The social tsunami against authority-related power

Introduction

by Sarah Conard

Like it or not, history will remember the final months of 2017 as the beginning of the end of an abuse-of-power era in American business and politics that has been occurring since the dawn of patriarchal society. All potential future legal consequences aside, we are witness to an historic civic phenomenon where social media serves as a prosecutor representing survivors, the court of public opinion serves as a judge, and the accused perpetrators’ affiliated institutions serve corrections actions. Without today’s social media technologies, none of the above would have been possible before or during the Bill Clinton presidency. Some say, had Twitter been around at that time, he may not have gotten elected.This civic phenomenon occurring before our eyes, with an inertia beyond our ability to comprehend in real time, is a never-before-witnessed social tsunami of allegations, revelations and collateral damage—both in terms of outed survivors and ousted alleged perpetrators. “Alleged” because in the majority of these cases bombarding us with by-the-minute daily media reports, statistically none have yet been convicted in a court of law. There’s no legal due process here. Then again, due process is for our constitutionally crafted courts of law and not the court of public opinion.

Bill Cosby was a mere hint at what is now a cultural abuse-of-power-reveal epidemic logarithmically accelerated by recent allegations against Hollywood’s Harvey Weinstein, the momenta of which continues to be fed by allegations against the likes of Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, Minnesota Senator Al Franken, television icon Charlie Rose, and a myriad of others, the majority of whom can be described as Caucasian men of power. In fact, the similarity amongst accusers is how the allegations themselves are founded on improprieties by perpetrators possessing some degree of authority-related power.

However, that’s where the allegations’ similarities end. The allegations themselves range from the discomfort of inappropriate language to the lifetime-trauma of rape. The survivors are nearly all women.

Where an extreme refers to the #MeToo survivor movement destigmatizing, the other extreme calls it a media feeding-frenzied crucifixion. Analyses of this nation’s immediate social-norm Armageddon are as varied as the volume and scope of the accusations themselves. How seriously should these allegations be taken? How severely should punishments be levied? And, ultimately, how will it end?

We’ve invited a host of individuals whose opinions we respect to offer their views in response to the above questions. We offer their opinions in the following pages in hopes of delivering what we strive to do best: present debate sides and leave it to our loyal readers to decide.

Reach DCP Editor-in-Chief Sarah Conard at Editor@DaytonCityPaper.com.


#MeToo

Education is key

By Megan Garrison

As I observed the #MeToo movement flooding across social media outlets, I sat in awe. It was refreshing to see women (and men alike) empowering themselves after days and weeks of hearing about powerful men and their sordid pasts. The truth of the matter is that, years ago, I stopped being surprised by the atrocities people in power commit. Especially when it comes to a man’s power over a woman.

What I was surprised about was the connection and peace I felt at seeing people I would never have guessed could sympathize with one another come together in that moment. Even if some people say that social media movements never amount to anything, I know that for us women who have faced this type of adversity it was a spark that would ignite something more. Something that will grow bigger until it consumes us all. The truth of the matter is that never before have so many women been able to find common ground across oceans and cultures in a mere matter of minutes.

After my rape, there were myriad of fears that sunk into my skin. I was afraid of men. Afraid of being alone. Afraid that somehow it had been my fault because maybe I was too drunk, too flirtatious, too provocatively dressed. I was afraid that it had been something I had let happen, instead of realizing that it was something someone had forced onto me. Most of all, I was afraid that no one would ever understand the hurricane of emotions that surged just below the surface. I remained silent for a long time in the presence of those I loved. Who would believe me? And even if they did, who would care? Shame is a powerful burden. And for women, that shame is often the backbone of our psyche.

Eventually I learned what all survivors learn: it wasn’t my fault. I cannot be defined by the actions of another. And I will not be seen as damaged or a victim by the very society that teaches young men that it’s okay to take advantage of whatever and whomever they want.

And that brings me to where I think this social tsunami should go. Education. Young boys need to be taught that women are not theirs to possess. Young girls need to be taught that they never owe anyone their bodies. Sex is not currency. Whether you are in a small town in Texas, a large university in Dayton, Hollywood, or even the White House, there is never a reason that people should feel that they do not have control over their bodies and their own choices to do whatever they want with their bodies. Sex and sexuality are beautiful aspects of the human condition. But I don’t want to live in a society where sex and sexuality are sold to the highest bidder against the thundering voices shouting, “No!”

There are moments when I want revenge. I want to see my rapist killed. I want to be the one to kill him myself. I want to watch him rot in jail. I want him to die alone and scared. And on those days, I have to take a step back and realize that even he was a product of his environment. He was raised in a society where women were second-class citizens. Where sex was a means to an end and not an expression of love and security. And then I no longer want revenge. I want to sit across a table from him and tell him that what he did was wrong. Tell him about the world and forgive him.

Accusations are not always about punishment. They aren’t just to get revenge. They are about someone finding a voice after they having been silenced for years. It’s about reaching deep inside of yourself and saying that you matter just as much as your abuser did when he or she decided they could have any piece of you he or she wanted.

There is no way to right all the wrongs of the past. There are just too many. But we can change the future. We can change it by looking at what is happening right now. How there is this global connection amongst women who all found a voice in a hashtag. There were no allegations, no punishments divvied out. It wasn’t about their abusers. It was about awareness.

Do I fear that this will just fizzle out and everyone will go back to his or her live as if nothing ever happened? Of course. We are creatures of habit, us humans. Power makes us hungry. Hunger makes us greedy. I know that in the end that change may not happen in my lifetime. But all it takes is one spark, one generation, to change the next. And I am all for dismantling the patriarchy in the hope of equality.

Reach DCP freelance writer Megan Garrison at MeganGarrison@DaytonCityPaper.com.


Here come the sex police

If you mix the sexes, expect harassment

By Ron Kozar

What, the City Paper asks, explains this outpouring of complaints and admissions of harassment?  It all stems from Women’s Lib, the Sexual Revolution, and other 20th-Century innovations that ignore human nature.

Before the 20th Century, women were always and everywhere seen as weak, touchy, and in need of protection, while men were scary aggressors with weird appetites that had to be tamed.  Society therefore evolved rigid rules governing the sexes’ interactions.  So it was that fathers oversaw their daughters’ courtships and made feminine modesty a point of honor, while mothers told stories warning that men were big, bad wolves who want to do awful things to Little Red Riding Hood.  People knew better than to mix the sexes in a common workplace or to let an unmarried man into a room alone with a woman.  A woman’s place, people said, was in the home.

But then we decided we knew better.  We began looking indifferently upon coed colleges and workplaces, allowing and even encouraging daughters to seek jobs in boardrooms and construction sites and to shoulder arms as soldiers and police.  We stopped making women hide their legs and cover their skin, and began displaying their near-naked bodies on billboards and magazines.  Then the arrival of The Pill brought a Sexual Revolution that relieved the tedium of lifelong monogamy, replacing it with the present regime of free, easy, unsentimental mating.  Today, in the words of our leading philosopher, Larry Flynt, “It’s just sex.”

But human nature has not changed.  Women are still the weaker sex and always will be.  The proof is in “#MeToo” tweets from millions of Red Riding Hoods who sob about being scarred for life by gropings and grabbings that would just make a man laugh.  And no seminar on sensitivity will ever eradicate the male brain stem or the voracious animal that dwells there.  Even prissy dweebs like Charlie Rose or Al Franken, who mouth all the right feminist platitudes, will still wag their penises at you or cop a feel off of you the minute the door is shut.

And where, the City Paper asks, will the tsunami take us?  It will take us to a new priggishness, a neo-Victorian re-regulation of interactions between the sexes that will far surpass what we now have.

You can guess the shape those new rules will take from the surreal enactments at our kookiest colleges, or from the Obama administration’s “Dear Colleague” letter of 2011.  The idea is to stack the deck in favor of Red Riding Hood and to take rights away from big, bad wolves.  Today, no means no.  Tomorrow, sometimes yes will mean no, and the man who thought yes meant yes will be fired, exiled, convicted.  Obama wanted to ditch the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, replace the idea that you’re innocent until proven guilty with a presumption that you’re guilty unless you prove yourself innocent, and curtail the right to cross-examine a female accuser.  Until now, our legal culture concerned itself only with rapes and assaults.  The day is approaching when it will also prosecute mere badinage.  These rules are coming soon to an employee manual near you.  And when the next swing of the pendulum brings the Democrats back, those rules will arrive in statute books, too.

It won’t work.  Victorians suppressed the fires of sexual abuse by keeping the inflammable substances in separate, well-sealed containers.  Today, having combined the reactants and shaken the mixture vigorously, we have too vast a conflagration.  Feminists, however, won’t let us put the chemicals back in their jars.  Women will not retreat from the male workplace, devote themselves to premarital chastity, or cover up those pretty body parts they package so alluringly.  On the contrary, as the City Paper discussed this summer, feminists want to push the envelope of undress even further by legalizing public toplessness.  They want to be in-your-face sexy, but they want to sue you if you compliment, whistle, or stare.  They want to pour more gasoline on the very fire they want to suppress.

Eventually, the new priggishness will elicit a reaction.  Normal people are amused by the goofy stories that are coming out, but they don’t particularly mind them.  The votes people cheerfully cast for proven lechers like Bill Clinton and Donald Trump show that such high jinks no longer matter to the common man.  The ones shouting for blood, the ones whom companies and TV networks will fire anyone to placate, are feminists, not ordinary people.  You can irritate conservatives with impunity, even forgiveness, as Ellen DeGeneres and the NFL show.  But to offend the humorless, tight-lipped feminist of today is to invite a firestorm of boycotts and pink-hatted recriminations that no sensible CEO wants any part of.

So this whole silly spectacle will continue unfolding for a while.  Enjoy it while you can.

Ron Kozar is a lawyer in Dayton. Reach him at RonKozar@DaytonCityPaper.com.


Relationship status: it’s complicated

A social tsunami of sexual allegations

By Leigh Walden

In 1776, John Adams faced the daunting task of helping to compile a code of laws that would govern the fledgling nation of America. (Hardest group project ever.)

During this time, John and his wife, Abigail, often exchanged letters—in which Abigail did not shy away from dishing her husband some real talk.

“I desire you would remember the ladies,” she wrote to him in March of that year, “and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. … Remember all men would be tyrants if they could.”

She concluded: “If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation.”

It would seem that this year would have been a very good year for Abigail.

The recent torrent of sexual assault allegations by (primarily) women against (primarily) male politicians, celebrities and members of British parliament seems to indicate a true resistance against the years-long abuse of power in the world’s most powerful industries.

So why so much, and all at once?

Basic psychology tells us that victims of sexual assault often hesitate to speak out against their abusers, particularly if the perpetrator is in a position of power. For centuries, women in rape cases have been reproached for ruining the reputations of the men they accused.

Moreover (and something we should all remember as we continue to hash and rehash this topic): these are painful, personal memories. When a victim speaks out about a crime, they relive the event over and over again.

But when a single person’s story is raised as part of a movement, everything changes. It’s easy to see how it could take something like the #MeToo campaign to make an individual feel empowered enough to speak up.

So what happens next?

Last week, The LA Times reported the Los Angeles Police Department now has 28 open investigations related to Hollywood and media figures, including Harvey Weinstein, actor Ed Westwick, writer Murray Miller, and agent Tyler Grasham. The department has also taken 37 other sex crimes reports that it has sent to other law enforcement agencies, believing the alleged crimes occurred in those jurisdictions.

It’s going to take a long time for these investigations to conclude—which means the headlines aren’t going to change dramatically any time soon. It’s likely the sheer number of allegations actually applied the pressure that was needed to open these cases; but it’s equally likely that the volume will strain law enforcement’s time and resources. Here’s hoping each case is investigated patiently and equitably.

What’s at stake?

Regardless of the results, it’s true that names like Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer will probably never be separated from accusations of gross misconduct against women in the workplace. Whether the allegations true or not, there are some horrifying stories surfacing about these guys.

But it is here that I urge caution: there are more reputations on the line.

Women around the country are celebrating the demise of powerful men—sacrificial symbols of the patriarchal bullshit many of them have endured their entire lives.

But this argument dances on a razor’s edge.

If even one allegation turns out to be false, the fight is over, and with catastrophic results.

Imagine fulfilling the stereotype of the hysterical woman who overreacts and lies for attention.

Imagine slapping the word “women” all the way back to the 18th century.

Imagine ruining the opportunity for anyone else to accuse a powerful person of sexual assault and expect due process.

This “social tsunami” means every individual’s story is amplified. It means workplace creeps might be more likely to keep their hands to themselves. And it’s likely to give way to another tidal wave: its success could encourage other groups to unite under a shared experience. Its failure could mean the next group never gets that chance.

The ladies have indeed fomented a rebellion. But they would be wise to remember that they are the underdogs in this story, with everything to gain, and just as much to lose.

Reach DCP contributing writer Leigh Walden at ContactUs@DaytonCityPaper.com


Of predators, peccadillos and propinquity

An inglorious conclusion

By David H. Landon

Important Notice: to Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Matt Lauer, Bill Clinton, Anthony Weiner, Senator Al Franken, Kevin Spacey, U.S. Rep. John Conyers, Charlie Rose, Garrison Keillor, Bill O’Reilly, and Roger Ailes. Gentlemen, (and I use that term loosely based on what I’m reading), there is a disturbance in the force. Apparently, your past practice of assuming that because of your position and power that all women wanted your clumsy sexual advances or wanted to see your penis on display in your office or in other bizarre locations, has come to an inglorious and spectacular conclusion. Those days are over, finished, done. It’s been a long time coming, but women are reporting on men behaving badly, and they are generally being believed.

I have a group of close friends with whom I attended the University of Dayton School of Law. In this group of 8 or 10 men and women, I am the lone Republican. We’ve had spirited debates over the years but value our friendship over our political differences. One such debate occurred over a dinner party I was hosting in 1998, in the middle of the Clinton/Lewinsky/Ken Starr political circus.

The conversation went something like this.  “How can you support this witch hunt being conducted by Ken Starr against the President over a few sexual indiscretions? It’s only sex! It should be a matter between Bill and Hillary and not the rest of the country. Are you that much of a prude?” I responded, “Ok. So let’s say Monica was consensual. How about all of the women who are raising the issue of his inappropriate behavior against their wishes?”  Their response mirrored the talking points of the leading feminist of the day. “How can you believe those bimbos and trailer trash over Bill Clinton, who is a hero of women’s rights?”

This widely accepted rational by the left, excusing Bill Clinton’s predatory behavior, set back the protection of women in the work place by 30 years. That bastion of feminism, Gloria Steinem, characterized the assaults by Clinton as “passes,” writing: “Even if the allegations are true, the President is not guilty of sexual harassment.” Some on the left are just now recognizing the damage Clinton and his enablers, especially his wife Hillary, caused to women’s safety. In her recent column in the Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan wrote a political piece entitled, “Bill Clinton: A Reckoning.” In it she wrote that the inability in recent years for victims to be believed when they alleged sexual harassment was the “Bill Clinton experience.” Although he was “very credibly” accused, the public driven by a political agenda determined to protect Clinton would not give the charges serious consideration. What a difference 20 years has made.

The news of the day would seem to indicate that sexual harassment is widespread. A recent Quinnipiac University poll this week showed 60 percent of American women voters say they’ve experienced it. Every day for the past several weeks since the dam broke on Harvey Weinstein’s predatory exploits, a new revelation about a high profile male celebrity acting badly leads the news. More and more women are finding the courage to report misogynist behavior, even at risk to their careers. These stories are being amplified where they were once stifled. Social media certainly plays a role in keeping these stories on the public radar. Stories are clicked and shared across the broad Internet spectrum and information, sometimes without regard to accuracy or nuance, is repeated over and over again.

Wherever men and women are placed in close proximity – whether that is on a job, on a movie set, on a political campaign, or on a naval vessel at sea, there is always the possibility of flirtation and fraternization. The shelves at Barnes & Noble are filled with stories of workplace romance.  Where there is mutual consent and interest, as well as equality of station, these relationships are as old as time and will always be with us. The problem is when there is a superior involved and the parties are not on equal footing. We have to thoughtfully come to some kind of national consensus about the workplace romance, where there is a red line acting as a barrier to the romantic inclinations of the boss.

Where will this phenomenon ultimately play out? To the extent that we’re bitterly divided along a political fault line, each side is more than willing to bash someone on the other side when a revelation comes out while reserving judgement on their own players’ sexual peccadillos. Even so, there’s no going back to expecting that brutish behavior won’t have consequences or that “slut-shaming” will work as a defense to that behavior.

David H. Landon is the former Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party Central Committee. He can be reached at DaveLandon@DaytonCityPaper.com


#GuiltyToo?

Men, women, and ogling in the age of social media

By Tim Walker

This may not be the year to go hanging mistletoe up around the office, if you know what I mean.

The parade seems endless. The patriarchy that spawned Bill Clinton, Clarence Thomas, Donald Trump, and Bill Cosby has gone on to begat Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, judge Roy Moore, Russell Simmons, and Kevin Spacey. The list grows long. Countless victims, at long last feeling empowered, knowing that their stories will finally be heard, are speaking out. Countless people who have suffered sexual harassment, unwanted advances, inappropriate behavior, and even outright rape, are coming forward at last and speaking up about the many abuses they’ve endured over the years at the hands of men in positions of power.

Make no mistake – it is the new, unchecked, and unwieldy power of social media that is making this social tsunami possible. Right or wrong, the public and corporate America is judging and convicting people based on the scantiest of evidence, and it’s all taking place in real time on our screens while we watch. And while I applaud any victim who finds the courage to stand up to their victimizer, who finds the strength to point out abuse, there are aspects to what is going on that deserve closer scrutiny.

Men and women and the sexual politics that goes on between the two genders is an ever-changing and always volatile subject. It’s been said by more than one woman that, too often, men think with the wrong head. Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not here to advocate on behalf of the dozens of abusive men who are currently in the news. I’m not trying to say that their boorish, disrespectful, and often criminal behavior can somehow be blamed on their testes, on a male’s genetic urge to reproduce, or on the fact that “well, men are just raised that way.”

Women have fought for centuries to gain acceptance, equality, the rights as human beings that they should have had from the very beginning. The right to vote, in the ‘20s, then the right to work, to earn, to live their lives as THEY choose. As THEY see fit. Which includes being able to dress how they want and not be ogled or disrespected by the likes of men like me, for instance.

But. Am I “that guy”?

Last Tuesday morning while making my way to the Dayton City Paper offices, having just dropped my six-year-old daughter off at school, I stopped at the grocery store to grab a few items for my wife’s lunch. Mind you, I’m a 52-year-old husband and father – a trip to the grocery is no big deal. Neither is packing my wife’s lunch or getting my daughter ready for school. As I walk one of the aisles at Kroger and grab a box of crackers, I spot a young woman in yoga pants pushing a grocery cart ahead of me. She’s maybe 20 feet away, browsing in the same aisle. Attractive, early 20’s, in shape. I looked. As she reached the end, she turned left and headed toward the dairy section.

I didn’t drool or stare, but I looked. As I said, I’m a happily married husband and a father. I had no interest in speaking with or in any way pursuing this woman. But I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t look at her butt, or “check her out,” as she walked away from me. Am I a pig? Was I wrong? Does this somehow put me in league with Harvey Weinstein? More importantly, would this attractive young woman have gone to Kroger dressed in said attire if she didn’t expect – nay, invite – exactly this type of attention and admiration?

Later that same evening, my wife and partner of 23 years said she wanted to get the kids in bed early so we could watch the 2017 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, broadcast live from Shanghai, China. For an hour we watched 30 or so scantily clad women, all ethereally beautiful, walking around in this season’s new underwear. And I looked, again. She looked, and commented. We sat there on our couch and admired these women on the runway-as-pedestal, so perfect in their demeanor and powerfully confident in their adopted guise as objects of universal sexual desire. We commented on leg, breast, and behind.

The show, which for a few years pulled stellar ratings, tanked this year. Viewership was down 32 percent from last year, according to the Hollywood Reporter, with just under 5 million people tuning in. CBS’s annual repeat airing of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” first aired in 1964, actually had more viewers.

Are we in the midst of a sea change? Does all of this tell us the objectification of women is nearing an end, or is it all just a social hiccup? Has the glorification of empty beauty, the worshiping of breast and buttock, reached its nadir? Is it time for all of us to just stop objectifying each other? Are we on the cusp of a new generation, where all are judged based on ability and intelligence, rather than beauty and superficial desirability?

I wouldn’t bet on it.

Tim Walker, 52, is a writer, DJ, and chili cook. He lives with his wife and their two children in Northridge, and you can read more of his work at StretchYourBrains.com. Reach him at TimWalker@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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