Tag Archives: unsafe in any station

Rape, predators and prey

As several bloggers and pundits have pointed out, it’s creepy that the response to Brett Kavanaugh saying he totally did not assault Christine Bresley Ford is to declare that even if he did, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Given the chance to pretend they don’t tolerate predators, that they protect human prey — something that’s part of government’s police function — the right wing picks the predator’s side. When a second accuser spoke up against Kavanaugh, the Republican response was to speed up the vote.

And we’re not talking incels and other creeps venting online, we’re talking the Republican mainstream. Of course, they’re not always pro-predator: if the predation is black-on-white, or hispanic on white, then they want the hammer dropped. Even after the Central Park Five were cleared, Trump kept insisting they were guilty. But white man praying on woman? No big!

This isn’t unique. Communities shit on rape victims. The religious defends in-church predators just like the Catholic Church. Paige Patterson, the former Southern Baptist leader who told women to stay with their abusers, is preaching again; some supporters say firing him for not reporting a students’ rape wasn’t Biblical. At this point, part of Kavanaugh’s appeal is that appointing him is a triumph for sexism: ” It has to be this guy, now, because he has been accused, credibly, of attempting to rape a 15-year-old girl in 1982—moreover because people believe this should be considered a disqualifying blight on his record. The thing that must happen is that those people must be defeated.” It’s a nastier version of owning the liberals, but it’s also about reinforcing male supremacy: men can do whatever they damn well please to women without consequences.

As I’ve said before, that’s the nature of patriarchy. I suspect it’s one reason court evangelicals are comfortable supporting Trump (or Roy Moore). Men are free to do what they want with women, it’s up to the women to find a way to restrain them. If not, the men are entitled to prey. Those who aren’t comfortable saying that aloud just lie: Bible-thumper Franklin Graham’s response to the allegations has been to lie that Kavanaugh stopped as soon as Ford said no. The stuff about him covering her mouth, turning the music up loud? Look, crickets!

Dennis Prager explains it’s taking the charges seriously that will damage “America’s moral compass” and the proper way to deal with sexual assault at work is to hide: “When my wife was a waitress in her mid teens, the manager of her restaurant grabbed her breasts and squeezed them on numerous occasions. She told him to buzz off, figured out how to avoid being in places where they were alone, and continued going about her job. That’s empowerment.” No, it’s survival. I’m sorry your wife is married to you, dude.

A White House lawyer says that if Kavanaugh can be brought down by these accusations — “brought down” meaning going back to his current job as a lifetime-appointed federal judge — “every man should certainly be worried.” Well, no, only men who’ve held a woman down and covered her mouth to prevent her screaming. As Lili Loufbourow says, the underlying message is that boys do evil things and we should just accept that’s the way of the world (not a new right-wing insight).

An alternative theory is that it happened but Ford misidentified the attacker. Right-wing think-tanker Ed Whelan actually accused another man by name; Kathleen Parker tried the same tack without naming anyone. This seems like a split-the-difference tactic (nobody’s lying, someone’s just wrong!) but as noted at the first link, it’s not getting any traction. And possibly Whelan came up with it after talking with Kavanaugh.

Law professor Amy Chua, who knows and supports Kavanaugh’s nomination, also told female students who wanted to clerk for him that “it was no accident” his female clerks look like models.

By the time you read this, I may already be a couple of developments behind. So to end on something a little more upbeat, here’s advice on consent: don’t make people drink tea.

 

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Unsafe in any station, Part Two of infinity

Back when the “me too” movement kicked off, I posted on FB that line from Cato’s letter that “The only security which we can have that men will be honest, is to make it their interest to be honest; and the best defence which we can have against their being knaves, is to make it terrible to them to be knaves. As there are many men wicked in some stations, who would be innocent in others; the best way is to make wickedness unsafe in any station.” A friend of mine replied that this is exactly what was happening: predators were finally finding their position unsafe.

The story of Louis CK returning to stand-up for an impromptu set despite sexual harassment charges he admits were true makes me wonder how unsafe these stations really are. Fans gave his appearance on stage a standing ovation. Some pundits are arguing being off-stage a few months is more than enough suffering; Michael Ian Black, for instance, argues Louis has “served his time” — he’s trying to find redemption, aren’t we obligated to give it to him? If there’s no redemption, why should he (or any man) even try to be better (a line of thinking beautifully mocked here)?

I agree there needs to be a path for redemption, but this ain’t redemption. It’s the comic’s fans not giving a crap about what he’s done, or what he might do in the future. Will we see the same if Matt Lauer successfully works on a comeback (or for that matter Trump’s racist ally Steve Bannon almost getting a platform again)  As Rebecca Traister puts it “these men can return to their industries, with the expectation that their reentry might be near the top.” The women who backed away from projects because Louis CK or Lauer were involved? Had their careers wrecked by Harvey Weinstein? Had to deal with the alleged climate of harassment and Who Cares Who Grabbed You under Les Moonves at CBS? The men’s defenders don’t seem worried these women might not be able to find a path back, or concerned about fairness for Janet Jackson (at the link it details how Moonves allegedly trashed her career). As Abigail Nussbaum says, Louis CK returning unrepentant and unredeemed is a workplace safety issue.Harassment’s not just about sex, it’s about women (in some cases, men) becoming unable to work in their profession, do their job, earn a living because of the risk.

CK taking a few months time out is not redemption: “Louis CK” says Nussbaum, “has done absolutely nothing to indicate that he is seeking redemption. He clearly wants his career back, but there has been absolutely no indication that he regrets his past behavior (except inasmuch as he regrets what it eventually cost him), much less any attempt to make restitution to his victims, or work on himself to try to become a better, less toxic person. But because he is a famous, rich white man, Black automatically assumes the existence of his regret.”

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg points out the difference between forgiveness (given, voluntarily, by the victim, if they so choose), atonement for sin (granted by God) and redemption, which requires actual work: Acknowledge the wrong you’ve done, preferably publicly. Become a person who won’t do it again. Make restitution. Apologize “in whatever way will make it as right as possible with the victim.” And when the opportunity arises to do it again, don’t. Samantha Field discusses the same process from a Christian perspective (her point that restoring someone to their old position does not redeem them seems relevant to the CK mess). John Scalzi suggests, though I don’t have the link handy, that ten years away from the limelight/political office should be a minimum.

We have a long way to go yet before unsafety for the wicked is the norm.

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Unsafe in any station

The only security which we can have that men will be honest, is to make it their interest to be honest; and the best defence which we can have against their being knaves, is to make it terrible to them to be knaves. As there are many men wicked in some stations, who would be innocent in others; the best way is to make wickedness unsafe in any station.”—Cato’s letter

This is one of the great challenges of imposing the rule of law: holding powerful people accountable. As a Vox article pointed out this week, it’s possible Trump won’t pay any penalty for colluding with Russia to rig the election. President Ford pardoned Nixon’s crimes. Obama refused to prosecute American torturers. Like the song says, if you’re rich you can buy immunity, if you’re poor better write your eulogy.

It’s not just the government of course. Fox News spent millions ensuring Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly were safe in their station. Churches cover up for religious leaders. Michigan University covered up allegations against gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. The most anyone usually suffers is to lose their job; massive falls such as Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein are rare.

And it’s not just sex. The GOP has denounced a lot of the neo-Nazis crawling out of the woodwork to run on their ticket, but it’s staying mum about veteran legislator Steve King’s white supremacist tweeting.

This isn’t new. In the Skinner case that ended the eugenics movement (though lots of states continued sterilizing people they didn’t want reproducing), what led the Supreme Court to rule against Oklahoma was that the mandatory sterilization of criminals exempted the kind of white-collar crime the state legislature or its poker buddies might be found doing (bribery, corruption). It was for the lower classes, not them.

It’s one reason why law is important: it doesn’t completely stop people breaking it, but it does draw a line in the sand they have to cross. Alan Greenspan actively pushed for loosening controls on banks, which contributed to the disastrous financial meltdown of a decade ago. In the aftermath, Greenspan said it had never occurred to him that the banks would make such terrible decisions if they weren’t constrained.

But of course, if people don’t prosecute those who break the law, the law has its limits. And there’s lots of reasons not to go after powerful people: they have money, influence, voters won’t like it.

What do we do to make them more accountable? And to make breaking the law something that will actually cost them? Trump is an extreme example, but he’s not unique.

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