After all the allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, after we process the revelations involving Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Roy Moore and Al Franken, what are we going to be left with?

If it is just a trail of derailed careers, we would have missed an enormous opportunity to correct a destructive and toxic structural flaw in our society, one that exists not only in politics, media and entertainment, but also anywhere people care to look.

What we are seeing this year could be the dismantling of a system that has forced women to endure all manner of harassment and assault, one that pressures victims to stay silent, then asks, “What took you so long?” when they come forward.

Or it could just be another lost moment; it could go either way.

What started it all were the now-confirmed allegations against Weinstein, who, after years of paying off and intimidating victims in the film industry, could no longer keep his sleaze shielded from the general public.

Brave women and relentless journalists brought to light those stories and more. Longstanding rumors about C.K. were confirmed; it will be difficult for his career in comedy to recover. The credible and mounting allegations against Moore have put his candidacy for an important Senate seat in jeopardy in a way that his lawless and bigoted professional history did not.

And there will certainly be more.

But this isn’t about waiting for the next recognizable face to take a fall from power – it’s about making sure that women don’t have to endure this behavior simply as a matter of employment or career advancement.

First, we need to recognize that while all these cases are unacceptable, it’s OK to see the differences. A pattern of noxious behavior over years is worse – and, unfortunately, far more common – than an isolated incident of harassment or misconduct, and requires a different response.

What Franken did – as far as we know – pales in comparison to the allegations against Moore, in both number and severity. Franken also offered a clear and sincere apology and called for an ethics investigation into his own actions, while Moore continues to deny the credible claims despite mounting evidence, and to sic his political machine on his ever-growing number of accusers.

But Franken’s response still falls short in at least one critical way: He should have apologized for what he did when he did it – 11 years ago – instead of making his victim live with the memories and weigh the risk to her reputation, career and peace of mind involved in coming forward. We should want other men who have transgressed to step up in real time, own up to what they’ve done, commit to doing things differently and seek a role in changing the dynamic that makes sexual harassment possible in the first place.

These should not be seen as a collection of individual stories but as the same tale over and over again. Whether on the casting couch, on Capitol Hill or in the thousands of other workplaces across the country, women have been forced to navigate a culture where lewd behavior and unwanted advances are accepted practice. They are made to endure harassment from bosses in order to stay employed and advance up the ladder. They risk exclusion, name-calling and worse if they speak up.

That may be changing. This year, the blame and shame are, more and more, being placed where they belong: with the assailants. People seem more willing to believe the women who were victimized. There have been allegations and more against a media titan, a progressive comedian and a right-wing talk-show host, a liberal senator and conservative Christian former judge. Three of the last five presidents are the subjects of credible accusations.

This is everywhere, and it is time that is acknowledged and the behavior rooted out, whenever and wherever power and masculinity create a toxic environment for women. Putting an end to the free rein of people like Weinstein and Moore is a good start, but it is only the first step.

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