Feminist legends Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem appeared on MSNBC Wednesday, and as to be expected, the icons had plenty of thoughts on the ongoing Harvey Weinstein scandal. The women stopped by All in With Chris Hayes as representatives of the Women’s Media Center—a progressive, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that they cofounded with Robin Morgan in 2005 to raise the visibility of women and girls in the media—and discussed the dozens of women who have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment and assault against the former Hollywood powerhouse.
“It feels like something has shifted,” Fonda said. “It’s too bad that it’s probably because so many of the women that were assaulted by Harvey Weinstein are famous and white and everybody knows them. This has been going on a long time to black women and other women of color, and it doesn’t get out quite the same.”
Fonda added that the women who have come forward have made a big difference, and she hopes that it will cause a “domino effect” that will spread to other industries.
Steinem built upon Fonda’s point, saying that more women speaking out has potential to change attitudes about these types of crimes and cause society to reevaluate a previous (lack of) response.
“If you steal money, you probably get arrested and convicted, because everybody says stealing is wrong,” Steinem said. “But if you do something that is very sexist or racist, because there still is a critical mass of bias in this country, it takes more cumulative instances for it to be recognized. So we have reached a tipping point, I think.”
“The important thing to remember is that it’s about power and the idea that you have to dominate to be sexual,” Steinem added. “That’s the fundamental problem.”
Fonda then added that the Weinstein revelations have focused on a lot of high-profile women in a widely talked-about industry—but this is not the same experience for millions of women across numerous professions in the U.S.
“Twelve million people in the United States work in restaurants. Most of them are women,” she said. “They’re often young—but not always—but they survive on tips, which means that they have to put up with a lot.”
Host Chris Hayes chimed in, adding that in the service industry, the customer acts as the boss and restaurant workers will have to “grimace through an inappropriate comment.” Fonda seconded this idea, saying if a woman doesn’t “look smiley with a low-cut, tight dress” it could work against her.
“You’re not being paid a living wage so you depend on your tips,” she continued. “This often is the first job, right? So for these young women it becomes the norm: ‘Nothing can be as horrible afterward as what was done to me in restaurants, so it must be this is just the way life is.’”
As the interview concluded, the discussion turned to Republicans who have criticized the Democratic party and said they have not been tough enough on Weinstein (who had donated to a number of political campaigns). However, Fonda and Steinem countered that the GOP has no grounds to offer such criticisms, considering the reaction to sexual harassment allegations against men like Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, and even Donald Trump.
“That we have a president who profiteered off of beauty contests is absurd in itself,” Steinem said, “in addition to the fact that he is a self-confessed harasser.”
You can watch the full interview below.