Dispatch #36 December 20th 2017
Day 409 Post-Ascendency of White Supremacy & Misogyny (PAWSM)
Day 334 Post-Installation of White-Supremacist-Misogynist-Pussy-Grabbing-Self-Aggrandizing-Demagogic-Bully-Illegitimate-PeeeOTUS & his White-Nationalist-Fascistic-Christian-Supremacist-Quislings
Normalizing Structural Misogyny requires that women grapple with spirit-numbing mind-splintering enervating battles every day. This current moment of exposing the prevalence of predatory sexual harassment/assault, however, has created a powerful public square for women to tell their stories. Despite the horrible circumstances, I celebrate women speaking bluntly and angrily, demanding and taking public space without apology, intentionally rejecting the good behavior rules that disable women, refusing to accept the contempt and derision of men.
In her column ‘Women I Am Thankful For,’ Jennifer Weiner writes about her revelatory outrage as she finds herself feeling grateful that her experiences with sexual harassment were relatively minor.
It’s infuriating. It’s absurd to feel grateful to men just for exercising basic decency. No woman, whether she’s a chief executive or cleaning hotel rooms, should have to feel thankful to the guys who didn’t grope or grab or leer. There shouldn’t be cookies and back pats for men who did not confuse inebriation with consent or assume that their personal assistants’ most cherished dream was to see them emerge, naked, from the shower. Women shouldn’t have to be grateful for any of this. We should take it for granted.
And so, this Thanksgiving, my girls and I will gather cranberries from the bog and tow my mom out when she gets stuck. I will attempt a tablescape, which my kids will mock. We’ll roast a turkey and mash sweet potatoes. And then, instead of thanking men who bravely and nobly managed to keep their hands to themselves, we will thank the women.
Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney. Leigh Corfman and Beverly Young Nelson. Diana Nyad. Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd. Lupita Nyong’o and Annabella Sciorra. Kitti Jones, the latest to make allegations against R. Kelly. And, of course, Anita Hill, who endured such scorn and shame, who cracked open the basement door and let the first beams of light shine through.
Behaving yourself in the workplace shouldn’t be difficult. Speaking truth to power? That remains hard. Instead of being grateful to the men who did the minimum, we’ll give thanks to the women who did something extraordinary: told their stories, in spite of the consequences, in spite of the cost. www.nytimes.com/2017/11/21/opinion/thankful-women-harassment.html
In her 11/17/2017 column ‘The 4 Redemption Narratives We Are Currently Using to Minimize This Sexual Harassment Hellscape,’ Stassa Edwards insists with righteous outrage that narratives such as “he apologized” and “not as bad as Harvey Weinstein” and “he lost his job what more do you want” must be examined:
“…..because they minimize abuse in order to return to the natural way of things, to preserve power for the already powerful, and reinvest in the institutions that have fostered cultures of gender-based discrimination or abuse.
Never forget that this moment has required an outpouring of victims and a certain spectacle of the shocking to demand this attention. The real peril of the aforementioned apologies are that they stand to leave this crucial moment unfinished, the systems that foster abuse may be damaged, but are still standing. Reckoning turns quickly to redemption, and the work of justice—particularly gendered justice—remains unfinished. It’s too early to wonder about the futures of Louis C.K. or even the men on the Shitty Media Men list—when there are still so many predators, institution, and systemic failures that have been left out of the reckoning.” https://jezebel.com/the-4-redemption-narratives-we-are-currently-using-to-m-1820545210
In her recently published book Women and Power, acclaimed classicist Mary Beard examines the ancient roots of misogyny. In her book review ‘From Ancient Myths to Modern Day, Women and the Struggle for Power,’ Parul Sehgal writes:
According to Aristotle, women’s voices were proof of their wickedness. Virtue expressed itself in deep, full-throated sounds — the noise of the lion, the bull and (no surprise here) the human male. Women’s speech, however, its pitch and prattle, was considered dangerous, even unsanitary. The very sound of their voices, it was believed, could sink the state.
In the ancient world, “public speech was a — if not the — defining attribute of maleness,” the Cambridge classicist Mary Beard writes in “Women & Power,” her sparkling and forceful manifesto. “A woman speaking in public was, in most circumstances, by definition not a woman.”
Has much changed? Beard points to Margaret Thatcher taking elocution lessons to deepen her voice, and to the trusty pantsuit favored by female politicians. Women are still regarded as interlopers in public life; when they seek power, drag is a must. Beard draws straight lines from the attitudes of the classical world to the sexism that attended Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign; the harassment women face online; the bomb threats that followed one scholar’s suggestion that Britain might feature more women on bank notes.
As if anticipating the recent outpouring of women describing their experiences of sexual harassment, she also recounts the many myths in which women are physically prevented from testifying to the violence done to them: Their tongues are torn out, they’re turned into trees or animals. “When it comes to silencing women, Western culture has had thousands of years of practice,” Beard writes
Beard reminds us that histories of oppression are also always histories of subversion. “Ovid may have emphatically silenced his women in their transformation or mutilation, but he also suggested that communication could transcend the human voice, and that women were not that easily silenced,” she writes. She reminds us that Philomela, whose tongue was cut out after she was raped, wove a tapestry portraying the crime and her assailant. She tells the story of Fulvia, the wife of Mark Antony, who visited the corpse of Cicero, who had poisonously inveighed against her husband. She plucked the pins from her hair and stabbed them into his tongue. In both stories, the traditionally female activity (weaving) or adornment (the hairpin) is used to strike at the male monopoly over language — and in the case of Fulvia, “the very site of the production of male speech.”
We also must interrogate our notions of power, Beard says, and scrutinize why they exclude women; we must examine how our conceptions of authority, mastery and even knowledge are inflected by gender. “You cannot easily fit women into a structure that is already coded as male; you have to change the structure,” she writes.
Lest this seem hopelessly utopian, she points to those doing this very work, including the founders of Black Lives Matter: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. In promoting decentralized leadership and emphasizing the movement over personalities, these three women are recasting power, “decoupling it from public prestige,” transforming it from a possession one can seize to an attribute that can be shared.
What alternatives remain, after all? “If women are not perceived to be fully within the structures of power, surely it is power that we need to redefine rather than women?” Beard points out. It’s either that — or pass around the hairpins. www.nytimes.com/2017/12/05/books/review-women-power-manifesto-mary-beard.html
Columnist Rebecca Traister continues to write powerful and searing commentary on the American version of structural misogyny. In ‘Our National Narratives Are Still Being Shaped by Lecherous, Powerful Men,’ her anguished outrage is palpable.
Lots of people still strain against the argument that gendered power structures helped determine Hillary Clinton’s (and thus our nation’s) fate, but when they do they are too often thinking of gender as an attribute that belongs only to her, the woman, and not to the men whose gender-afforded power ensured that she would have to work around and against so many dicks — by which I mean literal penises — in her efforts to become the first woman president.
And while it may feel cathartic for some women to finally get to say things they’ve been waiting years to say, this does not undo the damage. We can’t go back in time and have the story of Hillary Clinton written by people who have not been accused of pressing their erections into the shoulders of young women who worked for them.
We cannot retroactively resituate the women who left jobs, who left their whole careers because the navigation of the risks, these daily diminutions and abuses, drove them out. Nor can we retroactively see the movies they would have made or the art they would have promoted, or read the news as they might have reported it.
This tsunami of stories doesn’t just reveal the way that men have grabbed and rubbed and punished and shamed women; it shows us that they did it all while building the very world in which we still have to live. www.thecut.com/2017/10/halperin-wieseltier-weinstein-powerful-lecherous-men.html
And YES it does matter that the Democratic Party continues to explain/blame the outcome of 2016 election on Clinton’s mistakes, personal baggage, and a poorly-run campaign.
In her column ‘The Men Who Cost Clinton the Election,’ Jill Filipovic calls out the insidious impact of misogyny on campaign coverage and demands that the male journalists be called out for their egregious behaviors.
Many of the male journalists who stand accused of sexual harassment were on the forefront of covering the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Matt Lauer interviewed Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump in an official “commander-in-chief forum” for NBC. He notoriously peppered and interrupted Mrs. Clinton with cold, aggressive, condescending questions hyper-focused on her emails, only to pitch softballs at Mr. Trump and treat him with gentle collegiality a half-hour later. Mark Halperin and Charlie Rose set much of the televised political discourse on the race, interviewing other pundits, opining themselves and obsessing over the electoral play-by-play. Mr. Rose, after the election, took a tone similar to Mr. Lauer’s with Mrs. Clinton — talking down to her, interrupting her, portraying her as untrustworthy. Mr. Halperin was a harsh critic of Mrs. Clinton, painting her as ruthless and corrupt, while going surprisingly easy on Mr. Trump.
Sexual harassment at the hands of political journalists also pulls back the curtain on how too many of these men view women generally. The journalists in question are accused of a range of behaviors, some more serious than others, from drunken unsolicited kisses to, in Mr. Lauer’s case, sexual assault (in addition to exposing himself to a colleague and sending another a sex toy with a note detailing how he would like to use it on her). The theme running through nearly all of the complaints is a man in a position of power who saw the women around him not as competent colleagues or as even sovereign human beings, but as sexual objects he could either proposition to boost his ego or humiliate to feed a desire for domination.
It’s hard to look at these men’s coverage of Mrs. Clinton and not see glimmers of that same simmering disrespect and impulse to keep women in a subordinate place. When men turn some women into sexual objects, the women who are inside that box are one-dimensional, while those outside of it become disposable; the ones who refuse to be disposed of, who continue to insist on being seen and heard, are inconvenient and pitiable at best, deceitful shrews and crazy harpies at worst. That’s exactly how some commentary and news coverage treated Mrs. Clinton.
A pervasive theme of all of these men’s coverage of Mrs. Clinton was that she was dishonest and unlikable. These recent harassment allegations suggest that perhaps the problem wasn’t that Mrs. Clinton was untruthful or inherently hard to connect with, but that these particular men hold deep biases against women who seek power instead of sticking to acquiescent sex-object status
This moment isn’t about a nation of confused men. It’s about a minority of men who choose to treat women alternately as walking sex objects or bothersome and potentially devious nags. It’s about a majority of Americans who give men a pass for all manner of bad behavior, because they assume men are entitled to behave badly but hold women to an entirely different standard.
That is why it’s so egregious that sexual harassers set the tone of much of the coverage of the woman who hoped to be the first female president. These “Crooked Hillary” narratives pushed by Mr. Lauer, Mr. Halperin, and a long list of other prominent journalists and pundits indelibly shaped the election, and were themselves gendered: Hillary Clinton as a cackling witch, Hillary Clinton a woman it was easy to distrust because she was also a woman seeking power, and what kind of woman does that? Mr. Trump emphasized this caricature as part of his more broadly sexist campaign, but he didn’t invent it. Nor was he the only famous man going on television to perpetuate it — while revealing a deep disdain for women when the cameras weren’t rolling. www.nytimes.com/2017/12/01/opinion/matt-lauer-hillary-clinton.html
As we look to the 2018 elections, Angela Peoples in her column ‘In Don’t Just Thank Black Women. Follow Us.’ tells the pundits and politicians what is necessary to win elections.
If I had to make another sign after the Alabama election, it would say this: “Bet on black women. Follow black women. Give power to black women.” At a time when others are clinging to or are willing to tolerate political messages rooted in white nationalism and fear, black women are the voters who’ve consistently rejected these things. We’re keenly aware that issues that affect us and our communities are always on the ballot, whether it’s access to lifesaving health care, the fight to save public schools, or the imminent threat of police violence and harassment. We know we don’t have the option to sit out elections.
We don’t just vote; we lead as well by mobilizing our communities to vote. In Alabama, leaders like Lenice C. Emanuel of the Alabama Institute for Social Justice and Felecia Lucky of the Black Belt Community Foundation spent years building the infrastructure that led to Tuesday night’s victory. In Virginia, projects like In Charge: Black Women Taking Action tapped into the turnout power of black women to engage over 300 black female volunteers and contact nearly 5,000 voters in the final three weeks before Election Day. BlackPAC, led by Adrianne Shropshire, was on the ground before the elections in Virginia and in Alabama, with an army of canvassers. Other groups led by black women, like the Movement for Black Lives Electoral Project, Woke Vote and Southerners on New Ground, do this work across the country and need support.
Black women are being widely credited for saving the day in Alabama, and that credit is one small step in the right direction. But we don’t need thanks — we need you to get out of the way and follow our lead. www.nytimes.com/2017/12/16/opinion/sunday/black-women-leadership.html/
A shout-out to Isa Noyola, Trans Latina Activist who proclaims her power:
“I crush the patriarchy by leaving a seed of consciousness behind at every space that I navigate.”
Let’s follow her lead in 2018.