Friday, November 3, 2017


Something I shared on Facebook a few weeks ago, reshared below. 

I think I'd have to add an addendum that since I wrote this, there's been a string of accusations that have come out.  In the spirit of this is a troubling "Shitty Men in Media" document, which seems to have originated as a doc to warn women of predators lurking in media.  While the spirit of this doc is attuned to what I've written below, things like this may just be too open to trolls.  Indeed we're now seeing it being weaponized by worthless alt-right fucks who don't give half a shit about women, or by political opponents eager to believe, or defended by political allies wanting more evidence than they're willing to grant for those they could care less about.  I worry about this whole thing becoming such a mess that it takes the spotlight off of finding paths forward in establishing accountability and attacking rape culture at its core.  In a way, this is nobody's fault.  The socio-cultural hellscape of the comments section moment is not one best suited for having these discussions. And given the personal, uncapturable, intimate nature of most of these violations, they remain a space for the cast of doubt.  What I think I mean to say below is that we can never expect to have a full interrogation of these topics without a reversal of power dynamics.  What I maybe failed to mention is that this not only means making men's intentions carry as much suspicion as women's criticisms of them historically have, but also lifting up women or other people marginalized by rape culture and finding ways for their voices and perspectives to be heard loudly. 

A little late on the draw with this, but I did want to just say that I see all your #metoo posts and I feel them and appreciate everyone using their voice on this topic, while respecting those who may not want to say anything as well.  I can't say I am surprised by anything.  I’d always assumed that these experiences were fairly universal, but it's also heartbreaking to see the trickle-down effect of patriarchy and rape culture at the individual level, affecting specific people you know in singular, uniquely devastating ways.
 I think this kind of campaign is good though, because when something exists solely as a phenomena it can be opaque and forbidding to even attempt to tackle.  When sexual harassment and sexual assault become part of the atmosphere, they get absorbed into ideology, process, and become structures in their own right.  They can hide in the margins of unobserved male privilege, obscured by the gaslight of humor, unintentionally defended either through depreciation of impact (“it wasn’t that bad”) or the pernicious passivity of consensual silence (“it’s not my problem”).  Conversely, when this behavior is laid bare and when the pain and suffering is standing in the limelight, it becomes incumbent upon us to start shining lights in the corners where illegitimate power and its enablers like to hide and present them as the black mirror image of existing mainstream culture we know them to be.
 One of the most important aspects of this is acknowledging one’s own complicity in it.  Given the way our social relations have been mediated and intercepted by the various channels our words get funneled through, these gestures can seem performative, but they’re important nonetheless.  I’ve definitely at times looked the other way or said things that may have made someone else uncomfortable.  I’ve told women to lighten up and made excuses for men who were demonstrably wrong.  Even as I evolve and try to stay cognizant of my actions, I may still wind up talking over women or undervaluing their contributions or participating in other microagressions that holistically, if not individually, denigrate the autonomy and contributions of women.  I try not to, but I know it happens.
 Here’s the thing about why it happens- living as a white dude is super easy.  Even when it’s hard, it’s not as hard as it would be for someone not identifying cisgender male.  Even if I’ve never had a problem identifying as a feminist, never intentionally inflicted harm, and tried incessantly to purge any misogynistic preconceptions from my mind, I know that I’ve still been guilty of making things worse because some of these dynamics become conscripted.  And whereas it’s incumbent upon women culturally to watch their step when they’re walking alone at night, to be careful what they’re saying in a board meeting, to be mindfully of acquaintances they know, to brush off humor in order to fit into a patriarchal order, and to monitor their appearance at every turn, none of that applies to guys.  I can be blunt and kind of a dick sometimes.  Women can’t.  Well, they can, but the consequences for them would be much steeper than it would be for me.  White men rarely face or worry about consequences at all.  And chances are something that flat out ruined your day, that still bites from years ago, probably meant nothing to him, if he even remembers it at all.  It’s fucking easy to be a white guy. And we need to make it a lot hard.
 One of the ideas that always comes up when the tables finally flip on these open secrets like Trump and Cosby and Weinstein is that nothing will change until we trust and believe women.  Indeed, there’s really nothing to gain when these coming forward.  In fact, as sick as it is, more often than not, it’s likely better for them on a personal level to stay silent, to not face reliving trauma and have hordes of frothing bros hurl vile insults and threats their way.  The status quo has a way of reinforcing itself at all costs.
 But beyond believing women, maybe it’s also time to start trusting men less.  That’s not to say that it’s a zero sum game or that there aren’t some men who are fundamentally decent, but unless a man is actively working towards solutions to the problem of rape culture do they really deserve the benefit of a doubt?  I realize that I say this to my own detriment, that these words could easily come back to haunt me. But perhaps white men need to be less comfortable and more careful until this problem is fixed.  Maybe they need to feel as vulnerable as women do every day, like their words and intentions are being second-guessed.  Unless men starting fighting for equity, maybe they could stand some equality.   

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