A Twitter thread
went viral this past Wednesday when University of Virginia professor Siva Vaidhyanathan tweeted that men “benefit professionally from sexual harassment
, even those who don’t harass.”
In response to the recent surge of sexual harassment scandals, involving men like Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner and Kevin Spacey, Vaidhyanathan, who is a professor of media studies and director of the Center for Media and Citizenship, told CNBC Make It that missed opportunities keep women out of male-dominated fields. And this benefits men, he says, because less female applicants means less competition.
Of course, missed opportunities are a direct consequence of sexual harassment.
On Twitter, Vaidhyanathan recalled a graduate school professor who he described as having "powerful intellect, great editorial instincts," and who he says helped him hone is writing craft.
"I'm a much better writer and scholar because of his close, sincere attention to my work," he tweeted. "No women worked with him. They knew better. He was notorious."
He said he considered himself "the good guy" because he would warn women who did not know him that "he was dangerous." His female colleagues therefore avoided the same professor because of his “notorious” behavior. And avoiding this professor — like many professionals avoid one-on-one interactions with members of the opposite sex
— means that women were stripped of the opportunity to hone their crafts, too. Additionally, the bad taste left in their mouths could perhaps affect their career decisions thereafter.
"If a woman has a bad experience in graduate school and decides not to become a professor, that is one less woman who applied to the same jobs
I did, and that meant more room for me," he says. "All men have benefited from the reduced competition of women who have been dissuaded from certain careers or certain companies."
While this instance is a "small thing," he says, it adds up when multiplied by millions over decades. Vaidhyanathan argues that addressing sexual harassment is the responsibility of everyone, noting that it’s too easy for "men who pride themselves on not mistreating women" to check out of the conversation when they don’t feel like it applies to them.
"If we really want equal opportunity for women in the workplace and equal wages, as well as comfortable and dignified spaces, then we all have an investment in stopping sexual harassment," he says. "I hope the past two weeks have woken up enough people so that women are going to be less fearful of the ramifications, but I suspect that will still take a long time."
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.