Padma Lakshmi: ‘Talent Is Not Somehow a Pass’ for Abusive Men

Padma Lakshmi: ‘Talent Is Not Somehow a Pass’ for Abusive Men


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Padma Lakshmi believes in redemption for men brought down amid the #MeToo movement.

But that redemption should come from genuine remorse and understanding of the impact of one’s actions, as Ms. Lakshmi said Thursday, and shouldn’t be driven by a man’s being good at a certain job.

“Their talent is not somehow a pass,” she said at the DealBook conference Playing for the Long Term. “It does not exempt them from really having to be disgraced, because what they did was disgraceful.”

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It was one of the lessons that Ms. Lakshmi and her fellow panelist, Lisa Borders, sought to impress on their audience, which erupted in rare mid-presentation applause after Ms. Lakshmi’s comments. Ms. Borders simply pointed to Ms. Lakshmi and said she agreed “100 percent.”

The women discussed how the #MeToo movement continued to revolutionize gender dynamics across the workplace, culture, in social circles and in sports and education. Both have become vocal leaders.

Ms. Lakshmi, the host and an executive producer of “Top Chef” as well as model, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in September revealing that she was raped at the age of 16 and empathizing with women who waited years to disclose sexual assault.

The op-ed was published as two women came forward to detail accusations against Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee, and President Trump questioned why one of the women, Christine Blasey Ford, didn’t report the incident when it happened more than 30 years ago.

Ms. Borders, formerly the president of the W.N.B.A., was named chief executive of Time’s Up, a legal advocacy group for women in the workplace, last month, and her first day on the job was Thursday. The organization aims to tackle workplace discrimination around the world.

The conversation was wide-ranging as Ms. Borders and Ms. Lakshmi described the need for a cultural shift, not just in the workplace, but particularly in how men are socialized and boys are raised.

“We need to stop equating aggression and masculinity because I think that’s a big part of it,” Ms. Lakshmi said.

Ms. Borders said there needed to be more transparency, particularly on the issue of salaries, so women would know if they were being underpaid. She said that companies should understand that policies and practices that empower women also help organizations as a whole.

“We add value,” Ms. Borders said.

Both women said the ability to share stories through social media had helped strengthen the #MeToo movement and create a time of real social change. Ms. Borders said there was a recognition among what she called survivors of sexual abuse that their stories were not “our burden to bear but society’s burden to bear.”

“And it lit fire,” she said.



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