The Reign of Hollywood Harvey Ends, The Nightmare Continues

In the last week, the story of Harvey Weinstein's decades long campaign of sexually terrorizing, harassing, assaulting and raping women has come out. The news and social media have been a cascade of disgusting details, and new victims coming forward. It began in earnest with a New York Times article Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, describing payments made to his victims. Ronan Farrow, reporting for The New Yorker, through further investigation, unearthed more. Jodi Kantor, Rachel Adams and Ellen Gabler reported further incidents.

Each account is horrific, and in the attempt to prevent further trauma to anyone who has themselves been a victim of sexual harassment or abuse, I'm not going to recount them here. The links above make clear that this was a specific pattern, developed by a predator and in the decades it has been allowed to continue, probably involved hundreds, if not thousands of victims. The last piece listed above, by Kantor, Adams and Gabler, includes women who were waitresses that aspired to be actresses that Weinstein had not met through any source related to the entertainment industry. It would suggest the number of victims who are essentially not famous enough to be tracked down would be something beyond horrific, and that many of us probably can't even conceive of.

Weinstein, now joins a club even more exclusive than that a multimillionaire film maker already belongs to. Populated by the likes of Bill Cosby, Bill O'Reilly, Roger Ailles, and Bill Clinton, it's the club for powerful men whose sexual harassment and abuse of women has been made public, and who have suffered some level of consequence. The board of The Weinstein Company has fired the man from whom, along with his brother Bob, the company got its name. Our current President, Donald Trump can't yet join that club because he has suffered no consequences, even as his history of harassment and assault has been made public, he was rewarded with the presidency.

Clinton for his part, suffered consequences to his political career, having also ascended to the presidency in the midst of allegations of sexual harassment, and a complete falling from grace once his extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky was revealed. The impeachment process that followed, though deeply partisan, did at least serve to cause the revelation of the truth, a vindication most of Clintons victims have never been afforded. Due in part to Hillary Clintons presidential campaigns, in part to the disaster that was the Bush presidency combined with our cultural need to believe in Great Men, Clintons image has been receiving something of a rehabilitation over the last few years, despite that abhorrent history. Where Republican attacks against this history are unquestionably partisan, without a single care for the victims or the idea of preventing further violence against women, this is something that weighs in the minds of many where the Democratic Party is concerned. Absolute loathing of the Republican Party and so many of its members consistent defense of sexual predators doesn't preclude recognizing that the Democrats may speak to these issues more readily and more responsibly on the campaign trail and in the media, but where the possibility and hope for gaining further or holding current power is concerned, it's just that, lots of talk.

As is the case with nearly everything that constitutes news, controversy or scandal, the party loyalist from both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party have been lining up to attempt to portray the other as having a worse record related to sexual harassment. Weinstein having been a donor and fundraiser for Democratic causes and organizations has helped to turn this story into yet another subject over which people who otherwise seem sensible, often intelligent and well meaning reveal their real motives. Going back to look at the accounts of victims reveals, the behavior of Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Clinton, Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly and Bill Cosby (with the exception of Cosby's affinity for drugging his victims) are remarkably similar. Men using their position to either force or lure women into being alone with them, and then being disgusting and despicable at the very least, committing assault and rape at the worst.

Despite their separate but equally profound delusions, this is not the variety of problem that has a partisan underpinning or basis. Unlike what many people whose work and efforts are respectable and does serve a genuine public good have to say, it's not even a problem of white men, rich men or particularly powerful men, but it is an issue of power.

If we take the victims accounts seriously, the biggest difference between Bill Clinton and Donald Trump is the infamous Access Hollywood "... grab 'em by the pussy" recording, and the response from Trump and his defenders that it was just "locker room" talk. Both parties have gone through the almost inconceivable amount of effort to shield and elect a sexual predator to the presidency. Aside from what any of our particular political sympathies may be and what constituencies either party may attempt to placate through their campaign ads and rhetoric, that is the horrific truth.

Trump, in his unabashed disdain for social and political norms, is just presenting us with what is possibly the best example we could get of how deeply and intensely cultivated this truly toxic variety of masculinity is. Clinton in his "aw shucks" folksy demeanor and his contrite apologies, gave us part of what we needed to be able to continue as we had before. Trump has no such instincts. Trump's essential response to criticism is "If you don't like it, fuck you." That we can't abide, because we need to see some regret, even if we're not going to levy many significant consequences. Trump is such a clusterfuck of amorality that bringing attention to Clintons victims essentially just ended up being a further victimization, parading them around as if they were some kind of flag or religious symbol of protection or righteousness.

It should also be noted that 42% of the women who voted (the overwhelming majority of them white women) voted for Trump, even after the stream of victims coming forward and the Access Hollywood tape. That's 27 million women, which would suggest this isn't only a problem of men, but instead a problem of the perception of how we perceive gender on the whole. This is in no way to say that men are not responsible for their own actions, but to say that those 27 million women didn't care enough that Trump is a serial sexual predator to prevent them from voting for him. Consider as well, many of them will be, are raising or have raised children. Some of those are going to be men, some are going to be women, but those values are going to be part of how they're raised. The Democratic Party faithful had no issue with the rehabilitation of Bill Clintons public image in an attempt to secure Hillary the nomination and the presidency either. Values, ethics and morals, are again absent from the whole of the two major political entities in the country. Power, to them, exactly like these predatory men, is what is most important.

Beyond this, the halls of great power in this country, it's incredibly important that power is completely and utterly related to context. No one has to necessarily be a billionaire, millionaire, politician, movie mogul, television titan or so on in order to be able to wield the kind of power a serial predator needs.

Across every town, city, or county in this country, stories similar to those of Harvey Weinsteins victims can be heard. They're not Weinsteins victims though or the victims of some other incredibly wealthy or powerful individual. They're the victims of anonymous bar owners, restaurant managers, retail managers, law firms etc. This is a problem of our understanding of masculinity, and the way it is related to power, no matter how much power that might actually be. A young actor, just beginning to see the path to their biggest, most passionately held and pursued dream, being put in a position where her willingness to be appease the sexual wants of a man powerful enough to either make those dreams come true or end them forever, is probably experiencing a level of stress, victimization and trauma that any woman does when someone who is in a position to threaten their ability to pay rent, take care of their children or anything else would feel. It's not a direct correlation, but the damage done as a result is probably very close to the same. It should be noted as well, that one of the things our very famous predators have in common is that they tend to target young women. In part, it's due to the level of cultural value we place on youth in women serving this very twisted form of masculinity, but also in part because being young almost by definition means being both less experienced in general, and somewhat less sure of ourselves, regardless of gender. A younger victim is more likely to be a pliable and silent victim.

Here in Richmond, it was just over a year ago that a man who owned three popular bars, one of which was also a music venue, was finally forced to sell them off after a social media and flyer/sticker campaign. It had been known for a few years prior that there were women who had spoken out about being victims of sexual assault at his hands, but little changed. People still went to his establishments, and even the local music community didn't seem to raise much of an eyebrow, even as many of them espoused "pro-woman" and "pro-feminist" ideas in their music or personal lives. He was still able to book shows without any problem, and that particular business held various fundraisers for different non-profits and organizations even as his reputation had become known. Only one of the victims would speak publicly, the rest being afraid of backlash because he was involved in the local community and culture, and Richmond not being a very big town at all meant that beyond the legal reprisals they might face (he'd taken a previous accuser to court and threatened the rest with the same) it could mean both social and economic costs in the form of lost or denied opportunity, friends etc.

He was finally forced to sell because enough of the community wasn't willing to stay quiet and were willing to believe his victims. He was forced out of the establishments he'd been partnered in, and sold the others because the tide had turned and his ability to fight it was taken away.

Someone who runs a few popular bars and a music venue is not someone we would normally associate with being very powerful, but for victims, the amount of power their attacker has is often proportionate to the size of their community. These men choose their victims and entrench themselves in communities like this for that exact reason. It's something that has happened, is happening and does happen everywhere. Part of human beings attempts to defend their sense of self is also in defending the community they've identified into. As understandable as this is, it also means that there has to be a willingness to listen to and believe victims, even when we really don't want to believe them because it does reflect on our community. We have to listen to victims and we have to take them seriously. There is incredibly little to be gained by coming forward, but we can give them the respect to hear them and to take action.

We also can't delude ourselves into thinking this is necessarily related specifically to the world surrounding the arts or politics.

The current status of the NFL is another example of how this plays out. Right now, there are many black men, staging silent protests against police violence and lack of accountability by kneeling during the national anthem. It's caused a backlash. The backlash has come with calls for boycotts. The reaction of the team owners has caused calls for boycotts. The fact that the player who began this particular form of protest, Colin Kaepernick has been without a job, despite what his supporters say is a better record than many other players, has also drawn calls for boycotts. This is now part of the regular news cycle, nationally. NFL ratings are down.

There have been no such protests and certainly no boycotts of any real effect (even as there have been some calls for them) when NFL teams continue to employ or re-employ players who've been accused, in some cases even convicted of sexual assault, rape or beating women.

The NFL has been the worst offender among professional sports leagues, but the NBA and MLB have certainly had their own instances of the same. We've even seen a number of scandals involving colleges using women as a way to "pay" or pamper players. Sports is something deeply connected to masculinity in this country, and when we get to the point that we're talking about professional leagues and the big, recognizable college teams, these are the elite, whom boys all over the country are looking to as idols. Don't at all underestimate the fact that Trump and his defenders went directly to "locker room talk" for a reason. We certainly haven't seen any kind of protest from players who have decided to address the fact that their team or league has continued help rehabilitate the image of, employ and enrich scumbag rapists and abusers.

The fact that we have seen Bill Cosby, Bill O'Reilly, Roger Ailes and now Harvey Weinstein suffer some consequences is as good as the news gets on this topic if we continue doing things as we have. Until we start to substantially address the perspective on masculinity that we promote and that the majority of society has, it's not going to get beyond this, which is to say there will be a continuing stream of different men in positions of varying levels of power taking advantage of that power to victimize women. The failure we've had to address this so far hasn't been the failure to make clear that victimizing women is wrong and terrible. People like Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly wouldn't make women sign non-disclosure agreements if that were the case. The failure is two fold.

One is very bluntly, accountability. The heaviest penalty we levy outside of state sponsored death sentences is prison. None of the celebrity scumbags we've been discussing have seen the inside of one. Yes, Bill O'Reilly lost his job. Roger Ailes was removed as the head of Fox News. The club owner here in Richmond was forced to sell. All of them got to take the riches they'd built, riches that were directly related to the power they were able to use to victimize women, and move on. Prison is by far not the best solution to any problem, but this does represent exactly how cavalierly we take this because it is what we consider the heaviest penalty one can pay, outside of death. The problem, it's said, is that a prosecution of sexual assault or rape is incredibly hard to bring a guilty verdict out of due to the high standard that has to be met, and that few victims want to chance those odds when it also means that essentially, they're entire lives are put on trial as well. Considering the number of other crimes for which the standard for evidence enough to secure a conviction is eroding. Also, the number of rape kits, which could be evidence, that have gone untested and sit in storage is another indicator of the problem.

The problem in prosecuting sexual predators isn't just an issue of evidence, it's an issue in relation to perspective and masculinity as well. It becomes less surprising, but no less infuriating that this is true when some light is also shined on the fact that police are two to four times more likely than the general population to commit domestic abuse. Another profession overwhelmingly dominated by men, this time left to investigate violence against women, when that same profession is that much more likely to be perpetrating violence against women becomes shockingly naive or stupid. In relation to police brutality cases, it's often brought up that relying on the same organization/institution that's being accused to investigate is useless, and where violence against women is concerned, it's not really very different. It says something about the fraternity of police that they are that much more likely to commit domestic violence. The other population of people who are extremely likely to have a history of domestic violence is mass shooters. That connection should be troubling, to say the least, but it's not often addressed.

This isn't a problem specifically of wealthy white men. Wealthy men, especially white men, may get away with it longer, but it's not just a problem of class or race, because our perspectives on masculinity are part of the foundations for both class and race. The concept of this kind of dangerous and harmful masculinity isn't just something among men either. Again, 27 million women voted for Donald Trump following the revelation of the Access Hollywood tapes, and at least as many have had little problem with the reemergence and rehabilitation of Bill Clinton as a political figure. It's not very difficult to say, "We're with Hillary, but Bill needs to go home or where ever serial abusers who haven't been convicted go that they can't abuse more women." It's not specific to political party either. Also, the Mayim Bialik'sDonna Karan's and Tomi Lahren's of the world play a more significant part in is often realized. They are without question, essential to the survival of this concept of masculinity. Without the women who keep it propped up, it will crumble.

Both of our major political parties are too damaged to begin to address the public health crisis of masculinity with anything approaching the realm of credibility. When one is pushing Ivanka Trump, the daughter and Trojan Horse for Donald Trump, and the other is willing to push for the rehabilitation of Bill Clinton as well as turning to accusations of misogyny against any criticism of women candidates, all hope is lost. To be very, very clear, there was more than enough evidence of misogyny in attacks on Hillary Clinton and on most women candidates. The Democratic Party have realized though that even calling substantive criticisms or questions sexist plays well to their base, and delegitimizes those questions in the eyes of the party loyal. As a political party, they make no discernment between the between sexism and substantive social or political criticism, which serves absolutely no one but Democratic candidates and politicians and their grasp on power.

The failure of accountability in this knows no political party, skin color, profession or otherwise, because too often it is men in the position of power to bring the accountability, and those men are often getting to those positions of power as the result of their adherence to and protection of this deeply unhealthy perspective on masculinity. Accountability, where it has come, has generally come from crowd sourcing or it has come from the civil courts. Mostly, it doesn't come at all.

Our second failure has been to not address masculinity in a way that would be similar to a public health problem, because that's exactly what it actually is. The Reign of Hollywood Harvey highlights once again the danger to women that it represents, as does the way we prosecute rape cases, the level of domestic violence within the ranks those charged with investigating rapes cases, the fact that we don't find it horrific enough to levy any kind of penalty against institutions, like professional sports, entertainment, or the arts that excuse it or profit from its perpetrators lack of repercussions.

What we rarely talk about or hear is that it is extremely dangerous to men as well. The rates of suicide among men attest to it, as do the rates of "accidental death" related to shootings (most often perpetrated by men against other men), risk taking behavior or even the many preventable illness and disease related deaths that are the result of the kind of masculinity which requires men to essentially ignore that some behavior is hurting their long term health and/or guaranteeing disease or illness in the future.

The place to start there is the millions of men across the country who have been saddled with this exact same variety of deeply unhealthy, disturbing and destructive perspective on masculinity, and aren't sexual abusers and rapists. The statistics on suicide, deaths by preventable disease and illness, accidental death due to accidents (the number of which comes from unhealthy risk taking behaviors) tell an entire story about the toll it takes on men. In combination with the toll it's taking on women, beginning to tell the story in terms of our perspective on masculinity and it's results in terms of public health as a whole can help to start to reach the places and people the methods currently being and that have been previously employed haven't. There is no special interest, as conservatives have called women who attempt to call attention to what they face in the world. There is a threat to the whole of societies well being. To attempt to ignore that or to attempt to subvert that truth is to reveal ones self as being someone who is indifferent to public health.

This can also be a way to begin to stem the flow of recruits for both gang activity and for the growing white supremacy movement, because whether or not we want to admit this as well, both of them are intricately connected to perspectives on and concepts of masculinity. Look no further than prominent Neo-Nazi golden boy, Richard Spencer, only this week saying he doesn't think women should be able to vote to begin to get an understanding of just how deeply interconnected all of this is. Those men who are out there, attempting to navigate the world and find themselves not in possession of what this kind of unhealthy perspective has been promising them are exactly the ones that are the most likely to be recruited by the likes of Spencer and his ilk.

Beyond even them, there are the millions of men who are experiencing any number of other symptoms, be it depression, anxiety, substance abuse, they run the gamut, but what we've failed to substantially address is that a good deal of it is related to the way we perceive masculinity. They may have a good sense that the traditional perspective on masculinity is not healthy, and they may be attempting to find their way to something else, out of sheer desperation. Many of them probably don't even completely realize that this is the core issue they're dealing with, but they are still attempting to find some other way to be, and stumbling because they have no model to follow, no conversation to become a part of to even begin to figure them out. Even for those who have figured out what the problem is, there are extremely few resources to turn to that give them a positive direction. There's plenty of negative direction, in the form of "don't do ____" but there isn't much in the way of a new perspective and a new model. Many of them are going to wander around, lost in the proverbial wilderness alone for a while, and once they're lonely or desperate enough, they're either going to go back to that same unhealthy model or they're going to be seduced by the Richard Spencer's, Alex Jones's or some other fucking crack pot asshole who understands exactly who they're manipulating.

Until we start to talk openly about and address this head on, many of our worst problems are only going to seem insurmountable, because those problems are only really symptoms of this one. We can interact with, minimize the damage from or attempt to somehow eradicate some of the symptoms, but the underlying problem will still be there, and it will just cause new symptoms should we even succeed in eradicating some of the others.


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