From Anita Hill to Angelina Jolie

The allegations of sexual abuse and assault committed against thousands of women keep multiplying every day. There is not one single political, cultural, social or sporting activity in which the predatory behavior of men against women is not newsworthy or cause for alarm. Since time immemorial, abuse against the female gender has been concealed, and because of this, it has been relatively ignored. It is only now that it has received the attention it should have received a long time ago. One of the most relevant events and the first one to grab the attention of millions of people occurred in 1991, when Anita Hill declared that Clarence Thomas, a U.S. Supreme Court nominee, had inappropriately made sexual comments to her that went beyond any work relationship, and threatened to fire her if she reported him. Thomas’ nomination was confirmed by the Senate, a group made up of mainly white men.

Twenty-five years later, the image of Harvey Weinstein, a powerful Hollywood mogul, covers the front pages of newspapers around the world after dozens of women – some of them famous artists like Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie – accused him of sexual assault. The news has opened a Pandora’s box with limits that are impossible to predict. Clearly, the situation is just as shocking and reprehensible in politics, sports, education, art and in both private businesses and public service, where thousands of anonymous women face equal levels of assault. As the allegations pile up, one can’t help but wonder how many women have not been victims of this type of aggression.

The abuses are varied. They are all reprehensible, but, among the avalanche of allegations, we should avoid judging all the cases with the same standard; clearly, rape is not the same as verbal assault. The following can be added to this list of deplorable attitudes: the offensive moral blackmail and degradation of dignity caused by the sexual subjugation of women in exchange for employment or keeping their job. The systematic use of degrading and sexual adjectives toward women both in the workplace and in public spaces is no less reprehensible.

The examples abound in both cases, but one question is becoming increasingly urgent: How is it possible that someone who has been accused of being a sexual predator by dozens of women is currently holding the highest office in the United States? For many, it is the result of the breakdown of moral and ethical norms in a country that was once presumed to be the leader in upholding these values. This moral breakdown has been exposed in the latest accusations of sexual assault that are now counted by the dozens. What used to be an open secret in every single workplace has become a resounding call for “enough” that is demanding punishment against those who have exerted coercion and power as a way of being abusive, not only in the U.S., but in other countries as well, including Mexico.

There is reason to be optimistic as more and more women, and men too, are demonstrating and organizing not only to expose and fight this predatory conduct, but also to ensure that women enjoy equal working conditions regardless of their social and ethnic situation, and to fight against abuse and discrimination inside and outside the workplace. In this regard, there is a long history worthy of discussion in future issues.

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