“Politics is as sexist a culture as any in America.”
So says Carly Fiorina, a successful Silicon Valley businesswoman who ran for a U.S. Senate seat in California in 2010 and sought the 2016 Republican nomination for president.
Fiorina was writing last week on Medium.com, in reaction to the recent sexual misconduct scandals that have disrupted the entertainment, business and media worlds.
According to Fiorina, much of the blame goes to good men and women who’ve chosen to remain silent when they see or hear about sexual harassment or other transgressive behavior in their workplaces or elsewhere in their lives.
“That is, of course, a crucial element of all the stories we see now,” Fiorina writes. “People knew. Men and women knew. Everyone looked away – or worse, enabled such behavior.”
In October, Fiorina, 63, told Bloomberg News that she has experienced sexual harassment in both the business world and in politics.
Although she rose to CEO of Hewlett-Packard in the heavily male-dominated tech industry, serving in that role from 1999 to 2005, Fiorina says she has faced the same indignities along the way that scores of other women face.
For example, “Virtually all of us have been groped by someone we thought we could trust,” she writes.
The political world has been no different, she says.
Perhaps most famously, Fiorina in 2016 was a rhetorical target of then-GOP primary rival Donald Trump.
“Look at that face!” Trump said of Fiorina, according to Rolling Stone magazine. “Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?”
After backlash, Trump later tried to make good by describing Fiorina at a Republican debate as being “a beautiful woman.’’
Fiorina initially accepted Trump’s apology and endorsed him for president after she dropped out. But she withdrew the endorsement after Trump’s infamous “Access Hollywood” tape went public prior to last November’s election.
As Fiorina writes in her Medium essay, “ … (P)oliticians, of both parties, are among the worst harassers and abusers. Democrats would have us believe that all women are victims and only some sweeping government programs can solve this problem. Republicans would have us believe there is no problem at all.
“Both parties are wrong and neither has any room to lecture anyone else on behavior or to propose solutions.”
The time has come now, Fiorina concludes, for “the meaningless statements of outrage” to end and for real action – and real change – to begin.
And she calls on men to do their share in making change happen.
“We women will keep fighting, contributing, speaking up and speaking out,” she writes. “The question is will you boys finally man up?”