For the longest time, men have been excused from inappropriate behavior both in the workplace, and in the world at large.
The fact that the Today Show let go of Billy Bush after the 2005 tapes of him engaging in sexually predatory conversation with the current Republican Presidential nominee, Donald Trump, were released is a welcome change of pace.
“Obviously I’m embarrassed and ashamed,” Bush said in a public apology for the tapes. “It’s no excuse, but this happened 11 years ago—I was younger, less mature, and acted foolishly in playing along. I’m very sorry.”
He’s right that his youth is no excuse for the matter; misogyny is misogyny is misogyny, whether it took place 11 years or 11 months ago. Bush’s lawyer, Marshall Grossman, had another excuse. He says that had Bush not participated in the conversation with Trump, he would have been fired from Access Hollywood (the show the tapes came from) immediately. Even if Bush did feel he had to participate in the inappropriate conversation with Trump in order to keep his job, this is problematic in its own way. This would indicate Bush’s fear of conquering his own internalized misogyny, as well as the misogynistic pressures he felt he had to bend to in society and in the workplace.
Another example of men being fired for acts of misogyny and other forms of unprofessional conduct, is the story of former American Apparel CEO Dov Charney. In 2014, Charney was fired from the company for spending company money, refusing “to attend sexual-harassment training,” and allegedly using company electronics “to graphically document his sexual liaisons.”
After their termination both men were offered various options. Charney was given the option between leaving the company, or simply being placed in another position within American Apparel, along with a hefty severance package to ease the transition. Billy Bush was not offered a different position within the Today Show, but he is contractually owed an exit settlement that could be upwards of $5 million. Both men have faced punishment for their actions, but they also come from places of influence and wealth, Bush especially. So even though Bush and Charney are unlikely to be hired within their respective fields anytime soon, they each wield enough power to carve out their own paths. In fact, Charney has already begun doing so through his new clothing line.
The fact that men who have been accused of sexual harassment in the workplace, and men who have encouraged sexual assault with other powerful men while on-air, men like Charney and Bush respectively, are still afforded the luxury of eventually starting fresh in their industry disgusts me. I understand that the Today Show is contractually obligated to pay Billy Bush a hefty sum to get rid of him; but it makes me sick that he is able to profit off of the rightful loss of his job. As happy as I am that the Today Show did take a stand by firing Bush, it is clear that we still have a ways to go when it comes to holding men accountable for their behavior in the workplace.