A 'Women's Solidarity Network' Could Provide Support for Victims of Sexual Harassment

Posted Nov. 29, 2017

MP3 Interview with Barbara Maclean, founder of the group Planning Beyond Capitalism, conducted by Scott Harris


The explosion of public accusations denouncing perpetrators of sexual harassment over recent weeks has provoked a national dialogue and debate on how society should address the ancient scourge of male sexual aggression and violence. The powerful men named have come from the worlds of movie making, media, business, sports and politics. While movie producer Harvey Weinstein was the subject of early attention for his long history of predatory behavior, soon other well-known men were named, including actors Kevin Spacey, talk show host Charlie Rose, comedian Louis C.K., Democratic Sen. Al Franken and Michigan Rep. John Conyers.

However, the well-documented charges of pedophilia leveled against Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who professes to be a fundamentalist Christian, has exposed the selective way in which many political activists accept or reject credible charges of sexual misconduct made against their allies.

In this unique moment of collective awakening on sexual harassment, there have been very few concrete proposals on how society could address this age-old epidemic of male sexual coercion and bullying. One exception was a proposal made in an article titled, "Beyond Harvey Weinstein: What Can be Done?" written by socialist feminist Barbara Maclean, a founder of the group Planning Beyond Capitalism. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Maclean who discusses her proposal to form a ‘Women's Solidarity Network,’ that could offer legal and educational assistance to groups of women combating sexual harassment and assault. [Rush transcript.]

I don't want to take credit for this because I read a wonderful article by Jonathan Cooke in Dissident Voice. I don't know if you all are familiar with him. If you're not, you should check him out. He's a wonderful journalist and what he proposed is that – and he was specifically speaking about Hollywood – that they form unions in Hollywood for actresses and actors at any stage in their career so that particularly these young actresses –the focus right now is on women. So, I'm not saying men have not been abused – they have and it needs to be addressed. But I think you know, to get a framework around women, if there was some kind of union organization that could work with women so that when they had complaints, they had a place to go. They could register the complaints; the union could collect those complaints, put them together into a group, and then take some kind of class action, to file a class action suit against this individual. I think this is brilliant. I think it's wonderful. But I think it needs to go further. I think as we're finding out, this happening not just in Hollywood, it's happening in the Supreme Court, in the White House, in tech, it's happening everywhere. And it's happening in much smaller businesses.

So, there needs to be something beyond simply beyond a union for women in say, Hollywood, or the arts. So, we need to start looking in a larger context. How can we protect all women? And if, instead of having a women's union, we frame it as a women's solidarity network. And this is something that all women could get behind. And there could be chapters all over the country. My hope would be that groups like say, Southern Poverty Law Center, other legal aid groups could work with these women to educate them about their rights, and when necessary to actually file lawsuits on their behalf. So that's kind of like the beginning of where this came from.

BETWEEN THE LINES: In your article you talk about the explosion of activism that we saw back in 2011 around the Occupy Wall Street movement. That was the most spontaneous movement that erupted across the country, in fact, in places all over the world. Do you have any hope that your idea of a women's solidarity network could take off in a similar way, or something like this project – a more difficult task that would take a lot more effort to push to launch in a way that will be long-lasting?

BARBARA MACLEAN: I'm not sure. One of the things that I've thought about is starting small and simply starting a Facebook group. A Twitter account to see how many women would want to get on board with this. I've watched Black Lives Matter. You know, that was initiated in Oakland, California, where I live, by a very small group of women sitting around after the last police attack on a young black man. And they said, "Enough! This is enough!" And they formed this. There were maybe less half a dozen of them. And look what's happened to them now. You say, "Black Lives Matter," everybody knows what you're talking. But the fact is, that took off like wildfire. How wonderful if this could take off like wildfire. These types of stratifications. These types of inequalities with women go back before our lifetimes. For generations, it was something that all of us, all of us simply accepted. And frequently just laughed off, and that's how men are, and that's how it is. And you know, we just kind of have to put up with it.

So my hope is that all of those women who have put #MeToo sometimes told their stories, sometimes not. That they see that there could be some kind of organization that could help fight this.

For more information, visit Planning Beyond Capitalism at planningbeyondcapitalism.org; on Facebook at facebook.com/planningbeyondcapitalism; on Twitter at twitter.com/beyond_capital.

Related Links:

Subscribe and get Between The Lines' Weekly Summary in your inbox!