The news that Bill O’Reilly had been fired brought back memories — not just to those women who had worked with the man, but also to those who had never even met him. Women who have had a version of a Bill O’Reilly in their lives — a man in power, who used that power over women with less. Women who have spent years, decades, listening to these stories — from their own friends and colleagues and from accusers of Supreme Court nominees, presidents and candidates, comedy legends, news executives, news anchors.
These memories dampened any feeling of vindication women might have felt at the dismissal of this particular man. Because, they have learned, the attention subsides but the behavior persists. Sexual harassment is already against the law. It’s already against most corporate rules. It already creates outrage when it’s discovered, and it has cost a good number of men their jobs over the years. And yet … here we are again.
What will it take to make it stop?
There was much talk yesterday about technical fixes. Gretchen Carlson, who started the cascade of Fox News dominoes last summer when she sued then-chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, accusing him of firing her because she rebuffed his advances, believes that is a place to start. Yesterday she tweeted, “The only way to end harassment is to shine a light on it. Ask Congress to pass the Fairness in Arbitration Act. No more silencing women!”
There were also calls for more women at higher levels in corporations, to change the culture, as well as enforcement of existing policies, even — especially — when the offender is powerful and high profile.