Garrison Keillor fueled my every Sunday afternoon car ride home from church, his pacifying voice, ingenious storylines, and uncanny sound effects filling the homey family Honda with Minnesota Public Radio’s (MPR) “A Prairie Home Companion”. Since 1974, the radio show aired without fail, introducing me and thousands of other American radio-tuners to the delights of public radio. In 2016, Keillor retired from the show, but the happenings of fictional Lake Wobegon continued to influence my deepening interest in a career of media and writing.
Then, suddenly, on a Wednesday in November, not long after I had given thanks for quality public radio over roast turkey and candied yams, that same public radio station was reporting on a sexual allegation against Keillor. Years ago, Keillor claims to have touched a woman on the bare back in congratulations, which he apologized for in a personal email to her at the time. His contract with Minnesota Public Radio was soon terminated.
Earlier that day, Matt Lauer, another media paragon in my eyes, was fired from “The Today Show” for lecherous accusations from female colleagues, including sending lewd comments and texts, gifting a sex toy, and exposing himself to a woman. I peered at my father as we listened to the heartbreaking, but not irregular, broadcast and wondered if there were any men who have not been guilty of sexual misconduct at one point. I imagine he looked at my brother and worried the same. The more critical question should perhaps be whether or not all sexual misbehavior is worthy of a sacking and severe public humiliation. In the wake of #MeToo, an expanding circle of male celebrities are now publicly responding to the question with movements of their own.
David Schwimmer has been at the roots of rape and sexual misconduct prevention since 2004, when he became a director at the Rape Foundation in Santa Monica. Around this time last year, he also co-produced That’s Harassment, a six-part short film series that encapsulates a range of commonplace sexual harassment scenarios to depict what #MeToo moments look like in real life. In one of the films, “The Boss”,
Schwimmer plays a predative boss. Schwimmer is pellucidly in support of the #MeToo movement.
So Schwimmer’s interview in the April issue of Esquire was a bit jarring. Jay Fielden asked David Schwimmer why men have remained, for the most part, silent on sexual misconduct in a time when everyone seems to be speaking up.
“At the moment, because of the current climate, Al Franken is being lumped in with the Harvey Weinsteins of the world. This is a terrible—and horrifying—mistake . . . What concerns me is the frequent disregard of facts, context, evidence, and the rule of law,” Schwimmer said. “In this current climate, condemnation is swift and merciless. This is why the phrase ‘witch hunt’ has been invoked; innocent men feel defenseless. What we can do to make certain it doesn’t become a witch hunt is carefully and thoroughly investigate each claim.”
Schwimmer stresses a strong point: women currently feel sexually powerless, while men feel somewhat legally powerless. Due to threats from their professional superiors, countless women have fallen prey to sexual manipulation in the workplace. The #MeToo movement has given them the long-awaited opportunity to right an extensive and cumbersome history of sexual wrongs by their mainly male counterparts.
But what is considered wrong? Or, as Schwimmer would probably put it, to what degree is the wrong punishable, and where is the evidence to support the charge? Based on the emails and late-timed accusation involving Garrison Keillor, perhaps the woman whose back he touched for an instant had her perception of the contact altered by the post-Weinstein era’s Red Scare resemblance.
“If I am guilty of harassment, then every employee who stole a pencil is guilty of embezzlement,” Keillor said on the allegation.
Even if he is guilty, Keillor’s firing by the radio station was still not fully justified. Investigations were meager, at best, despite the accusation having cost Keillor the career he had built and burgeoned for decades. The man’s livelihood rested in this show, the ears of untold numbers of people perked up to hear his latest surreal stories, and I found a role model in Keillor; all of this, wiped clean, without so much as a trial.
Emerging sexual allegations and women’s rights warriors should be listened to with respect and a progressive attitude. Likewise, #AskMoreOfHim, championed by famous men such as David Schwimmer, David Arquette, Justin Baldoni, Matt McGorry, and Don Mcpherson in , deserves widespread attentiveness for engaging men in sexual behavior discussions. Equality denotes different groups, no matter their friction, working together on a level field. Men cannot be bystanders in the drive for sexual equality, and part of preventing this is through thorough investigations on each sexual allegation and discourses between genders on how best to understand one another’s grievances and shortcomings.
Joiners of the worldwide #MeToo movement and Hollywood’s Time’s Up, which pushes for a more legalistic redress in workplaces, are speaking out thunderously.
Good for them. May Harvey Weinstein and Mario Batali rot in a stinking jail cell for eternity. Or, maybe, the more effective rhetoric is: shall every sexual perpetrator and their victims be brought to justice.