Women In California Politics Denounce 'Dehumanizing' Workplace Sexual Misconduct

More than 140 women working in California politics penned a letter on Tuesday vowing to speak out against the “degrading” and “dehumanizing” treatment they’re subjected to by men in the workplace. 

The letter, posted on the Los Angeles Times site, was signed by six female legislators and dozens of other women working as staffers, political consultants, lobbyists and other governmental positions within the California Capitol.

It comes on the heels of revelations about film producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct scandal, which the letter’s authors say was no surprise to them given how “pervasive” sexual harassment is in their own field.

As women leaders in politics, in a state that postures itself as a leader in justice and equality, you might assume our experience has been different. It has not. Each of us has endured, or witnessed or worked with women who have experienced some form of dehumanizing behavior by men with power in our workplaces. Men have groped and touched us without our consent, made inappropriate comments about our bodies and our abilities. Insults and sexual innuendo, frequently disguised as jokes, have undermined our professional positions and capabilities. Men have made promises, or threats, about our jobs in exchange for our compliance, or our silence. They have leveraged their power and positions to treat us however they would like.

Similar to what many of Weinstein’s accusers described, the letter’s authors wrote they faced fear about workplace repercussions and shame about speaking out in an environment where others are not sympathetic to their experiences.

Why didn’t we speak up? Sometimes out of fear. Sometimes out of shame. Often these men hold our professional fates in their hands. They are bosses, gatekeepers, and contacts. Our relationships with them are crucial to our personal success.

We don’t want to jeopardize our future, make waves, or be labeled “crazy,” “troublemaker,” or “asking for it.” Worse, we’re afraid when we speak up that no one will believe us, or we will be blacklisted.

Now, they say, enough is enough. 

“Each of us who signed this op-ed will no longer tolerate the perpetrators or enablers who do,” the signatories wrote. 

The writing comes one day after countless women wrote “Me too” on social media platforms to signify that they, too, have been victims of sexual harassment or assault. The movement was spurred by actress Alyssa Milano, whose initial tweet drew more than 25,000 responses in a matter of hours.

The politicians who wrote the letter are now asking other women who want to voice their experiences or propose solutions to workplace sexual misconduct to share their stories here

Also on HuffPost

Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd told the New York Times that Harvey Weinstein invited her to his hotel room and asked her if he could give her a massage or if she wanted to watch him shower. 

She told the Times that she thought, “How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?” 

Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow told the New York Times that Weinstein touched her inappropriately. 

“I was a kid, I was signed up, I was petrified,” she said, noting that when Weinstein found out she told her then-boyfriend Brad Pitt, "I thought he was going to fire me."

Angelina Jolie

“I had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth, and as a result, chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did,” Angelina Jolie told the New York Times. “This behavior towards women in any field, any country is unacceptable.”

Kate Winslet

Kate Winslet told Variety that she had heard rumors of Weinstein's behavior for years.

"I had hoped that these kind of stories were just made up rumours, maybe we have all been naïve," she said. "And it makes me so angry. There must be ‘no tolerance’ of this degrading, vile treatment of women in ANY workplace anywhere in the world.”

Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep told HuffPost that the women who came forward about Weinstein's behavior are "heroes."

“The disgraceful news about Harvey Weinstein has appalled those of us whose work he championed, and those whose good and worthy causes he supported," she said in a statement. 

Rose McGowan

Rose McGowan has been vocal about the scandal since the New York Times published its bombshell report on Weinstein's alleged misconduct. McGowan, the Times said, was one of several women with whom Weinstein reached a financial settlement following the alleged abuse. 

After The Weinstein Company fired Harvey, the actress and director called on the rest of the studio's board to resign.

"They knew," she said in a tweet. "They funded. They advised. They covered up. They must be exposed. They must resign."

Ben Affleck

"I am saddened and angry that a man who I worked with used his position of power to intimidate, sexually harass and manipulate many women over decades," Ben Affleck posted on Twitter. "The additional allegations of assault that I read this morning made me sick."

Actress Rose McGowan denounced Affleck for implying that he didn't know of the abuse before this week, saying that the pair had previously discussed Weinstein's treatment of her.

"You lie," she tweeted.

Lena Dunham

'Girls' co-creator and star Lena Dunham penned an op-ed for the New York Times calling on more men to speak out against Weinstein and others like him. 

"Abuse, threats and coercion have been the norm for so many women trying to do business or make art," she wrote. "Mr. Weinstein may be the most powerful man in Hollywood to be revealed as a predator, but he’s certainly not the only one who has been allowed to run wild. His behavior, silently co-signed for decades by employees and collaborators, is a microcosm of what has been happening in Hollywood since always and of what workplace harassment looks like for women everywhere."

George Clooney

In an interview with The Daily Beast, George Clooney said that, for decades, he'd heard rumors about Weinstein, but dismissed them as gossip. Calling Weinstein's behavior "disturbing" and "indefensible," Clooney said he had no idea of the severity of the accusations. 

"A good bunch of people that I know would say, “Yeah, Harvey’s a dog” or “Harvey’s chasing girls,” but again, this is a very different kind of thing," the actor told the Daily Beast. "This is harassment on a very high level. And there’s an argument that everyone is complicit in it. I suppose the argument would be that it’s not just about Hollywood, but about all of us—that every time you see someone using their power and influence to take advantage of someone without power and influence and you don’t speak up, you’re complicit. And there’s no question about that."

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence won an Academy Award for "Silver Linings Playbook," which The Weinstein Company distributed. She called the alleged harassment "inexcusable and absolutely upsetting."

"I worked with Harvey five years ago, and I did not experience any form of harassment personally, nor did I know about any of these allegations. This kind of abuse is inexcusable and absolutely upsetting," Lawrence said in a statement. "My heart goes out to all of the women affected by these gross actions. And I want to thank them for their bravery to come forward."

Hillary Clinton

Weinstein was a major Democratic Party benefactor, having donated to or raised money for a host of candidates, including Hillary Clinton.

Clinton said that she "was shocked and appalled by the revelations about Harvey Weinstein. The behavior described by women coming forward cannot be tolerated. Their courage and the support of others is critical in helping to stop this kind of behavior."

Barack and Michelle Obama

Weinstein visited the White House multiple times while Obama was in office after having raised huge funds for his presidential campaign. Earlier this year, Malia Obama also reportedly worked for the Weinstein Company.

"Michelle and I have been disgusted by the recent reports about Harvey Weinstein," the Obamas said in a statement. "Any man who demeans and degrades women in such fashion needs to be condemned and held accountable, regardless of wealth or status. We should celebrate the courage of women who have come forward to tell these painful stories. And we all need to build a culture -- including by empowering our girls and teaching our boys decency and respect -- so we can make such behavior less prevalent in the future."

Judi Dench

Judi Dench, who won an Oscar for her performance in the Weinstein-backed "Shakespeare in Love" and was nominated for two other films under his wing, denounced the alleged abuse.

"Whilst there is no doubt that Harvey Weinstein has helped and championed my film career for the past 20 years, I was completely unaware of these offenses which are, of course, horrifying and I offer my sympathy to those who have suffered, and whole-hearted support to those who have spoken out," she said in a statement.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio worked with Weinstein on blockbuster films like “Gangs of New York,” “The Aviator,” and “Django Unchained.”

"There is no excuse for sexual harrassment or sexual assault-- no matter who you are and no matter what profession," DiCarpio said in a Facebook Post. "I applaud the strength and courage of the women who came forward and made their voices heard."

Jessica Chastain

Jessica Chastain has been one of the most outspoken critics of Weinstein and of Hollywood's complicity since The New York Times published its damning report.

"I was warned from the beginning" about Weinstein, she said in a tweet. "The stories were everywhere. To deny that is to create an environment for it to happen again."

Julianne Moore

Moore, who starred in the Weinstein-backed film "A Single Man," tweeted that "coming forward about sexual abuse and coercion is scary and women have nothing to be gained personally by doing so.  But through their bravery we move forward as a culture, and I thank them. Stand with @AshleyJudd @rosemcgowan and others."

Colin Firth

Calling Weinstein a "frightening man to stand up to," Colin Firth told The Guardian that reading about the allegations gave him "a feeling of nausea."

“It must have been terrifying for these women to step up and call him out. And horrifying to be subjected to that kind of harassment. I applaud their courage."

Tamron Hall

“It’s a woman’s worst nightmare to be in a situation where you believe someone more powerful has control over your life,” former "Today" show host Tamron Hall told HuffPost. She called the allegations against Weinstein "horrifying."

Blake Lively

Blake Lively spoke out against Weinstein in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter

The actress said that she was unaware of the abuse but admitted that "it's devastating to hear." 

"It's important that women are furious right now. It's important that there is an uprising. It's important that we don't stand for this and that we don't focus on one or two or three or four stories. It's important that we focus on humanity in general and say, 'This is unacceptable.'"

Julia Roberts

Julia Roberts gave a statement to People, saying, “A corrupt, powerful man wields his influence to abuse and manipulate women. We’ve heard this infuriating, heartbreaking story countless times before. And now here we go again. I stand firm in the hope that we will finally come together as a society to stand up against this kind of predatory behavior, to help victims find their voices and their healing, and to stop it once and for all."

Ryan Gosling

“I want to add my voice of support for the women who have had the courage to speak out against Harvey Weinstein,” Gosling wrote in a note on Twitter. “Like most people in Hollywood, I have worked with him and I’m deeply disappointed in myself for being so oblivious to these devastating experiences of sexual harassment and abuse. He is emblematic of a systemic problem. Men should stand with women and work together until there is real accountability and change.”

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.