In an article by Time, former Uber software engineer Susan Fowler opens up about her blog post describing the sexual harassment she faced while working at the company. Her report came after a manager was talking about sex on an open chat in the company app. Fowler took a screenshot of the conversation and reported it to HR. After her blog post, which can be read here, Fowler published a book called Whistleblower, detailing her fight for justice in the events during and after working at Uber.
image via time
To make matters worse, Fowler experienced constant harassment outside of work after she reported the sexual harassment. She found out people were digging for information about her, even going so far as to follow her. Fowler was told by friends and family that they were being asked by strange people about her, some that Fowler hadn’t been in contact with since she was a teenager. It’s really disturbing.
Fowler notes that eventually, private investigators were trying to get in touch with her. Fowler received a call from someone she didn’t know but decided to answer it. On the other side was a woman claiming to be working on a case against Uber, and she wanted Fowler to help her. Fowler declined and did her own research. It turned out that the woman worked for a firm that was hired for past cases working to discredit victims of sexual misconduct!
Fowler also notes instances of her social media being hacked, her phone ringing constantly to alert her, her email being hacked and combed through, and her sister’s accounts being hacked into. Although not directly correlated, it seems that Uber was retaliating against Fowler for speaking up, but she persevered.
In an interview with NPR News, Fowler speaks with David Greene about what happened after she filed the report. Fowler describes that the work culture was toxic, full of misogyny, bullying, and harassment. She’s had what she calls, “surreal encounters with an HR department that refused to take action.” She noticed a culture of destruction and rule-breaking, and was often yelled or berated at during meetings.
It’s really disgusting to think that this happens in workplaces, but it’s important to know that change can occur, which is what happened after Fowler left. The company’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, along with twenty other employees, were fired after investigations were held.
image via amazon
If you’d like to read about Fowler’s experience (and you should!), you can get her book on Amazon, linked just above.
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Now that we’ve read Farrow’s book, it’s clear — his smear rests on the allegation that NBC’s management knew about and took steps to hide Matt Lauer’s misconduct before his firing in November of 2017…Without that, he has no basis on which to rest his second conspiracy theory — that his Harvey Weinstein reporting was squashed to protect Lauer.
Noah Oppenheim, NBC News President, has adamantly disputed Farrow’s Claims. Via LA Times.
This story revolves around one woman that stepped forward before Lauer was fired: Brooke Nevils. Nevils filed a complaint against Lauer alleging he had raped her in a hotel room in Sochi, Russia during NBC’s coverage of the 2014 Olympics. Farrow’s book claims NBC executives knew about abusive patterns in Lauer’s behavior before it all came to a boil following Nevils’ complaint. Essentially, Farrow accused NBC of sweeping Lauer’s misconduct under the rug:
[NBC] brokered nondisclosure agreements with at least seven women who experienced alleged harassment or discrimination within the company. The agreements also alleged harassment or discrimination within the company … in most cases, the women received substantial payouts that parties involved in the transactions said were disproportionate to any conventional compensation for departing the company.
NBC has officially denied that they tried to cover up any of Lauer’s misconduct, pointing to the internal investigation they carried out in May of 2018 that found that no evidence of claims or settlements related to Lauer’s misconduct. NBC notes that the cases Farrow cites “involve employees who, by their own admission, made no formal complaint, and whose departures were completely routine.” Nondisclosure and non-disparagement agreements are commonplace in the television industry, but the circumstances surrounding these cases are not the best.
Image via People
It seems the crux of the issue is whether Harvey Weinstein actually did put pressure on NBC executives. If Weinstein did use his knowledge of Lauer’s misconduct as leverage to cover up his own crimes, then Farrow’s conspiracy is confirmed in a way, since NBC higher-ups must have known what was going on then.
For now, the circumstances surrounding Lauer’s departure and the authenticity of Farrow’s new book have been significantly muddied. Catch and Kill has been marketed as an exposé of the lies and conspiracy to protect predators in media. Though NBC questions the authenticity of Farrow’s journalism, readers will ultimately have to decide for themselves who to side with.
Jai Nitz is a comic book writer best known for creating “El Diablo”, one of the lead characters in Suicide Squad. Nitz took a hit to his career in the Spring of this past year when Hannah Strader posted an in depth description of the assault she faced at the hands of Nitz.
Image Via Graphic Policy
In this post, titled ‘Assault Isn’t Always Obvious, Here’s My Story,’ Strader describes meeting Nitz while he was guest speaking at Kansas University. When Nitz asked her out to drinks over twitter a few days later Strader says she “felt [she] was leaning into a mentorship.”
However, when Nitz began barraging her with sexual questions, she realized the man had different intentions.
Strader states that the evening ended with Nitz forcibly kissing her, after she had clearly expressed her discomfort towards him multiple times. Strader reported the event to her professors, who in return reported it to the school, resulting in Nitz’s presence being banned within the Kansas University School of Journalism.
Image Via University Daily Kansan
KCTV5 News reported that “within 24 hours of posting, Strader said she heard from ten other women who said Nitz had also sexually assaulted them.” Now dozens of women have come forward with similar stories.
Right now Nitz is the subject of multiple police investigations, though he has yet to be charged or arrested. Those who have come forward seek to warn other women about Nitz’s predatory behavior, and the patterns of assault that seem to form in the comic book industry.
Strader has stated that:
[I]f this happened to me by searching for a creative writing mentor, I can’t imagine the kind of influence he would have over young women who are genuinely interested in comics or come to see him at these events. It’s a power structure inequality that he has used to his advantage and I’ve been told that I’m not the only one to experience this behavior from him. I’ll be the one to talk about it.
According to the New York Times, Jay Asher, author of the book and now hugely successful albeit controversial Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, has filed a defamation lawsuit against the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), as he claims there was little or no investigation into allegagtions made against him during the #MeToo movement, which resulted SCBWI annoucing that Asher “had violated the professional organization’s anti-harassment policy. “Asher is seeking a jury trial and unspecified financial damages” from the the Society.
The allegations made against Asher date back to April 2017, when executive director of SCBWI, Lin Oliver, was contacted by seven women who claimed that “Asher had used the group’s conferences to prey on women sexually, then threatened them to intimidate them into silence, making them ‘feel unsafe to attend SCBWI events.'”
Asher has stated that the women were colleagues of his, and that while he had conducted extramarital affairs with them, these were consensual, apart from his relationship with one woman, who, he claims, coerced him into sex and proceeded to engage in harassing him relentlessly over. the subsequent decade.
The New York Times notes that the lawsuit asserts that Oliver “made false and defamatory statements about him that torpedoed his career, and caused financial harm and intentional emotional distress,” and goes on to list the effects that SCBWI’s actions have had on Asher and his career, saying his “literary agency dropped him, speaking engagements and book signings evaporated, and some bookstores removed his novels from their shelves.”
Asher also claims that Oliver ignored contrary evidence due to personal grievances relating to Asher’s success and that one woman had even admitted her accusations to be false.
“who does that? she asked
thread by thread stitching
the whos to hers whys to the hows”
－Laurie Halse Anderson, SHOUT
The above self-questioning scene maybe speaks for those who have experience with sexual assault: why me? Why him? Why her? How? How? How—— Laurie Halse Anderson knows it deeply. Best known for her young adult novel Speak, Anderson has decided to break the silence and the ever-lasting self-doubt, and shout out her own experiences with sexual assault to the world via her memoir SHOUT which is woven out of powerful, poetic words, to empower those unmuted hearts.
According to Bustle, Laurie Halse Anderson, as a rape survivor grew up in a family where “staying silent was valued more than truth.” “I finally have the perspective to talk directly about my experience as a rape survivor,” she told Bustle. “I grew up in a house where silence was more valued than truth — it took a long time to grow out of those restraints.”
At the age of thirteen, Anderson was raped. Being hurt, physically and mentally, Anderson has been muted (by herself, her family, her school, and the whole society) for twenty years until she confessed her painful experience to a therapist, to the public:
I lost my voice for a very long time after I was raped…I lost myself, too. Shout is a poetry tapestry that shares the darkness of my silent years and shows how writing helped me speak up. Shout is a declaration of war against rape culture and a celebration of survival.
In 1999, Before writing SHOUT, the publication of her first and best-selling YA novel Speak helped to raise awareness of sexual assault, and allowed Anderson to address her own concerns about sexual assault, especially for teenagers, in society. Her semi-autobiographical novel, Speak revolves around Melinda Sordino, a fourteen-year-old high-school freshman who is raped by a senior in a party. On the spot, she calls 911 but doesn’t know what to say, so she runs home while the police come and break up the party. Back at school, Melinda is bullied by her peers for calling the police－and her depression becomes worse while the fear keeps silencing her. Speak has been hugely influential since its release and has become part of the curriculum in some high schools, while being banned in others. In 2004, the novel was adapted into a movie with the same name, featuring Kristen Stewart.
Anderson’s Speak and the derivative Emily Carroll’s graphic novel | Image via Amazon and Paste Magazine
Though Speak speaks for those who share the same unspeakable experience with Anderson, after almost twnety years, society is still under the dome of unpleasant abusive sexual scandals. Seeing the rise of social campaigns such as #MeToo and #TimesUp, Anderson feels comforting for their power of making the world over: “This cultural movement has been building since the early 1970s,” she said to Bustle, “It started as a tiny wave in the middle of the ocean, but now it is a tsunami reaching the shore and washing the world with truth.” However, on the other hand, Anderson feels angry about the status quo in which there are still powerless people crying in dark while powerful victimizers are still victorious. Anderson said to Washington Post that:
When I started Shout, it was just my rage: Why can’t we talk about these things? Watching these brave people speak up as part of #MeToo just let me take the lid off, and that felt good. It was a second liberation for me.
I see my responsibility as helping people move away from ‘me too’ to ‘us too’…I hope that some readers will find it and feel less alone…America’s teenagers are hungry for honesty and they are hungry for hope — and that’s what I’m trying to give them.
Anderson’s SHOUT aims to create a sense of community to fight against the forced-to-be-muted isolation that she felt as a young woman and a rape victim. If Speak is a book speaking for the victims, then SHOUT is a call to the action, that adds more waves along with the tsunami of current social movements. According to Washington Post, SHOUT is written in free verse and poetic language, and is divided into two sections. In the first half, the author shares her own experience in the sexual abusive world, and how that unforgettable traumatic memories led her to the creation of Speak. The second half is a “manifesto,” as Anderson herself indicated, about “listening to and reflecting on a culture where sexual violence is rampant.” Most significantly, SHOUT is a thank-you letter to those young victims who used to live in the darkness and have courage to speak with their family members, friends, teachers, Anderson, or merely themselves, about the sexual assaults. No matter if the words are addressed online, written, or orally, Anderson appreciates all those unmuted hearts striving to live, to speak, and to shout, “I’ll walk with you,” she said.
As a feminist reader, I love Anderson’s use of “weaving” to embody the complex of pain and bravery. The weaving falls apart when the hearts are falling apart; it is broken, loosen, and untidy forever, yet when those with the unmuted hearts mend their own experiences, with tear and blood, into the weaving of tapestry. They are not alone anymore. Though the pain remains, the power of confession, storytelling, language, when they are rallied, it becomes the forceful support for human sexuality and healthy intimacy, and the resilient fighter against rape culture and toxic masculinity.
I look forward to Laurie Halse Anderson’s upcoming SHOUT which is scheduled to be published on March 12, 2019 from Penguin Teen, and I wholeheartedly advocate the rampant vegetation of #MeToo, #TimesUp, and #SHOUT.