A Sociological View of Sexual Harassment

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What a difference TODAY makes… It isn’t surprising to me, well, maybe a little, that Matt Lauer was a sexual predator on women just trying to work their way up the ladder at NBC. We all know sexual harassment is wrong, but many times the harasser doesn’t ever think he will be caught. C. Wright Mills was an American sociologist who coined the term, sociological imagination. To put it simply, the sociological imagination is the process of looking at the decisions/actions in society and being able to consider the social forces in society that shape those decisions/actions. In other words, when most major “breaking” articles become features on news shows, whether local or cable versions, these do not occur out of the blue. Society evolves all the time. We don’t live in a vacuum. Through all the events that have occurred previously, society becomes fresh and new all the time where previously acceptable things aren’t accepted any more (or vice versa.)

So, getting back to Matt Lauer, he got away with sexual harassment for a very long time, apparently. He likely got so comfortable in that “game” that he didn’t think he would ever be caught. However, we are definitely living in a much different time than ever before. We aren’t afraid to stand up for our rights. In thinking of gender relations, this process began long ago when women fought for the right to vote, the right to equality, and the right to be heard. I appreciate the many women who allowed me to have a voice such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and Coretta Scott King, among many others.

In addition, we LOVE social media and the power it has for everyone, including those who aren’t famous by Hollywood standards. You can be an average person making that daily commute to work every day and suddenly become famous because you make something fun or cool on YouTube on a regular basis. People can earn a living creating something that once was only a hobby! How cool is that? There is no doubt about it. Society has evolved dramatically in the last decade. This evolution has also impacted the oppressed who are becoming less afraid and silenced by these freedoms. There are platforms everywhere to voice your opinion on all kinds of things. I voice my opinion and interests on this website and that blows my mind all the time. My little voice is “out there,” so to speak.

Thus, I think in light of all the many recent public sexual harassment cases in Hollywood, we realize this isn’t our grandmother’s society anymore. Women don’t have to satisfy those male chauvinist men’s desires to move up. While society has been more patriarchal in the past, there are many systems at businesses and corporations today that are still very patriarchal. NBC decided to begin breaking the chain of this within The Today Show by shedding themselves of Matt Lauer because they knew it was going to be a problem. (Honestly, in light of how quickly he was dismissed, they probably knew about this for a while.) With such powerful players as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and many others being publicly scrutinized for sexual harassment, they probably figured it best to beat the public scandal and be proactive about the harassment claims.

Furthermore, after reading this statement at 6:00 this morning, “In front of the camera, for more than two decades, Lauer had positioned himself as America’s squeaky-clean dad. But behind the scenes, Lauer was a different person” (Setoodeh & Wagmeister, 2017, p. 1), I felt compelled to write this article for you. After reading this, my mind wandered right back to my favorite Sociologist’s ideas on society, Erving Goffman. If you don’t know much about his ideas on dramaturgical analysis or his book “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life” you should check these out. I also wrote about Goffman in another article, if interested. Mindhunter and Sociology = Peas and Carrots  Matt Lauer wanted to hide that back-stage part of himself and act like such an up-standing person in the public eye. If he did this 30 year’s ago, it would likely have never been made public. However, in today’s world, this type of behavior isn’t going unchecked. Matt Lauer was caught with dirty hands at the expense of women just trying to break free of the already existent glass ceiling. The show is over, Matt.

On a final note, not every man in society is a male chauvinist. There are some good ones out there who truly want to help everyone, regardless of demographic characteristics. I am not into negatively bashing men, or anyone for that matter. People make mistakes. I get that. However, when the mistake lasts for two decades and is at the expense of so many people — mothers, sisters, wives — it is worth discussing.

Ending with positive vibes for equality,
Mel

References:

Setoodeah, R. & Wagmeister, E. (2017, November 29). Matt Lauer accused of sexual harassment by multiple women (Exclusive). Variety. Retrieved from http://variety.com/2017/biz/news/matt-lauer-accused-sexual-harassment-multiple-women-1202625959/

 

 

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