So I’ve been pretty quiet lately. Blame life. Ambivalence. A subtle depression numbing me to the state of the world. I meant to come back with a general life update, something short and peppy, mostly for my sake so I could say I wrote something and be done with it.
But then I started writing it. And I realized I had something to say. Some thoughts, if you may. It’s old news but, hey, it’s my blog, my timeline.
Basically this year has been a shitshow politically speaking. Bad things, bad people, bad news all around. No matter what side you’re on (…I guess) there just wasn’t a whole lot of good. But something happened just a few weeks ago, and it woke my cold, hopeless heart like the Grinch hearing those whos sing some Christmas cheer.
Yes, folks, this was legit my reaction to the Harvey Weinstein fallout:
It just really moved me.
I mean, let me be clear: it’s a horrible scandal and I’m obviously not happy he did those things or got away with it for so long. But I was thrilled for the viscous way Hollywood turned its back on its most notorious financier. What’s more, I was happy for the sudden, roaring avalanche of voices rising in a truly remarkable way leading to the only witch hunt I care to hear about — the one against all the skeeves to ever skeeve.
Weinstein’s take-down and all its delicious aftermath was swift and satisfying in a way I never expected. I mean, people 1) actually believed victims 2) actually listened and 3) actually ruined a man’s life for it? Talk about a glo up. It honestly brought a smile to my face.
Not like a happy, when-you-see-a-cute-dog smile but more like a fist-pumping, karma’s-a-real-bitch smile.
Harvey Weinstein. Kevin Spacey. Louis C.K. Brett Ratner. The way Matt Damon tripped over himself to say “I should have done something,” how people came after Ben Affleck because NO SURPRISES THERE.
It was the gift that kept on giving, pouring out from Hollywood into politics, across party lines. The good, the bad, the ugly. You could almost sense the panic among men everywhere worrying like “Oh no, what if I’ve done something?” No hero was safe, no decade too far gone. There were nobodies being called out and hugebodies being blacklisted. I can’t even keep up with them.
But, of course, people found a way to politicize the issue. People somehow saw all these sex scandals as a liberal problem — or a consequence of being liberal, if you think like Tomi Lahren. They were on Twitter reveling in the ~hypocrisy~ like, “oh democrats think they’re so pure because they hated Trump’s pussy comment but loOoK aT HoLlYwOoD nOwW.”
But this isn’t a partisan issue. Not everything is. This isn’t liberals vs conservatives, family values vs hollywood morality, democrats vs republicans. This is a human problem. And it’s a big one. If anything, men should feel more united because of this. They should all take this time for some self-reflection and realize “huh, maybe that #notallmen thing was a little too generous.” Because yes all men.
Yes all men if you responded to this news with any sense of justification for the accused.
Yes all men if you felt some of the accusations or the #metoo’s floating around were an overreaction.
Yes all men if in viewing the whole gamut of sins you found some to be familiar and thought to yourself boys will be boys.
Yes all men if you think “Well, why haven’t they spoken up until now?”
And yes all men if you think you’ve never been a part of the problem.
This isn’t a time for your hashtags insisting on your innocence, for your desperate justification of some morally gray bubble, for any man to stand up and say “Well, actually.” It’s not time for your jokes or your eye-rolls or your passive shrugs. It’s time to sit down and listen as the victims rage and the powerless rise. Because ask any woman about any of these stories — Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore, Al Franken, even the precious Louis C.K. — and I’m sure they’ll be able to nod with a tired sense of familiarity, a complete lack of shock and a bit of sadness as they simply say “Oh, him too?”
Toxic masculinity is just that: toxic. And you can see the poison dripping from these men’s responses. Most of them hover between complete denial and “well, I don’t remember but I’m sorry if I hurt you ¯\_(ツ)_/¯” The ambivalence at play in these men refusing to take responsibility for their actions is the one thing that makes this whole take down less fun. That, and that it’s so rampant.
The misogyny here is subtle and it’s dangerous. Most of these men are liberal and most of them would probably say they support women, they support feminism. But that just makes the sexism in both their actions and their responses that much more grating to witness, none more so than with the strangely well-regarded letter from Louis C.K.
C.K., if you don’t know, was accused of masturbating in front of multiple women. That is to say, he would have women in his office, friends after dinner, young female comics up to his room, ask if he could take his dick out, and then proceed to do just that.
He owns up to it. And that I think is what people praise him for? Imagine, the bar is so low for a sexual harasser that a guy simply not calling his accusers liars is seen as a mature response.
Bu he doesn’t apologize; not once does he say “I’m sorry” in his statement. Because the truth is, it’s not for his victims — people he continues to not care about — but instead for his fans, his supporters, his public image. He decides that his story deserves justification, that his voice is somehow still valuable in the wake of his victims’. And isn’t that interesting? Even in their demise, men still think anything they have to say is always worth hearing. They mansplain their own demise with a sense self-importance and absolutely no hint of irony.
What he says: I honestly didn’t think it was wrong until it was too late 😥
What he means: I am still capitalizing on my privilege as a man automatically afforded the benefit of the doubt to sit here and give my excuse, to show how I was affected too, and to explain to you exactly why and how this all happened. Don’t hate me forever. I’ll be back soon.
I could undress the entire statement line by line. But, like C.K.’s body of work, it just makes my skin crawl. There’s something more dangerous about someone not overt about their biases against women. They actually think they’re the nice guy, that they’re somehow woke. C.K., Ben Affleck, Dustin Hoffman — they don’t think they’re the problem. And that is a problem.
But the truth is the men in all of these situations had one thing in common — well, something even beyond their pesky anatomy. From the bros to the predators, they all just never once doubted that their victims wouldn’t want their attention; they felt entitled to take or do what they wanted solely because they wanted it. That was at the forefront of their mind as they tweaked breasts and pinched asses, made comments and advances. They saw themselves as the arbitrator of what women want or need or deserve, of what a situation calls for or an outfit is asking for. From Dustin Hoffman to Harvey Weinstein, they ride their privilege and power, comfortable and confident in what they’re taking and doing and asking. And, after all, as Louis C.K. is quick to point out, these victims didn’t technically say no. And so they move on, happy and confident as they insist they love women.
They all seem surprised to be caught. Their statements are all panicked and indignant. They aren’t fully able to disengage from their own excuses as they validate their actions, or worse, admit they don’t fully remember because what was so damaging to someone was so blasé to them. So few take ownership for the hurt they caused. I’m not trying to be dramatic when I say that C.K.’s statement, some of Weinstein’s, and so many others — they all reminded me of Brock Turner’s letter who, after raping a young woman and dramatically altering her life, could only talk about his mistake, his environment, his excuses, his supposedly unjust consequences.
When we allow men to grow up thinking they are smart and strong and powerful and more valuable in a society that consistently positions them above women, then of course they’ll wield that power with carelessness. What’s more, it becomes difficult to undress exactly why what they did was wrong.
It’s not just that C.K. masturbated in front of unwilling women. It’s that he thought to ask — women who gave no sign of interest, who were there for work and for friends and who made no advancements except they had breasts. And so C.K. pulled his dick out like a kid showing off his new toy train.
When we teach men that they are sexual first and foremost, that they have physical responses and urges they can’t control, then of course they begin to lead with the wrong head. Simultaneously, we shame women for their sexuality; we put the burden of modesty on them. Our mere existence is “asking for it” unless we remember to cover our breasts, watch our drinking, and mind our surroundings. We are on the defensive because men are constantly assured that it’s normal to be on the hunt.
You can’t have the resounding response to #YesAllWomen and #MeToo without there being a systemic issue. Women are not prizes, they are not objects. We are not there to be commented on, reacted to. We are humans interacting with men in a variety of settings, none of which guarantee you the automatic right to follow your dick’s lead thinking, well, they’ll say no if they don’t really want it and who doesn’t really want it anyways?
So if you sit there and make your apologies for not doing more like Matt Damon; if you can lean back and make a joke about women should just expect harassment like Ben Affleck; if you can work up the nerve to sheepishly say sorry not sorry like C.K.; if you can prey upon women without a sense of remorse like Harvey Weinstein–well, then, yeah, you’re the problem.
And, yeah, I’m going to be happy to see these men’s careers derail. Because I am a feminist monster who finds sick satisfaction in the tables turning. But, to be honest, I know it’s a small win. Because if Hollywood and politics and life has taught us anything, it’s that men always get second chances.
Do I really think we’ve seen the last of Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K.? I don’t think so. Roman Polanski is asking that we just move on from his little rape thing and let him come home. Johnny Depp is being kept on for four more children’s movies via Disney even though he’s a wife beater. Chris Brown makes casual reference to his attack on Rihanna in a documentary about his comeback. You can’t even write an article on abusers being validated without mentioning the infuriatingly popular Woody Allen. Oh, and Justin Timberlake gets to take on the Superbowl again even though Janet Jackson’s career never recovered after he exposed her breast on national television.
So, yes, I’ve been thrilled to see the tune towards sexual assault accuser’s change. It is validating and cathartic to hear people believe them and then act in support of them. Sure, it’s a little overshadowed by the fact that we elected a sexual predator to the highest office, but perhaps this is a turn in the tides.
We need to stop treating women as objects. To stop assuming women want or don’t mind your advances. Men are not special. You are not better than the other half. Your needs are not automatically more important than women’s. We cannot continue to excuse and justify and forgive bad behavior. Because the world doesn’t need any more assholes in charge. We don’t need dirty comedians or pervy actors or abusive power-mongers. Politics and power should never be enough for someone to hide behind. This is all basic humanity stuff, but hopefully the lesson is finally settling in…..entire centuries too late.
Image borrowed from The Ringer but I’ll take it down if they ask.