The Creepening – A Tipping Point

My first memory of thinking for myself politically and socially was the Anita Hill, I want to say “trial,” because that what it looked like to me. Really it was an inquiry into the history of Supreme Court nominee and later (like in the next day or two) justice, Clarence Thomas. My grandfather, in a few ways a “deplorable,” had choice things to say about Anita Hill’s credibility, gender, and race. Some of the rare epithets he used were epic and never repeatable. But I couldn’t help but find her very cool and credible under questioning of that nature. Also very smart and patient with a cadre of old white sexist pigs. We used to call them chauvinists.

anita-hill-legacy-04
Not at all an intimidating setup. 

Although her testimony was considered a “watershed moment” by Time magazine and others, the discussion seemed to stall out and then we were on to the whole witch-burning that was the Monica Lewinsky mess. In fact the 90s and early 00s was the age of “I’m not a feminist, but . . .” statements. Among the few girlfriends I had the party line was “While acceptable to acknowledge that things are difficult for us as women, don’t get all political about it.” In other words, lean on your sisters for support, but don’t join forces and try to change things in an activist manner.

It’s truly remarkable that it’s taken this long for us to circle back around to the pervasive problem of how men treat women and how the powerful exploit anyone they can. An awesome history prof in college announced to us one day that the Internet would change the world in ways couldn’t predict.

48807968-cached
Not with all the monkeys and typewriters in the world. 

A positive consequence is the way in which all people can have access to one another and we now truly have a public forum to tell our similar and awful stories. As amazing Aspie Malcolm Gladwell writes in The Tipping Point:

“If you want to bring a fundamental change in people’s belief and behavior…you need to create a community around them, where those new beliefs can be practiced and expressed and nurtured.”

This particular tipping point is about behavior, obviously. The belief being nurtured at the moment is “Women are credible and this shit happens all the time.” We are expressing our outrage at the sexually exploitative culture that has been protected and ignored. What need to practice is communication and empathy. We need to shuffle off the silence. Due diligence is very important, but numbers don’t lie even if you think women do.

I have this gut feeling that the Cosby exposure was a precursor to the Weinstein thing.  Recent documentaries like The Hunting Ground (campus assault), The Invisible War (assault in the military), Audrie & Daisy (assault in high school) have shined a bright and honest light on the pervasiveness of what has been going on this whole fucking time. And they’re available on Netflix so they’ve reached a wide audience. Enough exposés in print media have covered sexual harassment and assault in various milieus like national parks, the cannabis industry, state legislatures, and media outlets too numerous to link. Yeah, bitches can be crazy but that dysfunction you are seeing is the consequence of a good percentage of the population quietly dealing with trauma and deep disrespect on a daily basis. It wears you down and makes you mistrustful. So does the gas-lighting.

Well-publicized trials of rapists have also flooded the news in the past couple of years. Rapists who don’t get much of a comeuppance. Brock Turner, the (white) Vanderbilt gang rapists, Bill Cosby, Roman Polanski, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton – there’s a long list of people who have yet to face the music for their actions and the subsequent cover up of those actions.

And now there’s a simmering resentment even among women who have been apolitical. The Creepening will become the Reckoning.

ct-womens-march-national-pg-20170121
Pictured: ain’t havin’ it anymore

These last few months have been harrowing even if you’ve never personally experienced any kind of harassment or discrimination. How many men I admire will break my heart? Which means it’s been rough for nearly every woman on the planet because it’s a rare women who doesn’t have a few stories. I talk to women who claim they’ve never had anything bad happen to them, but then they’ll tell me about “this one time” when a situation got really weird and it messed them up for a while or they lost an opportunity.

The Women’s March marked the official start of a new wave of feminism. One that, hopefully, will change some policies and attitudes for the better. One that addresses the intersectional difficulties of the multiply oppressed. I’m no idealist who thinks that perfect equity (different from equality) is achievable. Human beings are also naked sex monkeys who are hardwired to assert dominance over one another and establish hierarchies. I don’t see that changing any time soon; in fact, it will be our downfall and the reason we will never populate the stars. ( . . . find new life and new civilizations.)

This time is important, but I can’t help wondering if it will peter out with only minor changes. Here’s hoping it doesn’t.

SaveSave

Woman of the Day: Olivia Benson

Mariska_SVU

The unthinkable happens and a bad man harms you. Never fear, Olivia’s here. If you live in New York, that is. Before you know it, a tall woman with the doe eyes of a movie star will tell you, unequivocally, that none of this was your fault and we are going after him like Leo goes after the Oscar. {Congrats Leo; you should’ve won for Gilbert Grape.} Your case will receive the utmost priority and Olivia will be at your beck and call with soothing sympathy and big-sister hugs. God, I love her. I wish Special Victims Units were a real thing that actually existed. I wish the process was as fast as a 42 minute show. I wish all dangerous people were prosecuted and put away the first time they are charged with a terrible crime.

Unknown
I think my monkey’s paw is defective.

But Olivia Benson is actually Mariska Hargitay. She’s an actress on a TV show. An awesome actress, but not a person you will ever see at the worst time of your life. Some grizzled cop with a drinking problem will take down your story and then ask a bunch of questions about drugs and alcohol. What were you doing out late, partying? Do you have a boyfriend? Why didn’t you fight him? Are you sure those marks weren’t self-inflicted? Huh? Why did you say goodbye after it was over if it wasn’t consensual? Why did you decide to go to work before you went to the police? Why aren’t you standing in the rain screaming at the cruel heavens?

anigif_enhanced-28968-1395932488-20_preview
Simmer down, Leo!

And, for the most part, those guys will get away, go about their business, and never even see the inside of a jail or courtroom. Mostly because women (and men) know the cops won’t be sympathetic, or won’t believe you, or will actively protect the interests of the accused instead of the traumatized. Mostly because it’s hard to face the justice system and risk being torn apart again. Olivia Benson and the attractive, yet flawed warriors of SVU are a collective wish fulfilled. Much like Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing, SVU is a palliative that has reached many, many people, to assure us that sanity rules in these areas of life when the reality is far messier, discouraging.

In fact, Mariska tells of the shock she got when she began receiving direct letters from people who have seen the show. “I remember my breath going out of me when the first letter came, and I’ve gotten thousands like it since then. That these individuals would reveal something so intensely personal—often for the very first time—to someone they knew only as a character on television demonstrated to me how desperate they were to be heard, believed, supported, and healed,” says she on her site for the Joyful Heart Foundation.

logo_0
Providing spa retreats for rape counselors since 2004.

That’s what happens when you are the only show on TV that spotlights victims of exploitative and sexual crimes. No lie, victims don’t know where to go. In my city we have one state-sponsored rape crisis center that is very hard to find or call.  No Planned Parenthood and the nearest clinic to get any kind of abortion or free birth control is hundreds of miles away in every direction. The police are known to be sexually abusive to women. Not many rapes go to trial here, but they happen here a lot. Scores of exploited women go to jail, but the Johns and pimps don’t have any consequences.

Prostitute 02
Not an empowered career choice.

So what do you do? You reach out to who you do see talking about a problem you have. Olivia Benson is a bit pushy sometimes, but she’s always understanding and patient. Cops are just pushy and usually male. Olivia is empowered to sling a rape kit right to a sympathetic ME for fast results. She can bully a perp into confession without so much as a request for a lawyer. She has no pesky paperwork to grind through. She can be on call all the time (before baby Noah came into there life, that is). No lawyers or obtuse officers succeed in stopping SVU from getting to the bottom of the truth.

Thanks for your years of service Olivia Benson.

dick-wolf-law-and-order-svu