(Meme from social media; Access Hollywood quote)
The assaulter-in-chief continues to be busy, as he ejects Haitians by the tens of thousands from the United States, proposes a tax plan that benefits only him and his cronies, launches more money-making products and schemes from his White House perch, and moves on North Korea to grab its metaphorical pussy and put us all in danger. In the meantime, we citizens must plan for his impeachment, indictment, and/or imminent invisibility.
The post-Cosby, post-Weinstein, post-Louis C.K., post-Spacey, post-Franken, post-Rose, post-Moore era tells us that there is nothing “post” about any of this. We are living with and among men who use their power and position to serially harass and assault women (and men and transgender individuals). As I wrote in the 2016 Gender Shrapnel book (and often have to remind people who write to say, “But, Bill Clinton, but, Bill Clinton…”), I have never viewed sexual harassment and assault as the domain of only Republicans, and I do believe we have to understand politics and entertainment as real workplaces, subject to Title VII and Title IX.
If we have learned nothing else from the #MeToo era, it is that many men use their power and privilege to stalk, bait, hunt, harass, assault, and rape women. The only saving grace of some Democrats is that they at least don’t also (or at least always) punish women through brutal legislation that denies us our humanity. Both sides of the aisle swim in hypocrisy. The Democrats run on being the party strong on women’s rights. See Susan Brison’s article on Al Franken to understand the depth of Franken’s hypocritical stance on women’s rights. On the other side, the Republicans boast of being the “family values” party. Ohio state lawmaker Wesley Goodman ran an anti-gay, pro-“family values” campaign, only to resign last week when it was discovered that he has had relationships with men, at least one alleged as non-consensual. Roy Moore is the symbol of the entrenched Christian-values right that is completely bereft of values, except for crime, greed, and stupefying self-interest. If these power-laden individuals spent more time thinking about others’ needs, they would be less criminal and more effective legislators and governors. As it stands, they are assholes and, in some cases, felons.
Franken and Rose both formally stated that they don’t remember the encounters the same way the women did. Exactly! This is the problem. They have approached, groped, and/or assaulted women to remind themselves of their own power. These very actions remind the women, both in the moment and for years beyond, of their own lack of power in public and private spheres. There is no way these accounts can or will ever line up—not until the harassing men learn to check their privilege, and likely not even then. Louis C.K.’s non-apology statement re-enacted the allegations of his pulling out his penis in front of unwilling women and forcing some kind of interaction with it. The more this individual used the word “dick,” in the very statement that was supposed to demonstrate recognition and contrition, the more he emphasized again that he gets to put his penis wherever he wants to, no matter the willingness or unwillingness of his audience. These statements and non-apologies serve to attempt to discredit those who have registered the felonies and misdemeanors and to re-harass the already harassed.
Ronan Farrow’s “Harvey Weinstein’s Secret Settlements” (The New Yorker, 11-21-17) very capably lays out the power play inherent in non-disclosure agreements and the enormous disservice these documents do to our society. The documents silence those who have suffered sexual harassment and rape and ensure that serial felons can strike again. Farrow makes explicit that Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, at the age of 22, was bullied into signing a non-disclosure agreement, but that she also insisted on trying other remedies. In addition, Zelda Perkins appears to have attempted also to impose legal vigilance and restriction on Weinstein, but she was shut down at every turn. Our legal system is poorly equipped to institute real remedies and operates only for the almighty dollar, thus reinforcing the sheer power and financial and social capital of these serial harassers.
Yes, it is appropriate to go back and understand our nation’s indulgence of Bill Clinton, who, at the very least, was not molesting girls. Still, two other things are even more urgent: (1) for our nation to revisit the question of Clarence Thomas’s sexual harassment and to end his long term as Supreme Court Justice; and (2) for our nation to gather information and testimony from the 16 women who went on the record against Donald Trump, the sitting President of the United States (it’s still hard for me to refer to him using this term), in order to accuse him of sexual harassment and assault.
Let’s put it bluntly: Anita Hill is a hero. For over 26 years, Hill has shared her profound legal expertise on sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation through her writing, teaching, and talks. All the while, Clarence Thomas has set silently on the most important bench in the land, benefiting from the all-white-male panel’s aggressive dismantling of Hill’s testimony. Even Joe Biden’s “apology” removes blame from himself and emphasizes Hill’s victimhood, rather than her truth-telling and bravery. Biden soft-pedals admission of participation in the attack in his use of the passive voice (e.g. “Anita Hill was victimized”). Until I start hearing first-person singular apologies with real admissions of wrongdoing and a plan for rightdoing, I will reject this ridiculous genre of harassment apologies. What will it take, all these years later, to reckon with 26 years of Thomas on the bench?
The current events surrounding sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and assault should make us regret the Clarence Thomas case and address the cases before us now. We could look back on this era and proudly declare that we cleaned up our act. The most significant case before us, of course, is that of Donald J. Trump. *See Amanda Marcotte’s call to investigate Trump, published yesterday in Salon. I wholeheartedly agree with Marcotte’s recommendation: “There is one solution that hasn’t been, as far as I know, floated yet: The Justice Department could appoint a special counsel to open an investigation into the years of accusations against Trump.” YES. Exactly this. As Marcotte astutely notes, the investigation is warranted and will keep the public’s ever-straying attention on this issue. Two special investigations (Russia and sexual harassment/assault) are a drop in the bucket for this sitting “president.”
Those of us who live in the United States should share the above meme every day, in every way possible. We must write to senators and congresspeople to insist on this special investigation. We have done this for healthcare, travel bans, DACA, and the tax scam, and we need to respect women’s and transgender individuals’ rights enough to advocate for Title VII and Title IX protections to be applied to the groper-in-chief.
While Trump’s “Al Frankenstein” tweet served to slam Franken, it actually worked harder to re-enact the harassment of Leeann Tweeden. Add this action to the list for the special investigation.