Category Archives: Undead sexist cliches

Undead sexist cliches: Women can’t have it all (#SFWApro)

Back in the 1970s, there was a tentative optimism that women could “have it all.” Meaning a happy marriage, kids and a healthy career instead of having to choose between work or family. Men got to have it all because they could count on wives handling housework and kids so they could work late at the office. So with a little tinkering to make society more egalitarian and renegotiating classical gender roles, women could have the same deal. Get businesses to hire on the basis of merit, not gender. Encourage husbands to help out more at home. Make daycare more wildly available.

Of course it hasn’t worked out like that. Women still deal with most childcare and household tasks (plus a lot of them in my generation and Generation X are helping out with aging parents). Sexism is still deep-rooted in the workplace. The backlash to modern feminism’s initial gains has blocked family friendly policies; as witness one South Dakota Republican who says if a business discriminates against pregnant women, the solution is for the woman to quit. Many feminists have discussed whether having it all even a sensible goal, given the realities a lot of women face (as Anne-Marie Slaughter discusses in The Atlantic). Is it something they can do on their own or do we have to concentrate on remaking society first?

But for this post, my focus is on the antifeminist side, the people who think women cannot have it all and shouldn’t have it all. Except maybe themselves.

For example, William Bennett (the pompous pundit who waxes nostalgic over the Donner party’s cannibalism) made a complete non sequitur during one interview back in the 1990s, telling the interviewer that women can’t have it all and we should start teaching them that in schools. I have a strong suspicion that if the teaching ran to “you can’t have it all because you live in a patriarchal, sexist society where men don’t want to give up their privilege” he would not be happy.

That women just can’t have it all and nothing about this is changeable is a given for a lot of antifeminists who prefer the current gender hierarchy. That includes lots of female antifeminists such as Suzanne Venker, who’s argued that women would be happier if they let the man work while they stay home. Of course Venker has a full-time career, but she’s cool with that (much as she thinks women who go to college for a career are making a mistake, but she did it to find a husband, so that’s different).

Some antifeminists point out that men can’t have it all either, which is true. But I can’t imagine anyone saying we should teach guys in schools that they might not amount to a hill of beans: they’re supposed to climb as high as their talent will allow.  Another cliche argument is that women don’t really want it all: they choose to stay home, not compete, not work a 50 or 60 hour week. A Roy F. Baumeister (probably the same Roy F. Baumeister who believes evolution makes men superior) makes this argument in a letter to the Economist: most of the people who work more than 48 hours a week are men, that’s why they succeed! Which is not accurate: networking (which Baumeister handwaves away) is often easier for men with male bosses and it makes a difference.

And as multiple feminists have pointed out, “choice” isn’t decided in a void, without considering the obstacles resulting from each choice. Women who might choose to work the same amount of hours may be conscious they won’t be paid as much, won’t get the plum assignments, won’t get the respect for putting in extra hours (but will be dumped on if they don’t show that extra commitment). If they choose not to shoot any higher, that’s not something innate, it’s an acknowledgement the glass ceiling exists and it’s too hard to crack. That’s not to say some women don’t genuinely prefer to stay home or prefer a low-level career, but not every choice is exactly genuine.

As countless feminists have also pointed out, competence in a woman, let alone the kind of confident competence Elizabeth Warren shows, unsettles lots of people. Warren knows she’s capable and doesn’t downplay it; that’s confidence if you’re a man, arrogance in a woman (Hilary Clinton got the same criticism for years — sure, she outperformed Trump in the debate but wasn’t she over-prepared? It’s more acceptable if women present themselves as a hot mess who can’t have it all: 30 Rock‘s Liz Lemon, who has an amazing career but a personal life in perpetual freefall, for example.

Women should be able to have it all — whatever that means for a given woman — as much as any man of comparable ability. But we’re a long way from that point yet.

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Darkly brood the links

“If Trump wins (or “wins”) in November, there won’t be anything left four years from now. It won’t matter whether he gets the SCOTUS to declare the 22nd Amendment unconstitutional and goes on to a third term, or installs one of his imbecile children in the office, or simply refuses to hold an election at all. America as we knew it will be over.” — Paul Campos

The author of an upcoming book about tomboys wonders where the tomboys of popular culture disappeared to (“living examples of the feminist zeitgeist that told me I did not have to be feminine to be female”). I think her discussion of gender stereotypes and nonconformity on TV is much sharper than the Brit Marling piece I linked to last week.

Oh good grief. Proposals to include tampons and other feminine hygiene products in Tennessee’s sales tax holiday have one legislator worried women would buy their whole year’s supply at once and cheat the state of sales tax. Of course, this is true of other stuff they could buy, but that doesn’t seem to bother him.

A conservative evangelical pastor opposes Trump getting re-elected. The reaction from other evangelicals was, shall we say, unChristian.

I’ve discussed before how the majority of people take their cues to what’s acceptable from the committed few. Case in point, a lot of kids, just like adults, think Trump’s bigotry gives them a green light to express their own.

Trump still insists troops suffering brain injuries from Iran’s attack aren’t seriously hurt. Of course, it’s hard to comprehend brain damage when you don’t have one.

The University of North Carolina recently paid the Sons of Confederate Veterans $2.5 million to take over the care of “Silent Sam,” a Confederate statue torn down on the university grounds. A judge just threw the deal out.

“The pursuit of global social justice neither demands nor benefits from the idea that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and my enemy is American foreign policy.'”

“Since the 1970s it’s almost become a taboo to talk of conflict – we’ve become a society geared around consensus, and co-existence – and this has domesticated politics in a dangerous way. ”

“Human suffering is not primarily a metaphysical problem. It is also that, and such metaphysical conundrums are immensely important in many ways. But these philosophical and theological dilemmas are always secondary. The meaning of human suffering is never primarily The Meaning of Human Suffering. The meaning of human suffering is to be relieved.”

It’s total bullshit but belief in the QAnon conspiracy keeps spreading.

Why this is the golden age of white-collar crime.

A Catholic priest has banned 44 lawmakers from receiving communion because they’re pro-choice and that’s much worse than priestly pedophilia. One lawmaker suggests the logical response is posting “a list of pedophile priests not welcome at the State House. That is a much longer list.”

Right-wing supposed thinker David Barton doesn’t grasp you can be a nonprofit without being tax-exempt.

Franklin Graham lied and claimed whatever happened between Brett Kavanaugh and accuser Christine Blasey Ford was completely consensual. When it comes to sexy dancing at the Superbowl, he’s very, very concerned about women.

A new anti-abortion trend: counties and cities declaring they can ban it within their jurisdiction

Republicans are running campaign ads for Erica Smith, a state senator running for the Dem national Senate nomination. Presumably they think she’ll be easier for Trump toady Thom Tillis to beat.

“In California, a teenager who had been detained for 11 months confided to shelter staff that he wanted to die; in an asylum hearing, the confession was read aloud as evidence he was a danger to himself and should be deported.” — from an article about how therapy sessions for refugees and immigrants are used against them unethically.

How Mike Bloomberg’s money shapes the race.

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Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer says his victims are the ones at fault.

Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer, Donna Rotunno, warned us last month that #metoo would destroy women’s chance of finding love. She’s also stated that she’s never been sexually assaulted because she never makes any decision — drinking, going home with someone she didn’t know — that would make her vulnerable. Because if you’re never alone with people you don’t know, you’ll never be vulnerable — oh, wait, most attacks are by acquaintances, friends and partners, not strangers. As in 75 percent. Which makes it next to impossible to take precautions: as law professor Mary Anne Franks puts it, nobody’s going to keep their finger on the trigger of a gun when they’re sitting with their husband. Oh, and she’s also dismissed the assaults Weinstein is being tried for as “regret sex … having voluntary sex with someone, even if it’s a begrudging act, is not a crime after the fact” which is an undead sexist cliche I’ve written about before.

Rotunno may be figuring that spouting rape cliches is the best way to get her slime of a client off the hook (I have no doubt she’d bring up  “look how they were dressed” if that was still an option in assault cases). Or she may genuinely believe all the rape-culture cliches about sexual assault. I don’t care: they’re blame-the-victim bullshit either way. And in her closing arguments she specifically blames the victims:  “In their universe, women are not responsible for the parties they attend, the men they flirt with, the hotel room invitations, the plane tickets they expect, the jobs they hope to obtain … In this universe, they aren’t even responsible for sitting at their computers and emailing someone across the country… In this script, the powerful man is the villain and he is so unattractive and large that no woman would want to sleep with him. [Allege victim Jessica Mann] made a choice that she wanted to be in his world … She made a choice that she wanted the life that he could potentially provide her.”

Implicit in the argument that it’s “his world” is that Weinstein, in exchanging sex for roles and punishing women for refusing him, isn’t doing anything wrong. That’s the price he set for getting women parts, so if they chose to submit, hey, that was their choice. This is the argument Rebecca Traister ripped into effectively in Good and Mad. Women shouldn’t have to pay with sex as the price of their career. Women shouldn’t have to leave their jobs to avoid sexual harassment. The real issue with sexual harassment isn’t whether they sacrificed their virtue, it’s their ability to work in their chosen career and support themselves without being raped, felt up or forced to watch porn on the boss’s computer. As a person with massive power in the film industry and the willingness to use it ruthlessly (Traister describes him assaulting a reporter in full view of the press corps, without a word of it making the news), Weinstein did indeed wield power over who got into “his” world. That doesn’t justify using it on women this way.

It’s worth remembering that according to the Ronan Farrow exposé on Weinstein, women didn’t just walk up to his hotel room knowing what was coming: Weinstein frequently arranged to be there with one of his assistants in tow, then the assistant would leave, thereby making it that much more awkward for the victim to walk out. And contrary to Rotunno, it’s not surprising if some of them kept up communications with Weinstein afterwards. It’s a safe bet that if they’d been openly hostile, it wouldn’t have helped their careers.

And of course Rotunno’s not making arguments in court alone: she’s gone on the assault in the press spouting rape apologist and harassment apologist cliches in interviews. Even if it doesn’t get Weinstein off, she’s shitting on rape victims by recycling this bullshit.

No wonder people hate lawyers.

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They were just a product of their time …

February 11, Tuesday, was the anniversary of when a group of Quakers petitioned Congress to end slavery. As Fred Clark says at the link, “Congress opted to ignore that. You’ve probably been told at several points that we mustn’t judge Congress for doing so because, after all, they were ‘men of their time.’ But the Quakers were people of their time too. And so were all the people who were enslaved in 1790. Sufficient moral evidence was readily available for anyone who wasn’t working ferociously hard to ignore it. Still is.”

This is important to keep in mind. We’re often told that we shouldn’t judge people for doing what was acceptable by the standards of their era. It’s been applied to everything from slavery to religious intolerance to Isaac Asimov aggressively fondling women to doctors who made nuclear experiments on unwitting human guinea pigs. The standards were different. If we’d been them, we’d have done the same things. Do we think we’ll do any better when judged by the standards of 230 years in the future or even 50?

I understand the logic of this argument, but it’s implicitly inviting us to judge the past and the standards of the past from the view of the oppressor. Not the view of the slaves or abolitionists. Not the female fans Asimov groped or the secretaries he chased around a desk; I suppose it’s possible he was oblivious to their discomfort, but I don’t buy that at all (as witness he almost never groped women who had any status in the SF world, only those who were safely subordinate). Not the people who brought up this behavior at the time, as abolitionists did. Some slave-owners saw the light and converted; others could have chosen to do so. The Catholic Church at its peak faced plenty of people who challenged its power and its opposition to religious freedom; the church leadership could have conceived that intolerance wasn’t the way to go.

After all, today we still have people who advocate for slavery or insist it really, really was good for blacks (unsurprisingly when they talk about shiftless people who need to shape up and work hard, they never mean unemployed white people). Marital rape was legally not rape in the U.S. until the 1970s, and wasn’t outlawed in every state until 1993. There are still people who think religious freedom is bad, just as long as their faith gets to decide what the rules are. I’m less troubled by someone in the future frowning over my views than the people arguing that bigotry and intolerance in the early 21st century were just the way it was — you couldn’t expect people to know any better could you?

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Strong female leads, once more

Director/writer/actor Brit Marling wrote a recent NYT op-ed declaring how fed up she is with strong female characters. (hat tip to The Mary Sue). Specifically that as an female actor, her choices were protagonist’s lover, protagonist’s parent or female butt-kicker. While that widened the options some, it didn’t widen them much, and the strong female template was extremely limited: “I became aware of the narrow specificity of the characters’ strengths — physical prowess, linear ambition, focused rationality. Masculine modalities of power … a man but in the body of a woman I still want to see naked.” And that by emphasizing masculine traits, they make it difficult “for us to imagine femininity itself — empathy, vulnerability, listening — as strong.”

I agree with Marling that it’s good to have a wide range of female protagonists. And that empathy and compassion should be acknowledged as strengths. But arguing that they are essentially feminine, or implying that a real female character has to have them, and that rationality, ambition and physical prowess are “masculine” — there we part company.

Certainly rationality is often coded as masculine, empathy and vulnerability as feminine. But I know women who are physicists, IT geeks, chemists, doctors, nurses and accountants all of which call for a lot of rationality. Showing women onscreen with “focused rationality” doesn’t read to me as “male in a woman’s body” it means getting away from stereotype and portraying what some women are like. Ditto for physical prowess and ambition; I’ve known women with those traits too. Marling feels that when she was ambitious as an investment banker and cared little for who got hurt by her financial movies, she “buried my feminine intelligence alive in order to survive.”

Female characters being just men with boobs is a criticism I’ve heard back since the 1970s (it may go back further). It’s one you can find on both the right and the left. There are right-wingers who believe female action heroes just aren’t realistic; I’ve read feminist critiques to the same effect (no real woman would ever choose violence to resolve a problem!). The logic frequently comes across just as much mired in stereotype as the kind of writing of women Marling critiques. I know women who practice a variety of martial arts, and women have been boxing since the 1700s, but these examples often don’t sway anyone. I’ve seen arguments lthat women who watch strippers/are ambitious in business/like physical combat are, as Marling says, burying their real femininity and adopting male standards. If they could find their true authentic selves, they wouldn’t do any of that stuff. Which effectively eliminates all counter-examples: they’re women trying to be men instead of women QED.

And the empathic woman can become a stereotype or a plot device: the nurturer who puts the hero back together, the one who shows compassion and mercy when the man wants to be ruthless. Though it’s clear that’s not the kind of role Marling wants to see more of.

I don’t really have a brilliant conclusion to take from all this. All we can do is write the characters, get female beta-readers (assuming “we” in this context is non-female), improve based on feedback and keep trying to do better.

#SFWApro. All rights to cover image remain with current holder.


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Undead Sexist Cliche: College education destroys women’s lives

Lynne Peril’s book College Girls does a very good job tracking the American stereotypes about college girls from the 19th century onward: were they just in college to land a man? Were they sluts? Or worse, frigid, sexless grinds devoted to a life of the mind instead of a life of motherhood? And what if education destroyed their ability to be a wife and mother? They might learn Greek but not how to cook, or learn math and not learn how to look attractive (the really important skill for a woman, of course).

Depressingly, this bullshit hasn’t gone away — well of course not, that’s why it’s an undead cliche. Perhaps the most infamous example was Newsweek‘s once legendary 1986 article reporting that college-educated women over 40 had more chance of being killed by a terrorist than getting married. This was based on a study (not the terrorist claim, that was all Newsweek) that applied to women in their 30s and up at the time of the research, but the article presented it as a universal rule, something all educated women, of any age, would have to live with. The study’s authors retracted it later but the media and dating-advice books kept invoking it on into the current century. It just fits too well with the ambivalence many people have about women who aren’t stay-at-home moms.

And pundits are still discussing how education is going to ruin women’s love lives. Mona Charen, in her book Sex Matters, says that as more women than men are attending college and women want a man with more education than they have, lots of those women will indeed end up alone. Male supremacist Suzanne Venker says she’s was totally focused on being a wife and mother when she was in college but now “you don’t go to college to find a husband; you go to find your own single life and your career.” She seems to think this is a problem. So, I imagine, would Susan Patton, the Princeton grad who recommends young women marry before completing freshman year, and that they spend 80 percent of their time husband-hunting. And former NYT columnist and sexist John Tierney who sadly writes about the increasing number of women attending college:  “You could think of this as a victory for women’s rights, but many of the victors will end up celebrating alone.”

Venker is also down on millennial women taking on student-loan debt to get a college degree (I can’t find the link right now, sorry): they’ll get their degree but debt will make them unmarriagable! An online blog post about how women should be “debt-free virgins without tattoos” says the quiet parts out loud: college will put ideas into your head your future husband may not approve of! Better to stay at home and avoid having any independent life.

Implicit in all these critiques is the assumption that nothing is more important to a woman than landing a man. And that if it is important — if she’s going to college because she values education and a career over marriage, or isn’t worried about landing a man yet — well, she’s wrong!

Oh, and contrary to the antifeminists, women who do want to marry after graduating college are okay marrying less-educated men. And women with college degrees do better getting and staying married than less-educated women. But as women such as Venker and Charen have built their career on punching down at other women, I doubt they’ll stop preaching bullshit.

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Bad lawyers, abused kids and other links

Alan Dershowitz says during the impeachment hearings that if Trump thinks his re-election is good for America, anything he does is a valid use of his power, including the quid pro quo with the Ukraine. At the link, Dersh frantically tries to walk this back after getting savaged for it on social media. As Paul Campos of LGMs ays, why is Dershowitz trying a defense he knows will make him look like a legal moron or a totalitarian toady? I’m sure we’ll soon hear him whining about how it’s so unfair people refuse to hang out with him just because he’s become both.  More here.

Attorneys for a child-molesting Catholic cardinal insist that his sexual assaults are no big deal, just “plain vanilla sexual penetration case where the child is not actively participating” — deserves leniency (happily he didn’t get it) A useful reminder about how some rape apologists are ready to excuse or dismiss any abuse of power, not just male/female. Yes, I know he’s a lawyer, but that’s no excuse, any more than smearing a rape victim for what she wears is justifiable. The lawyer, having received flak for it, now apologizes.

And here’s another familiar rape excuse regarding priestly pedophilia: the kids wanted affection.

Immigrant minors in federal care have been abused. Thousands of children.

Oh, and ICE wants the option to destroy records of sexual assaults and deaths in custody.

Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of abusing kids. His boss Joe Paterno knew and did nothing. Malcolm Gladwell tries unconvincingly to explain that nothing was a completely understandable reaction so we shouldn’t fuss about Paterno.

Paul Campos wonders why some Republicans don’t at least think about their place in history.

“Hillary Clinton is the only prominent supporter of the Iraq War to pay any material price for supporting it, although her vote was causally immaterial to it happening. Ralph Nader, on the other hand …”

The Navy Seal Trump pardoned for war crimes is retaliating against his accusers by posting their photos and names online.

Having shat on gays, women, trans people and Muslims, now Trump dumps on the disabled. And Medicaid recipients too.

A student at a Christian school had a rainbow birthday cake. Didn’t bring it onto school property, just posted about it in social media. That was enough for the school to expel her.

WaPo’s Jennifer Rubin says Republicans have become exactly the kind of weak opponent to international tyranny they claimed Obama was. Actually Republicans have never been antagonistic to tyranny except Communism, but it’s still a good column.

“We believe that the United States has the human resources to provide capable and willing leaders, and that together a more just and respectful future can be forged. Acknowledging that all human community and leadership is a mixture of blessing and brokenness, health and dysfunction, we stand with all those who believe this country deserves and needs a constitutional and peaceful change in leadership.” — The Dietrich Bonhoffoer Society, calling for an end to Trump’s presidency. Court evangelical Eric Metaxas thinks he understands Bonhoffoer better than the scholars so they’re wrong. Metaxas also thinks the Bible has a story about the Good Samaritan’s brother (it doesn’t).




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Sexist pigs and other repellent people

Some right-to-lifers are pushing for miscarriages to undergo burial. Pennsylvania forced-birthers are topping that with a bill that would fine doctors if they don’t provide death certificates and burial for fertilized eggs that never implanted. An Ohio bill would ban abortion with no exceptions except a life-or-death situation for the mother, and not one caused by the pregnancy.

Shitbags support shitbags: Sean Hannity wants accused sexual harasser Bill O’Reilly back on Fox News. His victims are seething, especially as their settlements include no-rehire provisions.

How science gets women wrong.

Neo-Nazis ask “What is the benefit of satisfying women?”

Amy Chua was an influential law professor who supported Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. By an amazing coincidence, her daughter is now his clerk. A look at how meritocratic our law-school system isn’t, though it helps if a woman looks like a fashion model. And Slate looks at how hard it is to fight harassment in law school (Chua’s husband’s been accused of it).

Texas JP Dianne Hensley disregards a state directive that if she chooses to conduct weddings, she can’t discriminate against gays.

Republican senatorial candidate Roy Moore had no trouble violating state rules for judges or defying them to put a Ten Commandments graven idol in his courthouse. But he’s shocked that his suspension (according to him) didn’t follow the rules.

A witness at the impeachment hearings jokes that Donald Trump cannot make his son Barron into a baron — which gave Republican special snowflakes something to whine about.

George Zimmerman, having shot and killed Trayvon Martin, is now suing the Martin family and the prosecutor for supposedly defaming Zimmerman.

Another day, another preacher outed as a sexual predator. And the Catholic Church is struggling with its own wave of sex-abuse lawsuits.

By the time Trump is gone, he’ll have done tremendous damage to the social safety net, environmental protection and other important government functions. For example doing his best to leave more people without coverage.

And you know how Trump recently pardoned war criminals? A few months back, he also ordered the Navy to strip the prosecutors in those cases of their medals.

Republicans claimed they were outraged when Ihlan Omar criticized the AIPAC pro-Israel lobby; Trump telling Jews they love their money too much to vote Democratic probably won’t generate any fuss.

Infowars’ Alex Jones, as seen by an employee. Not pretty.

Neither is life inside the luggage company away, due to bullying management. LGM adds some thoughts about places “where bosses not only treat employees like shit but treat trivial incidents in an ordinary business like they’re engaged in the Manhattan Project”

A police commander tells his people: arrest more blacks and Hispanics, fewer whites and Asians.


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Political links, mostly but not entirely about sexism

I don’t usually have anything positive to say about the Christian press. So it’s nice to salute Charisma magazine for reporting on allegations of sexual misconduct against Christian comedian John Crist. Way better than a Christian site publishing revenge porn.

Speaking of which: “Teens aren’t committing suicide over shared pictures of themselves vomiting at parties. Politicians aren’t bothering to resign over leaked photos of themselves in blackface. It’s “revenge porn,” the sharing of sexual photos without consent, that remains a shockingly potent form of blackmail and attack — as Katie Hill just found.” And people who Google Hill aren’t looking to learn about the scandal, they’re mostly looking to see her naked.

Heard about Trump Jr. getting booed? Writer Matthew Sheffield said it’s part of a campaign to rebrand the alt.right as Christian nationalists.

Payday lenders worry a better economy would be bad for their bottom line. So they’re working to prevent Arizona raising the minimum wage.

I’ve never had much use for right-wing economists such as Robin Hanson and Bryan Caplan. But at least they haven’t fired a gun at a crowd of protesters. Echidne (an economist herself) wonders if so many economists are creepy right-wingers because those beliefs go hand-in-hand with free-market fanaticism.

A number of conservative specfic writers have objected that markets accepting stories from women, black writers or other non-WASP male groups are objectionable and exclusionist. Even though an anthology by writers named Dave obviously excludes most women, that’s apparently OK. Case in point.

Crackpot and liar Dave Daubenmire claims women get pregnant, then have abortions so they can use the body parts in Satanic rituals. Because his gullible audience are always ready to believe in Satanic babykiller lies. They always have.

Remember when Republicans thought Hilary Clinton would be the first female president — and were already plotting to impeach her.

According to abstinence-only education, if you sleep around, you are as worthless as a cup of spit or dirty chocolate. Technically this applies to anyone but as Samantha Field says (I can’t find the specific link) “boys who fail to save their pure gift of pure snow-white virginity for marriage aren’t compared to pre-chewed gum.”

Heather MacDonald pretends it’s the fight against racism that makes whites racist.

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So even Harvey Weinstein isn’t as awful as Harvey Weinstein

One of the standard complaints about the #metoo movement is that it treats ordinary men, men who may have said or done something inappropriate but clearly aren’t bad people, like they were Harvey Weinstein, destroying their careers and crushing their lives. They do not, however, offer much in the way of examples, and the examples are usually wrong: an in-depth investigation by the employer gets treated as a he said/she said situation (more here). I’m beginning to think “he’s being treated like Harvey Weinstein!” means something along the lines of “he got fired, Weinstein got fired, ergo they’re treating him like Weinstein!”

Now it turns out even Weinstein, the poster boy for absolute rock bottom, has his defenders too. Weinstein recently showed up at Actors’ Hour, an event in NYC for young performers (there’s some debate whether he was invited or just showed). Comedian Kelly Bachman cracked jokes (“I didn’t know we’d have to bring our own Mace and rape whistles.”); some audience members booed. A male comic got up and mocked her. Another woman confronted Weinstein at his table, with profanity hurled on both sides (not by Weinstein but by some of his entourage); the woman was asked to leave.

So why not ask Weinstein to leave? I’s a private space and the organizers could certainly have told Weinstein he wasn’t welcome. The organizer said she protected the women by letting them have “freedom of speech” — the comics were free to mock him — but then why ask the one woman to leave?

Partly it may just be that Weinstein wasn’t actually doing anything other than being there. Admittedly with his record that’s pretty alarming but it wouldn’t surprise me if the event organizers just didn’t want any confrontations. A lot of us (myself included) tend to be confrontation averse. Though that’s not a good reason: women have good reason to scream at a guy who preys on them.

And part of it, undoubtedly, is that we seem to have a reflex to forgive sexual harassers. They’ve suffered enough by being criticized and shunned for a while; surely we should forgive and move on. As Weinstein’s spokesperson put it, he was at Actors’ Hour “trying to find some solace in his life that has been turned upside down. This scene was uncalled for, downright rude and an example of how due process today is being squashed by the public.” Of course it ain’t an issue of due process; it’s true he hasn’t been convicted of anything, but private citizens outside the jury box are free to believe the victims. And if his life has been turned upside down — well, given the reasons, why should we feel sympathy for him? Yet somehow people do, far more than for the many women he allegedly assaulted, or whose careers he ruined for refusing him.

Similarly we have one Heather Mac Donald arguing that Placido Domingo’s alleged history of sexual assault (apparently one of those open secrets in the opera world) should be forgiven because Domingo’s that awesome. We cannot punish a singer of such caliber merely because he assaulted a bunch of nobodies! Which is not a new thought: Rebecca Traister has written about being told “That’s just Harvey being Harvey” when she heard stories about his behavior; simply being a powerful man is held up as an excuse.

Of course, we don’t know what the women whose careers Weinstein allegedly destroyed (I believe the women, but I think sticking with “alleged” covers my butt) might have accomplished without his interference. Or how good the women who left opera rather than stay around Domingo and people who supported him might have been. We’ll never know. But somehow their careers dead-ending, their lives turning upside down, isn’t as important as the suffering of powerful men.

We have a long way to go.



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