After a New York Times investigation reported years of sexual misconduct allegations against influential Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, the floodgates seemed to open. Since then, dozens of powerful figures have been accused of sexual harassment and assault — but as one Reddit user pointed out on Sunday, the majority of people involved have been upper-class: Hollywood actresses and producers, editors at major news publications, and so on. Like it or not, one of the reasons these stories have received such huge amounts of press is that they center on celebrities and public figures, who possess both the credibility to be taken seriously and the vast financial resources needed to take legal action. While fame may come with its disadvantages, fortune generally doesn't.
Sexual misconduct, after all, isn't restricted to the lives of the rich and famous. For thousands of women working in environments from bars and restaurants to stores and warehouses, harassment is so common it's practically part of the job description — just look at the sheer number of women who joined in the #MeToo campaign. An ABC News-Washington Post poll released this fall found that more than half (54 percent) of U.S. women have experienced unwanted or inappropriate sexual advances from men, and three in 10 said they had been harassed by a male coworker. Nearly a quarter said they had been hit on by someone with influence over their work situation. Of the women who had been harassed, though, 95 percent said such assailants usually go unpunished.
In the wake of the ever-growing Weinstein scandal, this may seem like it's changing. At last, men who have been accused of alleged sexual misconduct are facing public backlash. Some have been pressured to resign from the position that put them in power in the first place; others have seen their movies yanked from theaters days before the intended release.
But while this is a huge step forward in the treatment of sexual misconduct, some have noticed that the women who have come forward tend to have one thing in common: They're rich, putting them at significantly less financial and professional risk in coming forward. As E.J. Graff put it in Vice, "Most working women have much less social capital than their abusers — or than, say, Ashley Judd."
They're vulnerable in a way that upper-class women are not. By definition, working-class women depend on employment to get by; they may put up with workplace harassment for fear of losing their job. If legal action is needed, they may have a much more difficult time paying for counsel. Then there's the fact that in the United States, the rich simply have more clout than poorer classes.
On Sunday, Reddit user r/TinyLittleHamster posted about this in the subreddit Two X Chromosomes. "I’m glad that more and more people are getting in trouble for sexual harassment, but I hope this trickles down to the working class soon," they wrote. "There are Harvey Weinsteins and Al Frankens in every bar and restaurant I’ve ever worked at. When rich women speak up, these men lose their jobs, but not the poor."
In the comments below, women (and some men) commiserated with their own stories of sexual harassment at work, which often went unpunished. You can read the thread for yourself on Reddit, but the highlights are below.