Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Toppling the "great man"

Reading about Larry Nassar, one of the things that helped him get away with it so long was that when questioned he would start using really technical terms and explain why what he was doing was absolutely fine and necessary but people who weren't doctors just didn't understand. Deference to doctors and men and universities and the Olympic dream all helped with that.

Therefore one thing that should be helpful is that there should be guidelines for what to expect during a medical exam and physical therapy. There should be guidelines for what to expect during a psychological counseling session, really. In any environment where there is a trained professional and a vulnerable patient or client, there should be some ways of knowing what might be appropriate - even if unpleasant - but also some ideas for what it looks like when someone is starting to be abusive.

Doing this requires some thinking, because there is room for disagreement and often a professional organization could worry about cornering their members and encouraging lawsuits, but that can be worked out, especially if you have a sincere desire to end abuse, which I hope anyone in a healing practice would want.

It also takes a belief that untrained people can understand enough of the basics to make a reasonable call. I do believe that.

If you think about it, even now the reason so many abusers are successful is not because the victim doesn't know something is wrong, but because they are afraid to speak up, or not believed when they speak up. Making guidelines available then becomes not just a guideline, but also an expression of confidence in people: they can know what is appropriate, and they deserve to be treated appropriately.

There is a "great man" theory of history, largely popularized by Thomas Carlyle. For the record, I lean more toward Herbert Spencer's analysis that it was a hopelessly primitive, childish, and unscientific position, which he largely based on the importance of the social environment.

I believe in the importance of the social environment, but also I think greatness is easier to find.

As famous producers and writers started being named in #metoo, there were lamentations that this was the end of the golden age of television, because here goes everyone with talent!

There were a lot of things wrong with that mindset, up to and including that still, very few people have been fired and no one has been charged. Beyond that, we have over the past year or so seen some really well-done films directed by women, produced by women, written by women, and also many done by men who aren't nearly so famous and whom we can also hope are not nearly as predatory.

All right, I do suspect that Christopher Plummer's nomination for All the Money in the World was somewhat reactionary, but I also do not doubt that he gave a good performance, and that getting rid of Kevin Spacey did not ruin the movie.

With Harvey Weinstein, there were people who did not know about the sexual abuse who still found him abusive and bullying, because that's how he was. That made some people not want to work with him, and some people excuse it because that's just Harvey and he makes money, but is it the only way to make money?

It feels like it became kind of a cult a while back with House and maybe both Sherlock Holmes' series (House was also based on Sherlock Holmes) and I think a bunch of other television shows that I don't remember anymore. There was a rude genius and it was hard to be around him, but he was right and got the job done and isn't that all that matters?

I am not really looking to add another TV show to my schedule, and certainly not another procedural, but if I were going to it would be Instinct because it looks like they are taking the bold move of having the smart guy also be genuinely pleasant and emotionally healthy (still quirky though).

One convenient aspect of being a genius jerk is that it effectively closes the pool to anyone who isn't white or male, because if you are not you can't get away with it quite so easily.

Let us remember, though, that in addition to all of the people who have been chased out of industry and academia and entertainment, there are also people who are there and really good and could do great things, except we are throwing all of our support to the people who do the worst things with their power.

I like entertainment a lot, but it is probably least important there. Look at what is happening to privacy and politics because technology has not been sufficiently critical of what damage they could do. Think of all that has been lost from medical research because of the people who have been held back. If we were building a society that was supportive and collaborative instead of competitive, think how much better things could be.

That's one thing that often gets lost. When we talk about patriarchy and the privilege of white males, white men who do not have that much wealth and power feel offended and close their minds. Taking down those hierarchies will benefit you too. Yes, you will not be able to hold on to at least having some superiority over women and people of color, and there may be an un-examined feeling of a threat there (which you don't examine because it's terrible to want to hang onto it).

What I promise you is that as we achieve equality, your lives will be better too. Feminism is not against men; it is for everyone.

Yes, that world will be a drastic change, and it may be hard for bullies to adapt. Hopefully they will find other things to like, and they will be better people for doing so.

We need to let go of a lot of crap to get there.

Okay, I really think I am done with this round. I can only imagine what kind of horrifying revelations will make me rethink that, but for now, I am moving on.

No comments: