Soon it will be gone. Another story, maybe a war or forest fire will grab the front pages.
Still, as Polly Toynbee and so many other women have pointed out, Weinstein is just another guy who finally got taken down. She wrote, “I guess that this week all women my age have been mentally re-running the bum-pinching, grabbing, intimidating humiliations from men in power of our youth.” Susan Moore added, “The experience of sexual harassment is not a one-off; it is ongoing – as I wrote last week. It’s the backdrop to many women’s lives. We are numbed by it because to think about it all the time would immobilise us.” And Zoe Williams linked the story to Brexit, Trump and misogyny. Of course, men piled on. No one, save maybe Woody Allen, tried to defend the guy in any way shape or form.
Given that so many women have for so long suffered harassment, in all of its forms and severity, the questions which should be asked are “Why Weinstein?” and “Why now?” What did he do that a guy like Trump didn’t do? Did he annoy some drug dealer or other powerful guy? Or was it political, his financial support of the Democrats or women’s projects lead to his outing? Or maybe it was personal? He felt badly and tried to excuse his behaviour when confronted etc. Certainly Trump didn’t seem to suffer any embarrassment from being shown to be a sexual predator.
The term sexual harassment is a bit distracting as the activity is more about power than sex. Sex does often come into it – but most of the time it is about men using their power to abuse women in any way they can. Sex makes the stories titillating but women usually look bad (cheap, stupid, naive, or worse) in such tales. So talking about sexual harassment without talking about power, who has it and how they use it, is fun, but not helpful.
The problem is misogyny. While there are many more women in the public realm than there were 40 years ago, the equality of women with men remains an idea which is not universally accepted. Many people believe, perhaps unconsciously, that females are, quite simply, an inferior lesser form of human being to males. And it is a matter of belief. The equality between any two people, whether male or female, cannot ever be ‘scientifically proven’. And men still ‘run’ the world. Most countries are ruled by men, most armies are staffed by men, and nearly all sports are dominated by men – some men run and jump faster and further than any women. And most corporations are ruled by men and for men. Very few CEOs are women. The wage gap may be narrowing but that may be more about male workers being paid less, than female workers being paid more. The brutal reality is that in the world as it is, women are not the equal of men. Equal treatment is even seen at times as pandering to political interests. Even in the west, demand for equal respect is often belittled, labeled political correctness Many, including many women, believe that men are more capable than women and the desire to treat women as equals is like being nice – not necessary when the going gets tough. Putting down women is ingrained in our culture… just look at honourifics – an honoured man is a Knight and a woman a Dame; a university degree is a ‘bachelor’ not a ‘mistriess’. It is an insult to ’throw like a girl’ and so on….
It helps to listen to women talk publicly about their experiences with men because the stories reveal the insidious and ubiquitous quality of misogyny. But to say that anything will change is to ask a lot. Things can change but it would require men to publicly call out other men for their bad behaviour. And maybe this is what happened to Harvey Weinstein. Did he make the mistake of harassing the daughter, wife or mother of someone even more powerful than he, who wasn’t prepared to accept his behaviour? Or did he call the bluff of someone trying to black mail him? Or was the male journalist who broke the story better than female journalist who tried to write about the guy a few years earlier?
Writing this reminds me of an email I sent to a journalist who was defending two male colleagues who had been fired for inappropriate comments to a young girl – on air. The two journalist were both well known left wing political commentators who were discussing the “Roast Buster’s Affair” – a tale of young men getting younger girls drunk in order to have sex and to take and post photos of the event on line.
November 2013 – outdated views?
To quote – “Against the rage of that pernicious culture’s opponents “the finer points of freedom” didn’t stand a chance. Willie and JT may be proud (some would say arrogant) men with an outdated and utterly insufficient grasp of the meaning and pain of Rape (and of how very easy it is to rekindle that pain through insensitivity and doubt) but they did not deserve what happened to them. There are better ways to correct ignorance; other ways to humble pride.” – Article by Chris Trotter published in the Daily Blog. See more at: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2013/11/15/the-finer-points-of-freedom-chris-trotter-replies-to-martyn-bradbury/#sthash.3MO0k46r.dpuf
What harm did these men suffer? They lost a platform for their views – a radio show on which their ignorance could be made public and where, if not corrected, would help shape public opinion. What harm did the young woman suffer? Perhaps none as she didn’t have a public platform and her views were simply fodder or background noise against which the wit and wisdom of JT and Willey could be revealed.
These men were not jailed or stoned for their views. In some places in this world women who are raped are jailed and stoned.
I suppose it is radical to suggest that women do not have equal voice in this society. I condemn myself as a ‘feminist” when I ask when will the finer points of the freedom men enjoy be shared by women? You could point to Helen Clark and say, “See. Women are equal.” Sure elite women seem to survive even thrive. But how deep or enduring is this “equality”? How many women only radio talk shows do you know of?
Can one ask the tough questions and get genuine answers? What do men believe about rape? Women set the tone… men simply follow? Consent is circumstantial – implied by context? Or simply, that rape is complicated? And Willie and JT are simply confused about the right words to use?
Perhaps the confusion arises because it is very hard for women to talk about rape even with other women – once the issue becomes their own experience. I know. But it is only my own experience, anecdotal, unscientific. No reason for anyone to believe me. So I too remain silent.
And then maybe women just need to harden up – be able, like JT and Wille, to see rape as a bit of mischief.
So you, as a good man, have stood up for for the rights of other good men. You have used your public platform to be kind to your friends. Good men do that – they stand by their mates. Women see it all the time, even when the good mates have done something dodgy…
I accept that you believe that these men deserve better. But I remember your column about Helen Clark in 2008. You mourned the fact that the ‘lads’ had won. And so, I ask you – is it any surprise that one of the lads so keen to see her go was JT? She was after all a “front bump”… and while he may no longer refer to women publicly as front bumps, I am not sure that his views on women have changed.
You think that he should continue to be given a public platform – to say exactly what?