SHAME OF A NATION
I have to admit it, I am fuming. I think I literally have smoke coming out my ears. So forgive me if I end up going off on a rant; I will do my best to remain rational in spite of my baser instincts. What am I fuming about? I read a piece in a magazine about Harvey Weinstein, and the defense he plans to put up in his trial. It isn’t Harvey, and it isn’t his defense that has me fuming the most. That was sort of what I would expect. What has kept me fuming for 36 hours is the fact that the author of the article seemed to accept, and promote, the idea that this defense was somehow…a defense. A legitimate counter-claim to charges of rape. A thing that made his accusers as guilty as Harvey.
It seems Harvey wants to put Hollywood on trial, expose the entire grimy culture that uses women and forces them to indulge in sexual favors in return for plum roles. He wants to expose the enablers, the handlers, the, dare I say it, pimps? Great, I’m all for that. Hollywood is legitimately a cesspool and it needs to be dredged. He also plans to accuse his accusers – the women he coerced into sex – by saying it is consensual. After all, women who come to Hollywood to become stars are aware of the century (or more) long tradition of the casting couch, the expectation that they will provide sexual favors in exchange for success. Therefore, not rape. He was just doing what everyone else was doing, and that is all fine because it is what Hollywood does – exploit women. And the women agree to be exploited, so great. The author of the article I was reading agreed. It isn’t rape, and it’s time for everyone in Hollywood to shape up and admit to the problem culture, but everyone (yes, everyone, even the abused) is guilty.
There’s one problem with this analysis. Even if everyone, yes everyone, expects women to give sexual favors for roles, it is still rape. It is not consent. A woman agreeing to give a boss, or potential boss, sexual favors so she can get the job she has worked for and has the qualifications to succeed? Duress. Rape. Even if every single woman who wants to succeed has to perform this service, even if every single woman understands that is the only way to succeed in her chosen career, even if every single woman has endured that culture, that expectation, for over a century, it is still rape. It is still duress. It is still not consensual.
Journey with me for a minute. Imagine a place where men could come in the door with the necessary qualifications, score an interview, and land a job on their merits. Now imagine a woman with equal (or better) qualifications coming into that same job, and before she can possibly get the position, she must fellate the boss. She must expose her breasts to the grinning pervert sitting in the chair. She must allow him access to her vagina. She must…you get the picture. Need I go on? She is not allowed to succeed on her qualifications. She is only allowed to succeed if the boss gets adequate satisfaction from her sexual acts.
Revolted enough by the idea? Transfer that to Hollywood, where the job the woman wants is an acting role, a part in a movie that will make her career. Suddenly it’s all right? Because Hollywood? Because casting couch? Because…because. It is okay to rape and exploit women as long as you rape and exploit all of them. As long as they actually agree to perform the act because it is the only way to get the plum role. No, that is the same as requiring a secretary to screw the boss to get a raise, or keep her job. That is the same as requiring a college student to screw the professor if she wants to pass the class, or get that graduate research position that will allow her to succeed in her chosen field. That is the same as requiring the waitress to screw the manager if she wants to keep her position. But because it is Hollywood, because these women are actors, because they become fabulously rich and famous (though, to be honest, only a few of them actually reach that elevated status), it becomes okay. Because, well, casting couch. Tradition. We’ve been nasty, obnoxious, oversexed brutes forever, so it’s just part of the fun. We’ve exploited women forever, so the women must like it, must want it, and it must be consensual. Because any woman doing that sort of activity because it is the only way to get a job is consenting. Hell, those are the terms and she agreed to them, right? WRONG.
This sort of garbage is happening all over the country, all over the world. Exposure of this sort of behavior has occurred in science, in philosophy, in academia, in music, in religion, in theatre, and in the factories, restaurants, and also in the industries where working class women are found (in short, it is not a question of class, but merely of the sense of entitlement men feel to women’s bodies). Now men preen and call themselves lobsters, because Jordan Peterson tells them such behavior is okay, male lobsters do it, so it must be natural. Reporters of both genders accept that this is just part of the game, and hey, a bit of “accidental” rubbing isn’t really so bad, now, is it? Grabbing, groping, leering, fondling, and making perverse jokes are part and parcel of being a working woman because…well, boys will be boys, right? And apparently they will never become men, because men can outgrow juvenile hijinks.
Meanwhile, men get jobs, get promotions, get plum roles in movies or plays, get graduate degrees, get speaking engagements, get paychecks, without having to undergo groping, grabbing, leering, fondling, or perverse jokes about their anatomy. They get to perform based on their merit (or lack thereof). They get to go through their workday without knowing what it is like to have a hand creep “accidentally” toward their genitals, or hearing someone laugh at their wiggle, or tell them to smile or suggest they might show cleavage. They get to just do their damn job without interference. Oh, sure, there are going to be men who are sexually exploited and treated like objects, but the phenomenon is much rarer, and the men seem more likely to be believed and sympathized with…perhaps because most of the abuse of men occurs at the hands of other men, and people can tut tut about the scandal and disgrace (and prurient details).
I have little doubt that Weinstein will be able to find a jury with enough people willing to buy that line of garbage that he can get at the very least a hung jury. He might find a judge willing to accept that garbage. He might find a press willing to accept that garbage. What worries me is that he will find a nation that for the most part accepts it, gives him (at most) a slap on the wrist, and allows him to return to his old practices without any very long interruption, and flocks to his movies in droves once more.
I say, no more. Harvey Weinstein isn’t the only one who has indulged himself at the sake of ambitious women (which, by the way, is not a crime – being an ambitious woman, I mean). He isn’t the only one exposed by #MeToo. Instead of allowing that to be a justification to excuse his crimes and give him mercy, let that be a justification to clean out the cesspool. Start with Harvey. Find him guilty if the evidence shows he did what he is accused of doing. Use his testimony, his defense (I hear he plans to name names) as a jumping off point to clean out some other nastiness, remove some of the worst turds from the cesspool, and then begin to clean out the entire stinking mess.
Leave the woman alone. They are not guilty. They knew it was the only way they could survive in a world where the rules were set by men centuries ago, and have been maintained by men ever since. There is no penalty required for trying to be allowed to do what you have trained for, what you are good at, and what you love. No such penalty accrues to men, and should not accrue to women.
Clean out Hollywood, make new rules, and erase the blot from the landscape. Move through science, philosophy, academia, music, religion, theatre, restaurants, factories, and any other place where women and men work side by side. Make new rules. Enforce those rules. Clean up the entire culture so that there is no reward for exploitation of an entire sex. Then, and only then, can we erase the shame of the nation.