Don Rogers: Who are we, really?
Seems like a dam burst, doesn’t it? All this news about powerful men committing sexual atrocities.
Like we hadn’t heard it before. Like we didn’t know.
Such misconduct long ago reached into the highest office in the land. Presidents Kennedy and Clinton most prominently. Their wildness is well documented. Clinton was impeached for lying about it, basically, and acquitted on account of it all just being politics anyway.
Bragging about what women let him grab, and press conferences featuring women who said indeed he did, couldn’t keep the current president from winning election. It couldn’t even keep a majority of white women from voting for him. Women of color never were.
The dam held, even strengthened through all of that. Boys will be boys. If powerful enough, they’re free to grope and grab and take, say what they want, bribe in the worst sense, bully.
Why? Because they can, I guess. Because the object of their desire is there. Like Everest?
But women are not the highest mountain, the great conquest, these high schoolish pursuits. They’re not another red Maserati, $5,000 Cognac, bauble, plaything, red carpet moment, spoils of office, bragging material.
We’ve lived with these open crudities, even applauded the beasts, aspired to be them, and voted them into office knowing exactly who they are. Or enough of us have, anyway.
So funny it took proving the old casting couch joke true — as if a shocker — to let loose the torrent of #metoo. Harvey Weinstein, the filmmaker with a rep and payoffs to match, was outed by some famous actresses in The New York Times and New Yorker, finally cracking whatever kept everything all nice and private.
The news about him did what even raunchy presidents could not. Suddenly we were appalled.
I thought we’d long ago grown jaded. Hadn’t we just yawned our way through coverage of misogyny among Silicon Valley’s elite? Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes? Been more concerned about the Cowboys’ chances in the NFL playoffs than the fact of Ezekiel Elliott roughing up his girlfriend or one of many chicks …? Certainly the Cowboys made their position clear, fending off his suspension as long as they could. As long as he didn’t kneel.
Maybe, finally, it was because powerful women put their names to Weinstein. Ashley Judd. Then Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Meryl Streep. And so on. Maybe it took fighting fire with fire. Not an obscure professor vs. a Supreme Court nominee, intern with a president, pretty “nobodies” against a candidate.
We’ll rid ourselves of Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Bill O’Reilly, the nice guy at NPR. Since we suddenly notice the inflammation in Sacramento as well as D.C., maybe we’ll shed a legislator, a chief aide, even a lobbyist or two. I don’t know, pass another law.
Maybe we men will think a little harder for awhile about our conversations, our relations, whether there’s something coercive or creepy in our conduct. Maybe there’s some fundamental good at work here beyond the joy of purging big names, laying low the mighty.
I’m cynical, sure, not believing this will last. We’re almost into the rinse cycle again. Repeat may come sometime after the next mass killing, failure to pass tax cuts, Russian revelations, celebrity faux pas, politician on the take, earthquake blamed on global warming, riot over aggrieved white men on the march.
Deeper questions about men and women, desire and behavior, the corrosive qualities of ego, will remain largely untouched, certainly. Too bad.
I’d declare this behavior rare, except every woman I know well enough to talk about it can describe louts and lechers in her life. I mean misconduct, not merely awkward moments.
Still, I’m struck by how little sex infects everyday relations and our many genuine friendships across genders — rich, valuable, thoughtful, pleasant and respectful ones. We are far from these wolves in lust who must be kept penned or set sad rules for ourselves like the vice president to avoid the slightest provocation.
Such prudence doesn’t strike me so much as an expression of character, if surely a step up from groping and grabbing.
Character is something else, isn’t it? Like who you are when there are no witnesses.
Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 477-4299.
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