Ten days ago Les Moonves, CBS’s chairman and C.E.O., stepped down because of many, many accounts of sexual misconduct, and the investigative work of Ronan Farrow. I realize that in our current news cycle 10 days ago might as well be last year, but I’ve found myself still thinking about this story, and reading essays and commentary about it.
Why aren’t there more women creating TV shows? Because men like Les Moonves drive them out. Linda Bloodworth Thomason, the creator of Designing Women, and one of CBS’s top hitmakers, wrote an amazing essay about Les Moonves called Not All Harassment is Sexual. Les didn’t assault Ms. Thomason, or molest her, but he straight up ruined her career. I hope you take a minute and read her essay. I’ll highlight a piece of it:
Somewhere in the middle of all this, I was walking the halls one day in the original CBS building. In spite of no longer having gainful employment, I still felt proud that I had been allowed to make a creative contribution to the network I had grown up with — starting with Lucy and Ethel, who had electrified me and inspired me to write comedy. I never dreamed that I would become the first woman, along with my then-writing partner, Mary Kay Place, to write for M*A*S*H. I took pride in being part of a network that always seemed to be rife with crazy, interesting, brash women, from Mary Tyler Moore and Rhoda, to Maude, to Murphy Brown, to the Designing Women. Many of these female characters paved the way for women to be single, to pursue careers and equal pay and to lead rich, romantic lives with reproductive rights.
As I walked, I noticed that the portraits of all these iconic women were no longer adorning the walls. I don’t know why and I didn’t ask. I just know that the likes of them have rarely been seen on that network again. Thanks to Les Moonves, I can only guess they all became vaginal swabs in crime labs on CSI Amarillo.
The whole time I read Ms. Thomason’s story, I was shaking my head in disgust and frustration. Just think of how many horrible shows we’ve been subjected to, shows that celebrate and glamorize violence toward women. Episode after episode showcasing mutilated female bodies. A generation of men and women has practically bathed in this stuff daily.
All of those shows, green-lighted by men who hate women. All those careers of talented women, cut short or destroyed. All the amazing creative work our culture missed out on.
In addition to Ms. Thomason’s essay, I appreciated the commentary I’ve seen on Twitter. Three tweets I keep thinking about are 1) Cindy Gallop’s tweet wondering how the sexism and misogyny has influenced all of us:
'Many of the men toppled spent years determining what TV shows, movies & news programs millions of Americans watched on a daily basis." How do you think sexism, misogyny & sexual harassment influenced the cultural output that in turn influences everyone?https://t.co/3E91CqLF5S
— Cindy Gallop (@cindygallop) September 10, 2018
2) Daniel José Older’s tweet where he lists some of the specific influence of men who have been accused of sexual assault:
men who have been accused of sexual assault:
—Decide what we watch on TV and movies
—Decide what books/authors get play
—Decide what news we see, including coverage of a candidate who will now
—Decide who will be nominated to the Supreme Court which
—Decides damn near everything https://t.co/v1rFWWCceR
— Daniel José Older (@djolder) September 14, 2018
And 3) Wil Gafney’s tweet where she profoundly realizes that we see what they want us to see.
Got me thinking about the way women have been portrayed on TV and in the movies across time. Everything from the perfect housewife to gratuitous rape scenes. We see what they have they wanted us to see. https://t.co/rdXssOJPby
— Wil Stan for Black Women (@WilGafney) September 15, 2018
Have you been following the Les Moonves story? Or does it feel like just one more drop in the #MeToo bucket? Watching these big media men topple always feels only partly satisfying to me. Les Moonves has earned over a billion dollars from CBS over his career. And he may be walking away with $120 million as severance pay. These men may lose their jobs. But they’re all still extremely wealthy. None have done jail time. And no attempt at restitution has been made toward their victims.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad he’s gone from CBS. But that feels like the least that should happen. I don’t know what justice would look like in this case, but I know we haven’t gotten close yet. What’s your take on this? Are you more sad about the violent shows that were green-lighted? Or the shows that weren’t; the shows we never got to see?