In late November, Jordan Rose stood just steps away from former NBC anchor Matt Lauer.
Rose was visiting New York City with the Marching 110, which would play in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade the next day. On the previous Wednesday, part of the band performed on the "Today" show with the celebrated Ohio University alumnus. Although Rose did not personally perform, he finds it odd looking back on the experience now.
Because a week later, Lauer was fired.
“That was super bizarre,” Rose, a senior studying child and family studies, said. “He’s an alumnus, and that makes us look bad.”
Lauer is just one of the many high-profile men who have lost positions or lost the public’s favor in recent months because of allegations of sexual misconduct. As the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements grow, the messages is clear: Sexual harassment and abuse will no longer be tolerated. Now, as more accusations surface, fans of the accused have to decide if they can or should continue to support those men.
Rose said NBC was right to swiftly fire Lauer for his alleged inappropriate behavior. By doing so, the network demonstrated a no-tolerance attitude toward sexual offenses. Likewise, the general public seems to be moving toward a similar attitude. Rose said he would likely feel uncomfortable seeing movies or watching television shows in which an accused man was involved.
“I feel like if I went and saw them, people I knew would be like, ‘You’re going to go see a movie with that person in it?’” he said. “I feel like they would assume I supported them regardless of what they did.”
When entertainers are accused of such acts, the real importance obviously is with those who were harmed directly by their actions, Patty Stokes, an assistant professor of women’s gender and sexuality studies, said. But nevertheless, society feels a certain loss when talented men sully the enjoyment of their works because of their alleged misconduct.
“There are these sort of collateral losses to all of society when somebody has gifts and they blow it by doing something wrong,” Stokes said.
Consumers of media may decide to react differently to different kinds of accusations — as they should, Stokes said. Some accusations carry more weight than others, depending on the number of instances and to what degree the accused abused their position of power.
“Not all offenses are created equal,” she said. “I do think we will have to find, as a society, a way to deal with them in a somewhat nuanced way. I think there should be consequences that might not always be the nuclear option of ending somebody’s career.”
There are some accused men whose careers in the public eye seem to be over, though. Producer Harvey Weinstein and actor Kevin Spacey may be examples of such entertainers, Stokes said. Their alleged behavior is seemingly unforgivable. But Stokes said there could be ways others might make amends for their misconduct. An important step is giving a genuine apology — a self-reckoning that is not self-justifying. Another helpful act might be to dedicate their time and money to causes that work to change the culture of media to one that keeps people safe from sexual misconduct.
Stokes was happy to see the many women in black and the “Time’s Up” pins on male celebrities’ jackets at the . The attention and money being given to bring awareness to the reality of sexual harassment and the protection of those most vulnerable to it has the potential to promote real change. But pins on jackets must be backed by lasting commitment, she said.
“That kind of symbolism needs to be backed by action in the long run, and it needs to be backed by integrity … otherwise it is just a publicity stunt,” she said.
Despite her disappointment, Verne said she hopes the movement against sexual misconduct continues to draw attention on a national level. She believes it will promote change beyond high-profile cases and benefit women in all areas of the workforce.
“I think it’ll give a lot of women a lot more confidence to see all these women in Hollywood standing up and bringing out their stories,” Verne said. “I think it’ll give women in business jobs or any job the confidence to stand up.”