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The policy implications of the Harvey Weinstein scandal

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The recent allegations of sexual harassment and assault by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein raises a question: Are there any policies that can prevent this? On the October 17 episode of The Weeds, Ezra Klein, Sarah Kliff, and Matthew Yglesias explore the policy implications of the Weinstein revelations, debate tax reform, and discuss a white paper on Medicaid expansion.

One thing that could make a difference: a more bureaucratic hiring process, Ezra suggested. The informality of the hiring process at the Weinstein Company that made it ripe for abuse. It “made [Weinstein’s] sexual predation a formal process,” where an assistant would set up meetings for aspiring actresses with Weinstein in a private hotel room.

Ezra then went on to discuss the consent policies on college campuses, and said that we need to “change who is afraid.” Sarah agreed: “Instead of women being afraid of sharing stories, it’s men being afraid of being on that list [of abusers].”

Matt said that the legal liability rules around consent need to change. “I think that people understand that there are very strong incentives that women who are victimized have to not come forward. That is a real issue here.” He suggested a legal system that would reward women who do prevail in their claims of sexual assault because “there is a strong compelling public interest in having victims come forward, though it is generally not in the private interest of the victims to do that,” he said.

Here’s Ezra comparing consent laws to other types of laws:

EZRA: You know when I go to my friend’s house, I can’t just take their shit, not legally. I need affirmative consent to borrow a stand mixer. Some of my friends, I am really good friends with, and I am not really that concerned that if I like grab something on my way out that I needed to use that they are going to call the police on me. We have enough of an understanding that it works out.

We really take property rights seriously in this country, and we make it the case that you need to be pretty fucking sure that you’ve got consent before you take somebody’s stuff, or you really need to ask them. We, in a lot of other spaces, have not done that. We don’t take it seriously. We are allowing and cultivating a space in which a lot of the places where there is grey area end up against the people who have less power. This is very true sexually. We have created a world in which women really bear the brunt of keeping themselves safe. Often, they can’t keep themselves safe, and then when they try to do anything about it, it is incredibly hard. It is incredibly hard because of the ways the laws are constructed and the way power is constructed.

People agree that Harvey Weinstein shouldn’t be able to be a sexual predator, but having the pretty big change in societal norms where you really moved where fear resides in different places, where people feel like the way they have done things forever that maybe they have to change it. Maybe they won’t understand what will be required to change it, and maybe they will have to be more tentative and maybe it will hurt them even if they do not think of themselves as a bad person. That is a real change in power, and people react to that very badly.

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