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Vice Faces More Accusations That It Fostered Toxic Bro Culture 

Vice Faces More Accusations That It Fostered Toxic Bro Culture 

Vice

A culture of serial sexual harassment spurred by Vice's "Non-Traditional Workplace Agreement" has begun to emerge.

As the walls crumble around serial sexual abusers, the media giant Vice has already had its share of dark stories emerge from behind its pro-bro cubicles. Just as the Harvey Weinstein scandal was breaking in early October, Buzzfeed published an expose that revealed that a male editor for Broadly, Vice's feminist vertical, worked with alt-right darling Milo Yiannopoulos to terrorize women online.

Just over a week ago, former Broadly columnist Michael Hafford, who wrote the "Male Feminists Guide To..."(essentially a primer on teaching men how to be just sensitive enough to lure women into bed), was accused of raping or assualting four women. Now, a wider culture of toxic bro-ism that includes serial sexual harassment at the company's highest ranks has been exposed in a piece on The Daily Beast.

The piece begins with an anecdote from former Vice employee Phoebe Barghouty, who said that her employment at the company began with an invite to the Los Angeles Press Club awards with Vice's then editor-in-chief, Jason Mojica, and Bureau Chief Kaj Larsen, who had hired her. Larsen talked inappropriately about sex before asking Barghouty for a ride home and passing out drunk in her car, she told The Daily Beast. Over the weeks that followed he arranged a work meeting at his house where he answered the door shirtless and the preceded to make her wait while he took a shower. Eventually, he began to touch her inappropriately at work on the small of her back or on her thigh, she said.

Barghouty's protestations to the company's human resources department proved fruitless. "When it comes to talent, we can't really tell them what to do," Barghouty said HR told her. "They bring in the money and attention and you just have to deal with it."

Beyond the idea that Larsen was a top player at the company that somehow earned him the right to harass women without reproach, the company had built into its system a tidy non-disclosure agreement and an insidious "Non-Traditional Workplace Agreement," which was allegedly touted by some as a "get out of jail free" card for sexual harassers, which all employees are required to sign:

"...Due to the nature of VICE's business and operations, including but not limited to its print and online publications, sexually provocative and other explicit images, videos, and audio recordings are regularly present in VICE's offices.

Individuals employed by VICE must be conscious of VICE's non-traditional environment and comfortable with exposure to and participation in situations that may present themselves during the course of their employment. While working at VICE, I acknowledge that I may be exposed to highly provocative material, some if it containing extremely explicit sexual and controversial content. If I travel offsite for projects and perform work on location I will be confronted with unique and unusual situations, which may be considered offensive, indecent, or unacceptable by others."

While the beginning of the agreement, in some part, resembles a fairly standard agreement for covering provocative issues, it goes on to instruct Vice employees with an almost cult-like authority that they are not allowed to take offense with any of the content despite how reprehensible it might be to most critically-thinking humans:

"I hereby acknowledge that I am familiar with VICE's print and online publications and office environment. Although it is possible that some of the text, images, and information I will be exposed to in the course of my employment with VICE may be considered by some to be offensive, indecent, violent or disturbing, I do not find such text, images or information or the workplace environment at VICE to be offensive, indecent, violent or disturbing."

Considering the company's workplace agreement that stifles creativity in the form of dissent, while simultaneously creating loopholes that some serial sexual harassers walked right through, it's not shocking that the agreement has been allegedly used for nefarious purposes.

"When older men, senior reporters, or managers would hook up with a young female reporter after young female reporter, [my manager] would kind of a shrug and say, 'Well, non-traditional workplace environment,'" one woman who feared retaliation due to Vice's non-disclosure agreement told The Daily Beast.

Following four women coming forward with allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of "Male Feminist" Hafford, one former employee, Natasha Lennard, spoke out despite the NDA she had signed.

Responding to Vice's statement in regard to Hafford that the company does not "tolerate assault of any kind, or behavior that is disrespectful or offensive to any group or demonstrates bias or bigotry..." Lennard tweeted, "Vice doesn't /tolerate/ these things. It enables, promotes and protects them."

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Tracy E. Gilchrist

Tracy E. Gilchrist is the VP, Executive Producer of Entertainment for the Advocate Channel. A media veteran, she writes about the intersections of LGBTQ+ equality and pop culture. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of The Advocate and the first feminism editor for the 55-year-old brand. In 2017, she launched the company's first podcast, The Advocates. She is an experienced broadcast interviewer, panel moderator, and public speaker who has delivered her talk, "Pandora's Box to Pose: Game-changing Visibility in Film and TV," at universities throughout the country.
Tracy E. Gilchrist is the VP, Executive Producer of Entertainment for the Advocate Channel. A media veteran, she writes about the intersections of LGBTQ+ equality and pop culture. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of The Advocate and the first feminism editor for the 55-year-old brand. In 2017, she launched the company's first podcast, The Advocates. She is an experienced broadcast interviewer, panel moderator, and public speaker who has delivered her talk, "Pandora's Box to Pose: Game-changing Visibility in Film and TV," at universities throughout the country.