Same as it ever was

14 11 2017

Ever more allegations of sexual abuse—yay?

I mean, it’s good that those who’ve been harassed and assaulted are speaking up and, even better, apparently being heard: in Hollywood, gymnastics, politics, comedy, universities, the media, . . .

But oh, yeah, all of this shit happening everywhere all of the time.

Will THIS BE THE TIME something finally changes?

I don’t think so.

I’m not making any predictions—I am out of the prediction game—so my I don’t think so is more of a mood than anything else, and, oh yeah, I am mighty moody.

Rebecca Traister veers between hope and wariness:

This is different. This is ’70s-style, organic, mass, radical rage, exploding in unpredictable directions. It is loud, thanks to the human megaphone that is social media and the “whisper networks” that are now less about speaking sotto voce than about frantically typed texts and all-caps group chats.

Really powerful white men are losing jobs — that never happens. Women (and some men) are breaking their silence and telling painful and intimate stories to reporters, who in turn are putting them on the front pages of major newspapers.


“It’s a ‘seeing the matrix’ moment,” says one woman whom I didn’t know personally before last week, some of whose deepest secrets and sharpest fears and most animating furies I’m now privy to. “It’s an absolutely bizarre thing to go through, and it’s fucking exhausting and horrible, and I hate it. And I’m glad. I’m so glad we’re doing it. And I’m in hell.”

Traister focuses mostly on how this entire matrix captures all of us, perpetrator, victim, and bystander, but also notes (along with Barbara Ehrenreich) the class dimension of this latest round of revelations:

That reality fogs some of the satisfaction we feel in watching monstrous men lose their influence; we know that it’s a drop in a bottomless bucket. “Maybe we can get another two horrible people to have to step down or say they’re sorry,” one Democratic lawmaker told me, “but that helps only 20 people, and it’s 20 million who need things to change. Plus, you’re a farmworker? A lady who cleans offices? You’re a prostitute or an immigrant? You’re not going to tell your story.”

Hollywood can afford to lose Harvey Weinstein and Time can lose Mark Halperin and Fox is fine without Bill O’Reilly and Leon Wieseltier was in the twilight of his career anyway so, okay, throw the bums out and slap your hands together and mission accomplished.

Men have not succeeded in spite of their noxious behavior or disregard for women; in many instances, they’ve succeeded because of it. They’ve been patted on the back and winked along — their retro-machismo hailed as funny or edgy — at the same places that are now dramatically jettisoning them. “The incredible hypocrisy of the boards, employers, institutions, publicists, brothers, friends who have been protecting powerful men/harassers/rapists for years and are now suddenly dropping them,” says one of my colleagues at New York, livid and depressed. “What changed? Certainly not their beliefs about the behavior, right? Only their self-interest. On the one hand, I’m so happy they’re finally being called out and facing consequences, but there’s something so craven and superficially moralizing about the piling on by the selfsame people who were the snickerers and protectors.”

Another woman, who works in politics, grimly observes, “Sure, good liberal thinkers will go to their sexual-harassment seminars and do all the things they should be doing. But ultimately, this is a cover-your-ass moment, not a change-the-rules moment.”

Cui bono? Always ask this, I tell my students. It’s not the only question, sometimes not even the most important question, but if you don’t look at who gains from any system or practice, then you can’t really see why that system would persist or that practice embraced.

Hard on this question is the less mellifluous Who pays? If who benefits and who pays are two different groups, then the system will remain.

Not doing much about abuse has worked for a lot of people, men and women, for a long time. And those for whom it hasn’t worked, well, they haven’t mattered as much. Those who benefit are more powerful than those who pay.

And while there is something cathartic in those who’ve paid and paid and paid again shouting and hissing and grimly intoning Enough, while it seems as if this is A Moment, I dread the counter-moment, the It’s-gone-too-far, the Enough-with-enough backlash.

As Traister notes, “A powerful white man losing a job is a death, and don’t be surprised if women wind up punished for the spate of killings.”

Still, she is hopeful, noting that maybe, this time, finally, this time it will be different. She quotes a friend’s response to the recent election results: “Maybe we’re the backlash.”

It’d be nice to think so, wouldn’t it? I don’t, but maybe it’s worth it to act as if it were so.




2 responses

14 11 2017

Ai-jen Poo: the future of work isn’t robots. It’s caring humans
the old exploitation vs solidarity…

17 11 2017

Gov. Kay Ivey says, “I have no reason to disbelieve any of them” [the women] and yet is going to vote for Moore bc “We need to have a Republican in the United States Senate” to vote for Supreme Court justices #2017″

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