#MeToo Adds Up to Economic Robbery


Last week, as we heard woman after woman tell her tale of sexual harassment, of her reduction to a sexual commodity, I kept thinking: the media tells us about the huge settlements that big corporations pay,--$32 million for poor Bill O’Reilly. How many millions for poor Weinstein? For poor Cosby? In exchange, they get silence. But what about the economic cost to all us women?Who is reporting or calculating the financial cost to women from having their confidence undermined? Or from their exit from a field they could excel in, if only they could put up with pawing and shaming?

Now the silence has ended, and a murmur of female voices weaves a net big enough to capture big changes. Brit Marling’s recent post in The Atlantic names the financial stakes with power. She started as an economist, a Wall Street intern for Goldman Sachs. When she found it soul-killing, she went into acting, and then noticed Hollywood’s stories were only those told by a handful of powerful white males, where women were bit players in sexy outfits. She became a screenwriter and producer, and her skills show in this moving piece about her encounter with Weinstein. I invite you to read it in full, and rise to the challenge she presents: to consider what consent requires, and to reconsider what stories we decide to watch. She says about #MeToo:

      "I’m telling [my] story because in the heat surrounding these brave admissions, it’s important to think about the economics of consent. Weinstein was a gatekeeper who could give actresses a career that would sustain their lives and the livelihood of their families. He could also give them fame, which is one of few ways for women to gain some semblance of power and voice inside a patriarchal world. They knew it. He knew it. Weinstein could also ensure that these women would never work again if they humiliated him. That’s not just artistic or emotional exile—that’s also economic exile.
      "It’s important, too, to keep in mind where this power imbalance comes from. In the U.S., women were only allowed to have credit cards in their own names as of 43 years ago. Men had a two-decade head start (the credit card was invented in 1950). In the 1960s a woman needed to bring a man along to cosign any credit application. It’s stunning how recently women were afforded no financial autonomy. This is, of course, connected to the fact that women didn’t have bodily autonomy either. A woman’s husband could beat her or have sex with her without her consent in this country with no real legal recourse until the 1970s."

Read her whole tale here, and think about the costs, not just to a handful of a**holes with lawyers—but to half our nation’s people. What has been the economic cost of sexual shaming to you, your choices, your confidence, your bank account?