.

Producer Harvey Weinstein, former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, and director James Toback have all faced recent allegations of sexual harassment. Images via David Shankbone, Chris McCann (U.S. Army), and Bobak Ha'Eri/Wikimedia Commons.

When asked about the strange defense of Weinstein from director Woody Allen, an annoyed sounding Carlson referred to Allen’s complaint that men could be persecuted for simply “winking” at a coworker as a “cop-out.” However, she also said that women will have more success in addressing complaints of harassment if they establish clear rules of conduct for all employees to follow.

“Some sexual harassment is subjective,” Carlson said. “This is one of the instances that makes the case tougher to solve. What’s offensive to me might not be offensive to someone else.”

While new allegations of misconduct continue to materialize across the media, including at Carlson’s former employer Fox News, she says it’s equally important to remember that harassment is something that happens in every industry.

“I feel like the majority of women facing this are not in high profile positions. It’s not just in Hollywood,” she said. “It’s teachers, it’s members of our military in droves, it’s accountants.”

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Ex-Fox News Host Gretchen Carlson Says We’ve Reached A ‘Watershed Moment’ In Sexual Assault Cases