‘Harveyed’ and the language of harassment

 

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Dear Rebecca:

A real quick note about the language we’re seeing in the storm of sexual harassment stories that have popped up since the first allegations against Harvey Weinstein were revealed a few weeks back.

Let’s take a tour around the Internet, shall we?

• “Because of an email chain that I was not a part of, Wieseltier has now been Weinsteined. Shamed and disgraced.”

• “Wieseltier has always been something of a lech. I heard stories about him all the time when I was living in DC in the 1990s. There’s no question that he was serially piggish, and that in general, he is a complete jerk. But he’s getting Harveyed.”

• “None of this should be hard. There are too many allegations settled for too much money for O’Reilly to receive the benefit of the doubt. It’s time for O’Reilly to be Weinsteined. ”

There’s more, but you get the idea. The word “Harveyed” or “Weinsteined” is often being used to describe the act of embarrassing powerful men accused of sexual harassment. What I don’t like about it is that the verb form makes these men the objects of the action — the victims, almost — instead of the authors of their own acts. It places the onus on the women, somehow, in a way that feels wrong.

The language is still in flux. Some women are using saying they’ve been “Harveyed” to indicate they were harassed, and Oxford Dictionaries has even weighed in, declaring that Weinstein’s name is becoming “shorthand for the broader victimization that happens at the hands of person abusing their professional power.”

It’s still early, though, and the language could go either way. We should think about how our use of it conveys the story we’re trying to tell.

Sincerely,
Joel

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