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Vice Media’s Culture Of Sexual Harassment And Abuse Has Finally Been Exposed

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Photo by Mark Sagliocco for Getty

This is just the tip of the iceberg

Following in the steps of its Louis C.K. exposé and its Weinstein exposé before that, the New York Times has released an in-depth look at the long, disturbing history of sexual harassment allegations at Vice. The media company had long been rumored to foster a negative work environment for women, and it had drawn collective ire earlier this year, when it was revealed that Mitchell Sutherland, an editor of it’s female-centric offshoot, Broadly, had once written neo-Nazi blogger Milo Yiannopoulos telling him to “please mock this fat feminist” in regards to a column by Lindy West. But truly, as Times reporter Emily Steel reveals, that was just the tip of the iceberg.

According to the Times, over the years Vice has had many allegations of sexual harassment leveled against many of its most prominent employees. The company has long covered up the problem with wads of cash, and has reached four settlements regarding the allegations. One of those settlements—for $135,000, to be exact—was paid to an employee who claimed that she was fired after she rejected an “intimate relationship” with Vice’s president Andrew Creighton. Another woman claimed her supervisor “retaliated against her after they had a sexual relationship.” Another reached a $24,000 settlement with the company who said she had been the target of sexual harassment and racial discrimination. According to the Times, she claimed that a producer "had made racist and sexist statements to her, including asking about the color of her nipples and whether she slept with black men.” The final settlement was in regards to an incident in which Vice allegedly “defamed a female writer by publishing that she had agreed to have sex with a rapper whom she had interviewed, when she had not.”

And those are just the settlements actually reached. The Times goes on to report that over two dozen women at Vice had “experienced or witnessed sexual misconduct at the company — unwanted kisses, groping, lewd remarks and propositions for sex.” Despite its progressive front and young employees, it was revealed that the company is just as toxic as anything seen as being establishment. “The misogyny might look different than you would have expected it to in the 1950s, but it was still there, it was still ingrained,” said Kayla Ruble, a former employee.

Naturally, Vice is already scrambling to do damage control. Yesterday co-founders Shane Smith and Suroosh Alvi released a conciliatory statement to its employees:

Listening to our employees over the past year, the truth is inescapable: from the top down, we have failed as a company to create a safe and inclusive workplace where everyone, especially women, can feel respected and thrive. Cultural elements from our past, dysfunction and mismanagement were allowed to flourish unchecked. That includes a detrimental ‘boy’s club’ culture that fostered inappropriate behavior that permeated throughout the company. It happened on our watch, and ultimately we let far too many people down. We are truly sorry for this.

The statement goes on to say that Vice has plans to improve its workplace, including setting up an anonymous hotline where employees can report misconduct. However, considering the allegations against Vice go back at least as far as 2003, it begs the question as to why they’ve just started “listening to [their] employees over the past year.” With the world of media already in a tumultuous state, only time will tell if this newfound attention is too little, too late.

Beyond this essential Times article, writer Robyn Kanner has started a thread on Twitter in which she is anonymously tweeting things Vice employees have sent her about the company's toxic work culture. It is a necessary read because it reminds us that for every article written in which brave sources come forward with their stories of abuse, there are countless other victims who can not risk sharing their stories publicly. But that doesn't mean there aren't more stories. It just means we're only scratching the surface of these sordid stories of systemic abuse.

She considers herself "one of the luckiest kids on the face of the earth"

Dani Okon, NYLON's associate creative director of video, sat down with her great-aunt, May Okon, to talk about their shared experiences—despite vastly different time frames—living as queer women in New York City. Prior to retirement, May was a journalist for the New York Daily News, having first entered the male-dominated workforce when "the boys were all at war." And, of course, she absolutely killed it. Her only regret? "Retiring at 55," she tells Dani, joking, "Who the hell knew I was gonna live to 100?"

Upon retiring, she moved out to the Hamptons with her partner and bought a home. If she had to do it all over, May says "there are a lot of things I wouldn't do," but she still considers herself "one of the luckiest kids on the face of the earth." Get to know May in the video, above.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Rob Smith and Eddie Jarrel Jones
Lauren Morelli and Garcia
Marlene Colburn and Naima Green
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by: Alexandra Hsie
Camera: Gretta Wilson + Katie Sadler
Edited by: Madeline Stedman

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Here's how they're making sure it doesn't happen

Lauren Morelli, the showrunner and executive producer for the new Netflix show Tales of the City, is fostering a space where multiple queer realities can be shown on-screen. She spoke with one of the cast members, trans actor Garcia (who plays Jake Rodriguez on the show), and, in the video above, they explore why it's wrong to treat queer stories as representative of the entire community. Tokenization is something that they both want to avoid at all costs, and they're on the right track.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

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Rob Smith and Eddie Jarrel Jones
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Produced by Alexandra Hsie
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We put non-binary activist Eddie Jarrel Jones and The Phluid Project founder Rob Smith in conversation with each other, and the two spoke some powerful truths about the continued gendering of products like makeup and clothing. Smith recalls that 30 years ago, the only way that he was able to experience the joys of playing with makeup was to work at a beauty counter. Even today, Jones notes that it's hard for non-binary femmes like them, or even trans women, to get that experience in stores.

In the video above, get a sense of why Smith created a genderless store, and see how important it is for people like Jones to have a space where they don't feel criticized for dressing like they want.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Dani and May Okon
Lauren Morelli and Garcia
Naima Green and Marlene Colburn
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Directed by Charlotte Prager
Shot by Charlotte Prager + Dani Okon
Edited by Gretta Wilson

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Marlene Colburn, one of the founders of the Dyke March, and Naima Green, an artist currently working on a project and archive called Pur·suit, which will document queer people of all identities, agree that it's really hard to find lesbian spaces that aren't bars. Just as hard, it seems, is to find lesbian representation that isn't white. In the video above, the two talk about how they are creating space for queer people and what that looks like within two different generations.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

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