Behind sexual harassment are issues of money and power
The workplace environment NCC students are graduating into contains 33 million
reported sexual harassment cases.
Only 5 percent of abusers that were reported faced any consequences, according to an
October 2017 ABC News and Washington Post poll produced by Langer Research
NCC professors urge students to understand sexual harassment in terms of money and
power, helping them identify abusive situations in their current or future workplace.
First up, political science professor Vasiliki Anastasakos defines sexual harassment
issues from a legal perspective.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Sexual
harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or
physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct
explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with
an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work
Anastasakos said, “Some workplace environments are worse than others. In recent years,
cases of sexual harassment have been reported not just in Hollywood, but also in the U.S.
military and the IT industry.”
She shared her own observations of the corporate world in the 1980s. “Women's status in
the workplace is trickier due to the power imbalance between women in lower-paying,
‘pink-collar’ positions such as secretaries, receptionists, administrative assistants, etcetera
and men in top management where decisions on promotion and salaries are made. Some
women in secretarial positions would get involved with male supervisors because they
knew that these men had power over them in terms of job security and career
Even with the EEOC’s laws in place, the Harvey Weinstein scandal, recent statistics
from polls inspired by the twitter hashtag #metoo, and Anastasakos’ experience suggest
that although sexual harassment is widely observed it continues unchecked.
“Although this power imbalance is not considered sexual harassment from a legal
standpoint, it does point to the real problem we need to solve in our society. That is, more
women in high-level jobs in male-dominated fields having more power and the
possibility for career advancement based on merit, not on relationships with male
Anastasakos urges students to analyze their work environment by critically evaluating
the ethics of people in power by asking: “What makes this set of ethics so powerful and
Courtney Love is one example illustrating the way the gendered power imbalance
complicates the issue of sexual harassment.
In August 2005, Love pouted, refusing to make eye contact after a Comedy Central
reporter asked her whether she had any advice for a young woman in Hollywood.
“I’ll get libeled if I say it,” Love said. “If Harvey Weinstein invites you to a private
party in the Four Seasons, don’t go.”
Three months later, Weinstein, co-founder of Miramax Films, left to co-launch The
Weinstein Company, which grew into one of the largest mini-major film studios in North
America, according to Film Journal.
Meanwhile, Love was blacklisted.
“Although I wasn’t one of his victims, I was eternally banned by CAA [the Creative
Artists Agency] for speaking out against Harvey Weinstein,” Love tweeted recently.
After these public allegations, why was Weinstein able to continue to succeed while
Love’s career suffered?
NCC psychology Gina Turner answered, “Women are less likely to be believed
especially when they are up against men in positions of power, who are able to
significantly impact their ability to work in the industry.”
A double standard leaves women in all types of positions treading on uneven footing.
Turner said. “There is absolutely a double standard for women, especially around sexual
behavior. There are unequal consequences. Men who exhibit more egregious behavior get
excused while women are held to stricter standards.”
Campoverdi was no stranger to this double standard when she ran for office in
California’s 34th congressional district in 2017. She dreamed of making it into Congress,
but once modeling photos of her in Maxim magazine over a decade ago resurfaced, that
was where every conversation began to start and stop for her.
Campoverdi encountered a slew of lewd comments about her appearance and was
bombarded with questions over the shoot rather than her extensive career in politics at the
White House and her current political campaign.
“For better or worse, whatever anyone thinks about it, what she did was legal,” Turner
said. “It says a lot about the kind of society we live in.”
In an article Campoverdi wrote, she discussed sexism and misogyny in politics and a
male friend’s comment that “I’d rather buy you a purse,” when she asked for his support.
“My blood started to boil right when he said it,” Campoverdi said. “I had just asked a
male friend of mine if he’d contribute to my campaign for Congress in the current special
election for California’s 34th District. I had expected to have his support, or at least his
encouragement, and I felt my stomach immediately knot from the betrayal.” Campoverdi
lost in the April 2017 Democratic Primaries.
“When women buy into the idea of femininity that advertisers are selling, it is used
against them,” Turner said. “Women should be free to manifest their femininity
according to their own internal standards, whether it is in 4-inch heels or a burka. It is
important to understand where our own standard comes from and to not let one dominant
perspective silence their own.”
Campoverdi’s Maxim shoot negatively affected her chance to influence change within
the legislative system.
“Why are people publicly caring now? Weinstein is the straw that broke the camel’s
back,” Turner said.
“It has to do with the fact that we have evidence that the person we elected for president
has a history of harassment, accusations and talks about the acceptability of harassing
women. People are outraged and are finally saying, ‘We have had it!’”
“Laws are good,” Turner said. She explained that NCC has a great system in place
adding, “We need laws. They protect us, but it also important to remember that laws do
not change people’s hearts. Diverse, lived experiences need to be shared and not limited.
The stigma of becoming a victim or survivor after reporting can prevent many different
kinds of stories from being told. Maybe then the stories being told now could better
inform the laws. We don’t just want to forget this and move on to the next thing.”