Staying in the hurt

Hi Joel,

In answer to your question about what men need to do right now: I have no idea. And worse: this is both men’s mess to handle AND men can’t do it without women, but we don’t owe you the help. Also, we’re not feeling particularly gracious right now.


Right now, I’m simply walking away, mid-conversation, from every man who tells me “It’s really hard to be a man right now.” That’s been three times this week, and it’s only Tuesday. And the walking away is probably a lousy, confusing way of responding to that particularly insensitive statement, but I’m worn out on it. I’m not surprised by Al Franken or Charlie Rose, and I won’t be surprised by the next decent man accused of sexual misconduct. Look: most children who are victims of sexual abuse are abused by members of their own family, so I’m never going to be surprised.

Men who are suddenly concerned that their own “good guy” image won’t protect them are perhaps getting a sense of how those women who followed the rules (don’t date, don’t drink, don’t go out after dark, dress “modestly”) and are still assaulted feel. Remember: being children, living in a nursing home, having a disability, or being in church doesn’t protect innocent people from being victimized, so looking like a decent guy should certainly not protect perpetrators of assault.

Most people who are assaulted are assaulted by people they know and trust. It’s why my own children are pretty carefully monitored, why they are never alone with a piano teacher or a math tutor, why we don’t do sleepovers, why my children are never at home when a plumber or an electrician comes to the house, and why, if other people’s children are in our home, no one else is. My thirteen-year-old isn’t allowed to have friends over to play ping pong in the basement if my five-year-old has a friend over to play Legos upstairs. I do this work so that they don’t have to, but, eventually, they will. It’s rite of passage in patriarchy: defend yourselves, kids, because it’s likely no one will believe you if a grown-up sexually assaults you. 

If that sounds like a lot of work, it’s just the little bit of work that’s required to be a woman. (And for the men reading this who think, “That’s overreacting–I don’t live my life like that,” ask your wife or your children’s teachers if they are doing the work for you.) The constant monitoring, followed by the second guessing (“Did that really happen like I think it did?”), followed by the self-recrimination for letting it happen and for not standing up for yourself, followed by the hopeless of knowing that doing so would have only increased the risk of harm–it’s a burden. So much so that I can’t bear to think of what the world has lost with all the time women have spent doing it.

After a lifetime of being wary, I don’t really care that Jeremy Piven had to endure the indignity of taking a lie detector test. Like, I care in the big picture sense, in that people shouldn’t make false accusations and waste investigatory resources and undermine the credibility of the many people who have been victimized–and also that polygraph tests are baloney. But  of the things that require my attention and deserve empathy, men fearful of being accused of rape right now doesn’t rank high.

So, since they shouldn’t be whining, what should men do?

I don’t know. I don’t know. All my advice is contradictory.

  • If you’ve hurt someone, make it right. But, for God’s sake, you don’t have a right to come back into their life. (Have you ever been on the receiving end of Step 9 of the 12 Steps? It’s terrible.)
  • Fix this without demanding help from people who have been victimized. But don’t presume to know how to fix this without their help.
  • Apologize. Mourn. Repent. But not until you’ve taken done something that demonstrates a commitment to change. Better yet, show me change first, then apologize.

There is an old, shitty object lesson from the purity movement: you give each little lamb in the youth group a small tube of toothpaste and have them squirt it on a piece of paper. Then you tell them to put it back in the tube. They can’t, of course, which is supposed to be a lesson in how you can never undo your sexual history. Or something like that. It’s a pretty awful way to talk to kids about sex.

Image result for toothpaste squeezed from tube

Above, a tube squirts out toothpaste. This had something to do with abstinence, but all I could think about was sex during this particular youth group meeting. 

But it’s a potentially useful way to talk about sexual abuse. Some things you break can never be fixed. As popular as words like “resilience” and “grit” are right now, some people don’t “get better” or “heal” or “bounce back,” and it’s mean of us to hold up exceptional survivors as a standard for behavior. Some of us aren’t “survivors.” But, even here, I don’t mean that sexual abuse makes people broken. Whatever words people use–broken or survivor or victim–, we need to listen, not ask them to use words that better fit with our preferences.

I mean that our current conversation about sexual assault is breaking something else: a code of masculinity that has men protecting men and always doubting victims. Start looking at every man like the sexual predator he’s probably not but very well could be. Then you’ll start seeing the world as women see it.

I don’t want to recover from that. Let it stay broken.




Can Republicans connect their party’s misogyny to their candidates’ violence against women and children?

Hi Joel,

You might think me uncharitable, but I don’t believe Senator Jeff Flake’s shock that his party is supporting child molester Roy Moore. Flake wondered on Twitter today, “Is this who we are? This cannot be who we are.”

Screen Shot 2017-11-10 at 12.10.34 PM

Above, Senator Flake’s either naive or disingenuous Tweet wondering how a party that elected a man who said he likes to grab women by their genitals could possibly support a man who grabs girls by their genitals. Oh, I know that Flake sees that Trump is vile. But Flake still supports a party that codifies laws that hurt women and children, and he has benefitted from the same misogyny that got Trump into office. 

Senator Flake: This is who the Republican Party has been for a long time.

Note: I’m not saying that Dems don’t make excuses for the crimes of their own. I’m saying that, for Republicans, violence against women and children and other vulnerable people is a commitment. It’s part of their party platform. It’s the result of their policies. Why in the world would you expect them to be outraged at personal behavior that aligns with their politics, which consistently say that powerful men should have control over weaker people? In fact, according to Donald Trump says that powerful people taking advantage of weaker ones is EXACTLY how people should act.

Flake has long been invested in the idea that Trump isn’t representative of his party. And I do think that Trump has brought out the worst in conservatives. He hasn’t simply revealed how deplorable so many of them are but has also fostered hatred in them. But it wouldn’t have worked if Republicans hadn’t, since at least Nixon, been overtly waging a war on the vulnerable, and Flake has been a part of that.

Don’t believe me?

Why did a Republican-led Congress allow health insurance for America’s needy children to expire?

Why does the House’s proposed tax bill eliminate deductions that support families, like the personal exemption (which will hurt large families), the deduction for child care, and the deduction for tuition interest?

Why won’t Republican governors or legislatures ban child marriage in their states? (Hint: it’s at least in part because they justify it on religious grounds, just like Moore’s supporters in Alabama do.)

Why do we have 50,000 children in youth prisons (and even more in adult prisons) on any given day? Why do they pretend to care so much about the state of black families but incarcerate black men at such high rates?

Why do Republican-led states spend so much less on public education for children?

Why do Republicans continue to work against women’s health care? I’m not even talking about abortion–I’m talking about access to safe and reliable contraception, prenatal care, breast pumps, and maternity leave that allows women to heal from delivery and bond with their children.

Why do Republicans make excuses for rapists?

Why do they allow police officers who kill children of color to go unpunished?

Or maybe this question will suffice:

Mass shootings are clearly linked to domestic violence: entitled men who feel that they have the right to control women and who lash out when that power is threatened. Because mass shooters often target women, they occur in settings where women and children are more likely to be: schools, churches, daycare centers.

Why won’t Republicans do anything at all to stop violence that disproportionately kills women and children?

Screen Shot 2017-11-10 at 12.43.14 PM

Above, the explosion of gun manufacturing in the US over the past 8 years. And, yes, Republicans have disproportionately benefited from donations from the gun lobby and so have every little incentive to curtail the number of guns made or sold in the US. 

To be fair, Senator Flake is working to keep guns out of the hands of known abusers, which is hardly a heroic position to take if you think that men who crack their children’s skulls forfeit their right to bear arms. And, like his handwringing about conservative defenses of child molestation, it’s a little late. The number of guns manufactured in the US has doubled in the last 8 years. You simply can’t put a gun for every single person in America–including the more than 33,000 who will die by gun this year–into the marketplace and expect that violence won’t happen.

Republicans are quite willing to let those deaths happen. They–the lives of pregnant women, babies, and kindergartners–are the cost of freedom. That is, freedom for men to own guns. The costs to women–our lives, our safety, our babies–isn’t even part of their math.

If Republicans won’t protect women from mass murderers, why would we expect them to protect us from sexual assault?









Listen to women, Part 2 (Or: Complicity is easy!)

The spotlight is getting hot, isn’t it?

Dear Rebecca:

When I’m tempted to get self-righteous about the whole Harvey Weinstein thing, this comes along:

In 2015, I attended the Just for Laughs festival as a journalist writing on behalf of Gawker, a profoundly flawed organization I miss desperately. The organizers of the festival did not know the purpose of my presence was a desire to get to the bottom of Louis CK’s numerous accusations of sexual impropriety. Had they known, I surely would not have been invited to attend. Because Louie, you see, is a “friend” of the JFL organization.

A tall man in a suit approached, relieving her of the duty of admonishing me. He was, in a word, livid. In two words, fucking livid. Red faced, he informed me that JFL is a “family,” that Louie is a member of said “family,” and that I could ask my question on “my turf,” but that this was “our turf.” This wasn’t “that kind” of red carpet, he informed me, it was a “friendly one,” and Louie was a “friend of the festival.” Were I to ask the offending question again, he said, I would be ejected from the carpet. But if I asked “nice” questions, I would be allowed to stay. His demeanor aggressively implied he had no desire to let me do so. Tears stinging my eyes, I apologized to the man who loomed over me, the man I later learned was the COO of JFL, for my indiscretion and said I’d straighten up and fly right.

Now, to be clear, there have been no substantiated allegations about Louis CK — but in recent years, you’ve seen more stories about stories that allude to a possible problem without making definitive accusations. (Again, I feel compelled to say for legal reasons: I don’t *know* that Louis CK has ever done anything untoward, but references to hazy, undefined problems have appeared in high-profile publications like NYMag’s Vulture.) Until last week, of course, we could say the same thing about Harvey Weinstein.

Whether Louis CK has a problem or not, though, here’s the thing I realized while reading the above piece. I don’t want him to have a problem. I like Louis CK! He makes me laugh! He’s even made me think! The world would be poorer without some of the art he’s made!

But … that’s bullshit.

Complicity starts with not wanting to see. Enabling begins with an unwillingness to look truth square in the eye. And the result, often, is that women who have been abused find themselves with few avenues for justice or truth telling because Person X is likable, or made a piece of art that moved us, or has friends in our “family,” or maybe, simply, just makes us money.

I do not know what the endgame will be with Louis CK. I want to root for his innocence. It’s wiser to root for truth. If I’m lucky, truth and innocence will be on the same page. But that hope is not a piece of evidence that has any bearing on what the truth is.

Complicity is easy. Listening to women is … not as easy for a lot of us. But it’s worthier. I hope I do the worthy thing. I’ll keep trying.

With respect,

A dirty, racist etymology

In his post on white justification for violence against men of color this week, Joel mentioned the word cuck, a favorite insult from the alt-right that is fast making its way into the “mainstream” right’s vocabulary. It’s from the portmanteau cuckservative, which combines cuckold and conservative.

The cuckhold part is an aviary metaphor. A cuckoo bird will lay its egg in another’s nest for that bird to raise. It starts to appear as a metaphor in Medieval lit, most notably “The Miller’s Tale” by Chaucer, to describe a man whose wife is cheating.

Image result for cuckoo bird

Above, the very ugly, very mean, very selfish, very smart cuckoo bird. 

It’s also the major theme of Othello, a tragic love story about a jealous black man murdering his white wife. (“I will chop her into messes! Cuckold me?”).

It’s also a fetish (a word that I use with no pejorative meaning) as Joel notes when he draws from an article on the term that originally appeared in GQ back in August:

The cultural importance of the cuckold in America is rooted in racism: in pornography, the wife of the cuckolded (almost exclusively white) husband is most commonly sleeping with African-American men, meant to provide an additional layer of humiliation if the white husband sees that man as “inferior.” In the world of pornography meant to elicit humiliation as an erotic sentiment, cuckold porn takes advantage of its viewers’ racist perceptions.

That’s also a source of the use of the term in white supremacy/alt-right circles: they see men who enjoy this fetish as weak, emasculated, effeminate, and not properly in control of/protecting their women/nation. The collapse of white women with White Womanhood with White Nationalism happens pretty quickly from here.

White nationalists thus use cuck to describe conservatives who don’t mind their nation (women) getting “fucked over” by people of color. One example: When ex-Breitbart writer Ben Shapiro criticized this “alt-right” website, Milo Yiannopouls (who was behind the racist Twitter attacks on actress Leslie Jones) sent Shapiro, upon the birth of his son, a photo of a black (biracial) baby–the idea being that Shapiro (who is not black), in leaving and criticizing Breitbart, had become a “cuckservative.”

Read cuck like “race traitor” or “n—— lover,” but on a larger scale: someone who is deliberately betraying their people by allowing the population to be “polluted,” sexually, genetically, or through immigration. It means being a dupe–like the birds who raise the cuckoos babies. The cuckoo doesn’t even wait for the host bird to leave the nest; it lays its eggs while the nestbuilding bird is sitting right there, attempting to defend its own home and babies, unsuccessfully every single time. The cuckoo is larger than its hosts (three times bigger than the reed warbler, one of the birds it picks on), and it often hatches earlier. If it hatches earlier, it promptly rolls its foster mother’s babies out of the nest; if its foster siblings are born first, it pushes them out.

When racists say cuck (and racists are the only people who say cuck), they are thinking about nonwhites taking over white cultures by infiltrating them, then destroying or displacing people, all while forcing whites to pay for the process: anchor babies, refugees disguised as stealth jihadists, Muslims practicing taqiyya in order to penetrate Western civilization and topple it from the inside, demographic warfare.


Image result for cuckoo's nest eviction

Above, a featherless cuckoo, evil at birth, practices “nest eviction,” rolling its unhatched foster sibling to its death. 

This is why those in the alt-right don’t just talk about people as cucks but whole nations–white, European, Christian nations being dragged down by immigrants. Germany is held up as the primary example in white supremacist circles as a once-strong, homogeneous nation that is now weak, effeminate, emasculated, etc., as evidenced by its inclusion of Muslim/brown/immigrant bodies. Sweden is another place criticized for polluting its white population with brown and black skinned immigrants. If you wonder why Trump criticizes these nations for their immigration policies (even when such criticism sounds like nonsense to the rest of the world), know that he’s not talking to you; he’s talking to his extremist friends.

Cuck shows us how the alt-right (and their “mainstream” right allies) think about  white women (as white men’s property (a la Othello or, more importantly, the many women who are murdered each year by men who are “jealous” of their sexual attention) and nonwhites–people who, together, are fucking them over.