Sexual harassment holds women back. Not only is it a tool used to degrade, demoralize, and push out individual women in the workplace, but industries that tolerate sexual harassment treat women as inherently less valuable than their male counterparts. As a result, those men are often given better opportunities and higher-profile platforms as their female counterparts are left behind. So it comes as a relief that in the aftermath of ousters of serial harassers like Charlie Rose and Kevin Spacey, women are finally getting the chance to take the lead.
On Dec. 4, Netflix announced that the final season of its flagship series House of Cards will move ahead without Spacey, instead focusing on Robin Wright’s character, Claire Underwood. On the same day, PBS said that it plans to fill the time slot previously occupied by Rose’s now-cancelled show with a rebroadcast of “Amanpour,” the CNN program hosted by award-winning journalist Christiane Amanpour, on an interim basis. And also on Dec. 4, the January issue of Elle hit news stands—featuring a cover photo shot by Argentinian photographer Paola Kudacki after the magazine scrapped the original shoot by alleged sexual abuser Terry Richardson.
In all three cases, confronting unacceptable behavior from a man also meant clearing room for extraordinarily talented and accomplished women to take center stage. There’s no question that they deserve it. In the role of Claire Underwood, Wright has always been far more compelling than Spacey’s scenery-chewing Frank. There’s no nuance when it comes to Frank; he’s a Machiavellian power player who will do anything to anyone in order to stay on top. Wright’s performance, meanwhile, is quietly intriguing; Claire is made of both silk and steel, and she keeps the audience guessing. Meanwhile, Amanpour is one of the most prestigious broadcast journalists out there, with 11 Emmys and four Peabody Awards to her name. And Kudacki is a well-known photographer who’s done plenty of previous cover shoots for Elle as well as GQ, Billboard, and Time.
Clearly, these women are already at the top of their game. And that’s the whole point. Of course Wright can carry House of Cards; for many viewers, she’s been at its center the whole time. The difference is that the show is finally admitting it. As the #MeToo reckoning forces the media, entertainment, and tech industries to address the cultural rot that has long benefited men at the expense of women, companies should also seize this moment to acknowledge the women superstars that are already in their midst.