Monday, October 23, 2017

Say what now?

While I was bothered by Mayim Bialik's original opinion piece and her wrong-headed follow-up, I started that post "Among the various wrong responses..." and I meant that.

The guy who tried to horn in on one woman's "Me too" post with his own trauma and make it about himself, then when she objected took it as all women being terrible and not deserving any sympathy -- that is not a good response.

People raising concerns about witch hunts, with a barely disguised sheen of self-interest and complete ignorance of the historical significance of real witch hunts, because gender and power were factors there too -- they are not leading us to a better path.

The psychiatrist saying that Weinstein took his one-week outpatient treatment seriously, as well as all of the people blaming the abuse on sex addiction, are not being particularly helpful. (FYI, generally when you find correlation between sexual assault and sex addiction, that is more likely to be victims of sexual abuse becoming addicts, but still not attacking others.)

Still, the other one that really made me mad, and that I need to write about now, relates to the people saying that the women who didn't speak up are just as guilty as Weinstein. I think I saw one person say more guilty, but my focus had been on hoping I had read that wrong. I hadn't. That kept me from focusing on other details.

This sort of thinking has flaws in both comprehension and character. It also has a certain logic: there is such a long tradition of blaming women for their sexual assaults - What were you wearing? Aren't you sexually active (a slut) anyway? - that it may have become difficult for some people to think anyone else could be to blame.

If the women who didn't tell about the early assaults are responsible for the later assaults, but then the ones assaulted later didn't tell, the maybe only the most recently assaulted doesn't have any culpability, or maybe the first one assaulted wasn't responsible for her rape, but she's responsible for everyone else's, but surely there has to be some reason that it was their fault! They're women!

Sure, it doesn't sound right when you write it out like that, but a lot of horrible though rests on not thinking too clearly or looking too close.

There is a lot to unpack about power, and how we favor those in power. We'll get to that eventually, but today I want to focus on the flaw in comprehension. Those women blamed for not speaking out, did.  

Believe it or not, I haven't been following the case that closely. I have only read a few articles. Maybe I am better at taking in and remembering details than some readers, but from those few articles it would appear that among others, Mira Sorvino told Quentin Tarantino, Gwyneth Paltrow told Brad Pitt, and Rose McGowan told Ben Affleck, who responded that he'd told Weinstein to stop doing that, raising the strong possibility that at least one other person told him.

Ambra Battilana (yes, I had to look up her name, but I remembered there was someone) told the police and helped them with a sting. Maybe she needed better coaching in effectively getting someone to incriminate themselves, but she told.

Many stories are being told now about unnamed producers (though you have to wonder now how many are about James Toback). These women told in two ways. They told people that they thought could help, and had it minimized or justified or lost careers because of it (or all of the above). They also told each other, because there are so many stories of being warned off. It's the missing stair system -- we can't take away the danger, but let's try and protect each other. Except, we could take away the danger if the right people wanted to.

One of the big indicators that many women told is the number of Non-Disclosure Agreements out there. You could look at that as women agreeing not to tell, but if they are trying to tell and not getting anywhere - because they are not the ones with the power - that's something else.

However, how many people knew about the NDAs? There should be at least two lawyers for each one, I imagine. If there is a payout, and that money is coming from the studio, then how many board members knew?

Here's the thing: I had started hearing things about Bill Cosby at least three years before it really broke. It started changing how I felt about him personally, but I still had some doubts because if it were real it seemed like it should be a bigger deal. This was naive of me. People were speaking up, but they weren't being listened to. They were being called liars and told that they were too ugly to be raped (because rape is nothing if not a compliment on your beauty), and people really didn't want to deal with it until it became too awkward to ignore.

Please note, that turning point was largely due to Hannibal Buress, a man. I don't want to downplay his role, because apparently he was listening to women, and he did care before it was big, but other people could have listened earlier. Louis CK's career is going great; is that only because only women are talking about what he does?

Let's think about the abuser side for a minute. Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly and Bill Cosby remain rich. Trump was elected president. That thing where they say that being accused of rape is the worst thing that can happen to a man (as opposed to rape)? Patently false.

Coming forward and speaking about being attacked, on the other hand, is horrible. You have to relive the trauma, be judged for it and blamed for it, and often you find that nothing happens. I was reading a thread about workplace sexual harassment, and the best outcome was that one harasser was transferred to a new office, where he would probably find new victims. Most of the women eventually left their jobs.

Despite this, women speak out all the time. There can be a lot of blame to go around, but silence on the part of the victims is not the problem.

And to believe that it is requires a pretty terrible person. Like, maybe not actively terrible, but you accept evil to stay comfortable. That has to be soul-killing. I'm just saying that it's worth thinking about.

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