Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Rape Culture

Sexual harassment and abuse are not partisan issues.  Men in positions of power have, for decades at Fox News or Miramax, in the White House or in a chic restaurant, felt like they could abuse women and, due to their power and money, not suffer any consequences.  Quite the opposite, actually -- it was the women who suffered when they wouldn't go along, missing significant career opportunities or simply being frozen out of journalism or acting or cooking or what have you.

So the appropriate response is, of course, for men to first shut the hell up and finally start listening to women, and taking them seriously at all times when they talk about their experiences ranging from rape to more subtle, but still terrible and demeaning, forms of harassment.

Next, let's acknowledge that rape culture is a thing that's bigger than party affiliation.

That's a bridge too far for some though.  There's a genuine glee among Republicans that hey, big-shot Dems like Weinstein are creepy rapists too!  (I'll spare you the many easy to find hot takes out there, amounting to if Weinstein does what Trump has done, somehow it's all no big deal because, and I swear this will be engraved on the figurative tomb of American Democracy, Both Sides Do It!)

And while I'm happy to blame Trump and Trump voters for a hell of a lot of things these days, this isn't on them.  This is on all of us, especially men like me, who have ever for a second thought that rape and sexual harassment were something women needed to handle on their own, or who have ever for a second decided to doubt before listen.

If there's one thing deeper than the racially charged and aggrieved motivations of Trump voters (there can't be many!), it's that misogyny might be an even stronger or insidious part of our cultural fabric than racism is.  At the very least, it's something we haven't been able to talk about in a full and open way, and our national reckoning with rape culture has started decades later than it should have.

I can do better.  We can all do better.  And I welcome -- I absolutely relish -- the naming and shaming and casting out of powerful men in the coming days, months, and years, regardless of political affiliation.  The idea that somehow I wasn't happy to see Weinstein go down, or Cosby (who should be in jail but isn't, even though his career is over), or any other supposedly "liberal" power player is crazy.

Bring it on.  Bring them down.  Bring them all tumbling down.

Honestly, that's the easy part.  For men like me, it will only be the beginning of the hard work we need to do -- radical adjustments in our behavior and our attitudes and our capacity for solidarity -- always and from now on.

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