Tag Archives: Harvey Weinstein

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Lost Opportunities for Women: Sexism Sucks, But Blame Capitalism More

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One of the points many women have made since the beginning of the current national discussion about sexual assault and harassment has been that sexism and misogyny have cost women countless opportunities to achieve their full potential.       Probably because this began with Harvey Weinstein, much of the mourning of opportunity costs focused on Hollywood: New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd mentioned her reaction to research she did on the topic: “I got more and more angry as I realized that these women were being systematically excluded based on ridiculous biases.”

It’s an excellent, long-overdue point: Who could possibly count how many brilliant women have been denied high-profile roles as actors and directors and studio executives as the result of the studios’ toxic “casting couch” culture? How much great insight and entertainment have the rest of us, including men, lost because we have been denied the full expression of women censored because they refused to sleep with some nasty executive?

Outside the world of entertainment, might cancer have been cured had more women been encouraged to enter a STEM career?

At the same time, there are many other forms of discrimination that have similar effects, yet they’re so hardwired into the system that we don’t give them much thought.

Most of these tragic cases of human underachievement are the direct result of economic discrimination. There is the guy who would be a great poet if not for the fact that he grew up in rural West Virginia and his parents were poor and uneducated so it never occurred to them to point him towards a career that, had they heard of it, would seem useless and impossible to turn into a viable means of making a living — which, because they were poor, was the only thing they could think about.

There is the woman working as a cashier in the Bronx who might have gone to Yale if she had been granted a scholarship or had been born into a wealthy family, the woman who would have created an amazing computer company had the sexist pigs who compose Silicon Valley’s V.C. class given her pitch a fair hearing, the girl of color sitting in class in a rundown elementary school whose horizons have become a sinkhole thanks to mere demographics.

You can turn this around and look at it from the other side as well. Think of all the profiles you’ve read about an actor who scored his big break due to pure happenstance (as opposed to talent). You may have such a story yourself. If you think about it, though, the random lucky break is not a heartwarming confirmation that the universe provides what you need. Those breaks are few and far-between. The terrifying truth is that most people who deserve them never get them — and that sucks. It reflects the arbitrary and capricious nature of a system that barely pretends to be a smidge of a meritocracy.

I feel luckier than most. Even so, there are many things that I was never able to do simply because I didn’t have enough money: attend the college of my choice, study the major of my choice, join the Peace Corps, take a gap year and travel through Europe, get knee surgery, accept an internship, attend the grad school that accepted me but didn’t offer me financial aid, start a small newspaper, tell a jerky boss to go to hell. I doubt that many people reading this would have trouble composing an even longer list of things they would have liked to do, places they would have liked to see, businesses they would have liked to start, all out of reach due to a lack of funds.

Aside from stifling our dreams and crushing our ambitions, our cult of capitalism denies us the broad-based political debate that might solve many of our most pressing problems. Due to the pro-corporate, right-wing political bias of the mainstream media, all the left-wing ideas that never get expressed in the opinion pages and society are denied distribution, meaning that they never get discussed. For example, antiwar voices are never allowed space in major newspapers, radio news broadcasts, or on television. Surely that rigid censorship has something to do with the fact that the United States has constantly been at war since the American Revolution. When is the last time you heard a politician or pundit argue that we ought to spend more on mitigating climate change than we do on the military?

Capitalism is presented as an ideology that allows people to fulfill their ambitions and make the most of themselves, but in reality it’s exactly the opposite: it constrains people to what they can achieve based upon what’s in their bank account or in their parents’ estate. So the United States has been one of the least socially mobile societies in the industrialized world for quite some time (and it’s getting worse) but most Americans don’t have a clue. This caste system also applies to everyone. Even under a construct of systematic sexism and misogyny, a wealthy woman enjoys far more opportunity than a poor man.

This is not to say that women don’t have every right to rage against men, or to understate the validity of women’s complaints about male misdeeds ranging from contempt to physical assault. The sexual assault and harassment discussion is yet another reminder that the fundamental underlying cause of the problem is power and its inevitable abuse.

It has long been a standard argument of feminists that the world would be a better place if women were in charge.

Certainly more women should be in charge: exactly 50% of the people in charge ought to be women. But we need to look beyond sexism to understand the meta root cause behind unjustly (and foolishly) squandering countless human potential. Whether that waste is directly attributable to discrimination based upon race, gender, or some other factor, it will continue as long as we live in a society whose foundation relies upon the disgusting assumption that only those who can afford it have the right to be everything that they can be.

(Ted Rall’s (Twitter: @tedrall) next book is “Francis: The People’s Pope,” the latest in his series of graphic novel-format biographies. Publication date is March 13, 2018. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Sexual Harassment and the End of Team Politics

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Until the 1990s, American electoral politics were divided ideologically, between the opposing ideas of liberalism and conservatism. Now we have Team Politics: Democrat versus Republican, my party right or wrong.

Back then, Rush Limbaugh sometimes accused the Republican Party of betraying conservative principles. At the same time, the liberal op-ed writers at the New York Times occasionally took the Democratic Party to task for not being liberal enough.

Those things don’t happen now. Americans back their party the same way they back their favorite sports team — with automatic, stupid loyalty.

If you are a liberal, you support the Democratic Party no matter what. You vote for Democrats who vote for Republican wars of choice. You look the other way when they do things that only Republicans should do, like order political assassinations and regime change. You even make excuses for outright betrayal, like when Bill Clinton signed NAFTA and welfare reform.

If you are a conservative, you support the Republican Party no matter what. You vote for Republicans who drive up the deficit with unnecessary spending. You look the other way when they do things that only Democrats should do, like allowing the NSA to violate basic privacy rights and failing to put America first when it comes to foreign trade. You even make excuses for outright betrayal, like when “family values” Republicans wallow in sexual impropriety.

Never have team politics been more evident than in the current tsunami of sexual harassment scandals. Republicans make excuses for their politicians, like Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore and former Fox News star Bill O’Reilly, even when they are credibly accused of sexual assault. Most notably with Bill Clinton but arguably continuing with big-time democratic donor Harvey Weinstein and perhaps Al Franken, Democrats do the same.

I can’t predict whether this national conversation on sexual harassment will yield the ideal result, a widespread cultural consensus that no means no and that workplaces should be desexualized. It seems clear that permanent positive change is in the making. This moment should certainly mark the beginning of the end of silly Team Politics.

It would go too far to argue that Harvey Weinstein got a free pass for so many years despite his hideous behavior including alleged rape, solely because he donated millions of dollars to the Clintons and the Democrats, and hosted lavish fundraisers at his home for top Democrats like Barack Obama. But Weinstein’s high rank in Team Democrat was part of it.

And it was pretty much the whole deal for Bill Clinton. Sexual harassment and assault charges against the then-Arkansas Governor were swept aside by Democratic voters in 1992. After four years of the clueless George H.W. Bush, whose economic policies prolonged a deep recession, neither liberal voters nor liberal pundits nor the corporate Democrat classes were going to let Bill’s “bimbo eruption” stand in the way of a change. Even after the Monica Lewinsky scandal — if Louis C.K. lost jobs because he abused his “power” over fellow comedians, how about the power gap between a President of the United States and a 21-year-old intern? It was just a blow job, after all.

You may have forgotten: MoveOn.org got its name from those who wanted to “move on” past the Clinton impeachment. Nothing to see here, folks!

Give (a few) liberals credit. Some are finally giving Clinton accuser Juanita Broaddrick the fair consideration she never got in 1999, when she said the future president had raped her in 1978.

ABC News reporter Sam Donaldson, known for his aggressiveness, admitted at the time that “people in charge of our coverage, at managing editor status, have not seen this as a story they wanted to spend a lot of time on…lots of people argued that it was unseemly.” Better 18 years late than never — at age 74, Broaddrick is lucky to have lived long enough to see her story discussed (albeit not deeply or at length).

Democrats who claimed to be feminists yet ignored Clinton’s misogyny feel sheepish and hypocritical. As they should. So they’re mostly keeping quiet and hoping for a change in subject. Which they shouldn’t. At least there’s a chance they won’t reflexively resort to the empty tribalism of Team Politics the next time one of “theirs” faces similar allegations. (Hello, Representative John Conyers.)

Now it’s the Republicans’ turn to come to Jesus.

Yeah, Mitch McConnell says Roy Moore isn’t fit to serve in the Senate. But that means nothing; McConnell didn’t like Moore in the first place. Trump is the head of the Republican Party — and the president is still tacitly endorsing Moore, and might even campaign in person for the alleged child molester.

Better a pedophile than a Democrat, Trump argues insanely. But kneejerk support for a GOP candidate this repugnant, as even most Republicans can plainly see, is Team Politics having jumped the shark and then some.

Die, Team Politics!

Let’s Make the Ideological Divide Great Again.

(Ted Rall’s (Twitter: @tedrall) next book is “Francis: The People’s Pope,” the latest in his series of graphic novel-format biographies. Publication date is March 13, 2018. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

SYNDICATED COLUMN: How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition

https://www.flotechinc.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/freshclam.jpg            From Clarence Thomas to Jerry Sandusky to Bill Cosby to Harvey Weinstein, those who doubt their accusers always ask something similar to what Roy Moore said about those who accused him of sexual harassment and assault: “To think grown women would wait 40 years before a general election to bring charges is unbelievable.”

What takes so long? Why don’t alleged victims head straight to the police?

There are 17 good reasons in this great article.

Let me add two more that we don’t talk about enough: shame and fear of disbelief.

I’m not referring to the well-documented victims’ fear that they somehow brought the attack on themselves (for example, a woman who worries that she somehow sent mixed signals to a suitor who then raped her), but to something one rarely sees discussed in the media or talked about in typical conversations about victimhood.

Society doesn’t like victims. Victims make us uncomfortable. It’s probably a vestige of our Darwinian instinct for survival: the monkey clan prospers when its members are healthy and lucky, but finds life perilous around those who are sick and unfortunate. We turn away from the unlucky: the homeless man, the woman whose face bears burn scars, the black guy getting choked to death by cops. Not our business, not our problem, these are troubles to be avoided. I do it too.

This instinct goes double for those who refuse to soft-pedal their victimhood. Not even the most active social justice warriors have Rose McGowan’s back in her Twitter crusade against Harvey Weinstein — she’s a bit too angry for comfort. (Her recent drug arrest doesn’t help.)

I am not judging humanity here. I am trying to answer Roy Moore et al’s question. One of the answers is shame — the shame simply of being a victim in a shallow capitalist society that loves winners, hates losers and despises victims. Fake it to make it has a corollary: never let ’em see you sweat.

My friend Cole Smithey the critic told me a bit of film theory, after a character in a movie gets maimed (loses a hand, gets shot and acts shot, getting weaker and visibly bleeding, whatever), the audience stops liking and identifying with him or her. There are exceptions. Typically, however, a screenwriter will have a maimed character die, vanish or completely recover. Because no one likes a victim.

Getting fired and libeled by the LA Times reminded me of that anthropological truism. Immediately following my firing, I hardly heard from my fellow cartoonists. (That’s rare.) Friends resurfaced after I presented exculpatory evidence. A pair of taints (Loser and Liar) had been erased.

Then I sued the Times for defamation, and things tipped back. Some of my friends stayed true but others dumped me because they were scared that if they sided with me the Times and Tronc might deny them work, also because I’d gone Rose McGowan-y crusade-y. It’s true that the LAPD bought Tronc and the Times fired me for the LAPD, but it’s weird and anyway, no one likes a victim. Especially not an angry one.

Fear of not being believed is another underdiscussed yet potent inhibitor to victims considering whether to step forward, whether by filing a police report or going to the press.

I grew up poor with my single mom and we were short of money. To bring in some cash, my mom hooked me up with a job helping the janitor wash the blackboards after school at my junior high school. Looking back now, it was a situation perfect for an abuser: no one but an older male custodian and a 13-year-old boy in the otherwise empty building.

One afternoon the dude snuck behind me while I was working in a classroom and grabbed me, pinning my arms to my side. “Do you trust me?” he whispered in my ear. I remember his exact voice, the smell of his breath (alcohol, bourbon maybe). I felt his penis harden against my back.

I did not trust him.

But I told him I did, several times, and he believed me and let me go and I bounded exactly three steps toward the door, turned the knob and launched myself down the hall and flung myself down the stairs and hurled out the emergency exit, and I ran and ran and ran and it was so damn beautiful outside and I could hear the fire alarm ringing.

When my mom came home, I lied. I told her the job was over, the custodian no longer needed me.

Later a kid I didn’t know approached me at school. He might have been a year older. He asked me if I had worked for the dirty old janitor and whether he’d gone after me because the same thing had happened to him. I didn’t ask if he’d gone to the principal or told his parents and he didn’t ask me. It would have been the stupidest question in the world because no one would have believed us.

No one ever believed kids back then. About anything. The school administration wouldn’t have believed us about the English teacher who kept pot in his desk or the algebra teacher who seduced my friend or the driver’s ed instructor who grabbed my classmate’s breasts right in front of me and my best friend.

            We Gen X kids understood the world as it was: survival was up to us. Adults didn’t care; adults wouldn’t help. Decades later, when I told my mom that story, she admitted I was right. “I assumed you were lazy,” she said about my quitting the job.

If you’ve never been a victim of some kind, you may find this strange, but there is something worse than knowing (or suspecting) that you may not be believed, and that is coming forward and letting cops and courts and human resource officers decide for themselves, based on the evidence and their biases, whether they believe you or not.

As long as you keep your victimhood to yourself, you know your experience was real.

(Ted Rall’s (Twitter: @tedrall) next book is “Francis: The People’s Pope,” the latest in his series of graphic novel-format biographies. Publication date is March 13, 2018. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

SYNDICATED COLUMN: #MenToo? Even Under Matriarchy, Rape and Sexual Harassment Would Still Be a Big Problem

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Post-Harvey Weinstein, the pitchforks are out — and with good reason. Women and girls have been diminished, objectified, exploited, terrorized, discriminated against, sexually harassed forever. Only fools thought sexism and misogyny at the hands of male oppression had been eliminated, but many people had reason to assume things had improved post-Gloria Steinem in the 1970s, when “male chauvinist pig” became a sit-com meme. Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly et al. demonstrate that, at the apex of the power structure, nothing really changed.

And that’s the point of this column, which I was reluctant to write for fear of being accused of minimizing the righteous anger of the women stepping forward to say enough, no more. Rape culture — the insidious vapor that women wade through every day, whether it’s inappropriate sexist or sexual remarks, gauging whether it’s safe to take their boss up on an offer for drinks that could lead to a promotion, and/or an unwanted sexual advance, or hesitating to tell a wolf-whistling construction worker where he can stick it because he could break her face without breaking a sweat — does not afflict men to any significant extent. Men feel fear walking down a city street at 1 a.m. in a bad neighborhood; women feel it all the time in every neighborhood.

Rape culture only afflicts women. But rape cuts across gender. One out of ten rape victims in the United States is male, according to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network).

This echoes what I was told as a member of a committee when I was a student. Barnard College, where I lived in a dorm, had recently established a rape crisis center with about 10 counselors. Someone brought up a surprising statistic. The campus security office reported that 10% of rape victims at Columbia University were male. (They didn’t say the sex of the attackers.) When I suggested that the crisis center might want to consider hiring one counselor with expertise with male victims, however, the other committee members laughed — all of them except the other guy.

To the extent that society discusses this hidden 10 percent — or, if you believe the 2013 National Crime Victimization Survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 38 percent! — the cliché is males raping males. Yet the BJS found that 46 percent of victims reported being raped by a woman.

No one can credibly minimize the devastating impact of sexual assault and harassment on the vast majority of victims, who are women. But, as inadequate as it is, there is awareness, and infrastructure, and sympathy for female rape victims. Can you imagine, as a man, trying to file a report with the police that you’d been sexually assaulted by a woman?

Given male anatomy that requires an erection for penetration, how can a woman rape a man? Well, she can. Really. As with female rape victims, physical arousal in men can be stimulated involuntarily. Don’t forget the effects of drugs, alcohol and psychological manipulation.

What about men’s superior upper body strength? Men are stronger on average. But many individual women are stronger, and some individual men are weaker, than the average. Sometimes there are multiple attackers. It happened to me.

To most guys even, getting jumped by two women sounds like a “Dear Mr. Guccione, I never thought I’d be writing this letter” scenario. But not every dude wants it all the time, no guy wants it from every woman, and sometimes you’re just not feeling it with a woman whom you might find appealing under different circumstances. Every “unwanted sexual advance” is unwanted until and unless it gets accepted; the trouble starts when the advancer refuses to take no for an answer, as happened in my situation, and it escalates when they get angry or vengeful. Like most men, I was socially programmed, Robocop Directive 4-style, never to lay a hand on a woman. I was lucky; I barely managed to escape my attackers, pants dragging on the floor, without hitting anyone.

It was easy to imagine another outcome: succumbing to rape or, worse, being charged with assault for defending myself. This happens to women too, of course — but it’s harder for male victims to mount a credible legal defense.

Similarly, men also fall prey to harassment in the workplace. I have been fired from two jobs, each after I had refused my female boss’ sexual advances. They cited other pretexts, but I’m sure that I would have lasted longer had I put out.

Many of Harvey Weinstein’s victims tell stories of turning up for a meeting hopeful that a connection with a high-powered producer could score them a great role in a cool movie, only to find that the only thing he wanted was sex. For those who got out of his hotel room without him touching them, the experience was degrading and a waste of time.

I get it. One night in the 1980s, the car service that took me home late from my job at a New York bank asked if I’d share a vehicle because heavy rain had made taxi scarce. I was in my early 20s. My taxi companion, a woman in her 40s, informed me that she was a top bank official looking to hire a new officer and invited me to lunch to discuss my career. At lunch, however, she made an indecent proposal: she’d put me on salary to a job I’d never have to show up to as long as I became her live-in boy toy. She didn’t threaten or grab my bits. But she wasted my time and my self-esteem. Was my body all this high-powered executive saw of worth in me?

When I confide this story, reactions range from incredulity — you should have gone for it! — to derision. Sounds hot! Dismissal, men who have been there will tell you, is typical. Former professional bicyclist Joe Papp told me he was “sexually harassed and then assaulted  (groped, kissed against my will) by [an] inebriated female colleague. One other female colleague present. Reported it to ownership next day — they laughed.”

Pundits point to Weinstein and Hollywood’s male-dominated executive suites as central to the propagation of rape culture. “To solve the problem, Hollywood needs new executives and decision-makers: women,” Adam Epstein writes at Qwartz. “Nothing of substance will get done until there are more women bosses in every department, and at every level, of the film business.” Gender equality is great — but it won’t eliminate sexual harassment and assault. According to one study, one-third of American men report being sexually harassed in their workplace during the last year.

As Roxane Gay wrote in The New York Times, “Sexual violence is about power. There is a sexual component, yes, but mostly it’s about someone exerting his or her will over another and deriving pleasure and satisfaction from that exertion.”

You could transform America into a matriarchy. It might be great. But it wouldn’t free us from rape or sexual harassment.

Only a revolution against inequality could do that.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)