This Lansing reporter calls sexual harassment 'a pervasive part of Michigan political culture'

April 21, 2021, 8:18 AM

Emily Lawler, an MLive Media Group capital reporter, reported and wrote an investigative article (paywalled) based on accounts of systemic sexism from 40 women who work in and around Lansing politics. The reporting with Lauren Gibbons led former Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero to abruptly end his campaign for a fourth non-consecutive term "on Sunday after women ... told MLive he had sexually harassed them," she writes separately in open-access coverage.
These reflections on the project are adapted from social media posts Tuesday.

By Emily Lawler

Emily Lawler: "This problem doesn't recognize party lines." (Photo: Facebook)

In the course of reporting this story, I sat on the Capitol steps for ten minutes waiting for a source. In that time, a state representative sexually harassed a woman walking into the Capitol. That's exactly how prevalent this is. That's exactly how shamelessly this happens.

Women deserve space in politics. Too often, they're facing obstacles like sexual harassment, stereotypes, gender discrimination, tokenizing and being skipped over for the top spots. It's pervasive, and it doesn't know partisan boundaries.

Women walk into that building with a workload men don't have. It's finding a way to respond to inappropriate comments without getting fired. It's avoiding being alone with certain men. It's figuring out how to advance in a male-dominated world.

This problem doesn't recognize party lines. Every woman I talked to, on both sides of the aisle, made that point to me.

That tracks with my personal experiences with sexual harassment. It's a pervasive part of Michigan political culture, period.

I am unbelievably proud of the brave women that made this story possible. Some of them appear in it, some of them do not or cannot. But every single one of the 40+ women we spoke with gave Lauren and I the insight and perspective we needed to report out this story.

Please consider reading and supporting more work like this by subscribing to My editors carved out weeks for us to work on this, and that's the kind of commitment this subject needs. And it's the kind of journalism this town needs.


Democratic Political Consultant in Lansing Accused of Sexual Harassment, March 25

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