The domino principle is in full effect. One by one we are watching some of the most powerful men and important institutions tumble. In Hollywood, in politics, and within the news media, each of these institutions is reeling from misconduct, and in some case, criminal conduct. One day the hero, the next day the outcast, shunned by the very institutions that insulated their misdeeds. Years of transgressions, tales of misconduct whispered in the shadows when they should have been spoken aloud. Instead of focusing on the wrongdoing, many of us run to our “ideological” corners, condemning those we disagree with, ignoring the misdeeds of those we support. Hiding in our philosophical safe places isn’t going to work this time. Today is a reckoning of our own making.
Sexual misdeeds by powerful men is not new. As with all our faults, they have existed throughout time. The “casting couch” has been around from the very first day; it was the “price you had to pay for fame.” This vile quid pro quo was not limited to Hollywood; it existed in almost every enterprise. However, we must remember that very few men participated in this behavior. There are some things from the past worth remembering when reflecting on the mess we are in today. Some might be tempted to ligate the entire past, debating every misstep throughout history, but we must stay focused on the deeds of today. However, there were some “cautionary signs” that forewarned that this crisis of immorality was careening towards us like an avalanche.
We also must be mindful that we are talking about two separate classifications of misbehavior, sexual harassment and sexual assault. I do not want to diminish the seriousness of either one, but there is a distinct difference between the two. Both worthy of our undivided attention, but to intermingle them does an injustice to the severity of each case. We need to stop throwing these incidents into one bucket, it is not fair. Each case is unique, and each victim has a different story. We need to “bite our bottom lip,” and listen.
As difficult as it is for some, we also must temper our response. I am not suggesting we drag our feet, but let us also not make the same mistake we made as a society with the Duke Rape Case, the Virginia Alpha Chapter – Rolling Stones Rape Story, or the day-care molestation hysteria from the 80’s and 90’s. Good people were ruined, and future victims were not believed because we ligated these and countless other incidents in the public arena, and failed. We are walking a very thin line between respecting and supporting the victims, and allowing for the possibility that some of the accused may be innocent. Condemning the innocent and crucifying the victims is a dangerous response, and a mistake we have made in the past that we cannot repeat today.
Additionally, we need to stop the male bashing, and we need to stop putting all men into the same category of the truly guilty. Overwhelmingly, men do not condone or participate in this sort of behavior. I cannot help but look back at a past article, and remind everyone that although the news is discouraging, we are surrounded by decent men. As a society, we have invested so much unearned faith in powerful men. Actors, politicians, and sports stars that not only disappointed us, but are a disgrace. Maybe we should heed the words of a wise man and remember that “Gentlemen do not pat themselves on the back or send out press releases proclaiming their importance. Gentlemen wake up in the morning with a simple mission, to serve their family and their community, often without our gratitude or simple acknowledgment (http://www.fosters.com/news/20170226/where-have-all-gentlemen-gone). “
There are many lessons to be learned from this flood of moral failing, but I can’t help but state the obvious: we have been here before, and our indifference has come back to haunt us. It is rather amazing to watch the blatant duplicity on the part of so many. In some cases, our political or social status will determine what and who we believe. You don’t support Roy Moore, believe the women. You support Bill Clinton, attack the women. You support Trump, attack the women. You support Joe Biden or Al Franken, dismiss the allegation; call them “dumb” or a misunderstanding. Flip the statements to suit your needs.
Our inconsistency in this regard is only serving to compound the issue. In 1998, Uber-Feminist Gloria Steinem defended then embattled President Clinton, going so far as to callously suggest that Clinton was merely guilty of what “seems to have made a clumsy sexual pass,” ignoring other serious allegations, including rape. Yet, in 2018, Steinem went full-throttle at President Trump when several women came forward and accused Trump of sexual misconduct. Steinem’s topsy-turvy position in 1998 has come back to haunt her, and all the people who took the same view.
Atlantic Magazine Caitlin Flanagan recently reminded us far too often our political allegiances determine our response – “The notorious 1998 New York Times op-ed by Gloria Steinem must surely stand as one of the most regretted public actions of her life. It slut-shamed, victim-blamed, and age-shamed; it urged compassion for and gratitude to the man the women accused. Moreover (never write an op-ed in a hurry; you’ll accidentally say what you really believe), it characterized contemporary feminism as a weaponized auxiliary of the Democratic Party.” How many of you did the same thing? How many of you are doing the same thing now? I guess the end justified the means.
It was not just Flanagan. New York Times reporter Michelle Goldberg wrote – “Of the Clinton accusers, the one who haunts me is Broaddrick. The story she tells about Clinton recalls those we’ve heard about Weinstein.” Then there were Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s comments to the New York Times, stating that Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. I do not want to re-litigate the whole Clinton mess. I want to point out that our behavior in the past only served to encourage these predators.
We have seen this over and over again. Yet, Hollywood (and some of you) continued to idolize Roman Polanski after he was convicted of drugging and sodomized a 13-year old girl; yet now you’re aghast by the allegations against Roy Moore. Producers gave Polanski jobs, actors ran to appear in his films, and he was presented with award after award. Some in Hollywood would have us believe that we must separate the talent of the artist from the moral failing of the man, which is ridiculous and dangerous.
Our attuite and inaction towards Polanski delivered Weinstein. Hollywood not only condoned this behavior for decades, but they were also complicit in emboldening a whole host of sexual predators. Remember this was the very same institution that lectured us, yet at the same time knew about these predators and did nothing. They let young actors and actresses walk into the lion’s den, sacrificed to the mantle of Oscar, Grammy, or Golden Globe.
As the list grows, many are asking, how is this possible (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/11/10/us/men-accused-sexual-misconduct-weinstein.html)? The answer is simple, instead of seeking the facts, many of us created the truth that fit our ideological needs. We helped create the environment of distrust, and today is the reckoning of our own making.