Whew! busy week. I’m behind on everything. And — ahem — I’m slightly peeved that NO ONE is writing in to tell me what to make of the ending to Take Shelter, which still swims all over my imagination.

In the same vein as that eminently scary film, I’m looking forward to Martha Marcy May Marlene, which is what sounds like a riveting and creepy film about a young woman who becomes drawn in to a cult — and what it means to be seduced in that way. I can hardly wait.

I’ve got a lot on my mind in the wake of the Herman Cain and Jerry Sandusky scandals. Apparently a coach at Syracuse University has now been accused of inappropriately touching two boys. Oh, we all get soooo upset about boys being touched, but all those piles of rape charges against athletes get dropped or written off as “lies” or settled quietly. But more on that soon.

And I have more to say about period dramas, as promised! Oooh, this is going to be good.

Herman Cain “totally respects women,” says his wife, Gloria Cain.

Teaching moment! Why we avoid unnecessary emphasis. (Remember the Seinfeld episode about the overuse of exclamation points?)

  1. Is there a human being alive who doesn’t hear the word totally without adding a Valley Girl voice, thereby undermining all its legitimacy as an emphasis? If only she’d added like — as in, “he, like, totally respects women!”
  2. When you’re making an assertion like “he respects women,” there is no emphatic term that can make it more believable. Let’s run through some options: “he really really respects women”; “he absolutely respects women”; “there is no one who respects women more than he;” or for that matter “he respects women!!!!!!!!!!!!” What you need is evidence, not assertions with emphasis.
  3. I personally would feel much better about this statement if I’d grown accustomed to hearing Herman Cain use the word “women” instead of “girls” and “ladies.” And if he hadn’t used that expression about “letting Herman be Herman.”

So whether writing papers or giving press announcements, please: avoid unnecessary emphasis! Back up a statement with evidence rather than empty words.

And (ahem) the word totally totally does not achieve what you think it achieves.


How would you feel if Jerry Sandusky’s lawyer came out and said, “If there are any more boys out there who’re thinking about coming forward with sexual assault charges against my client, you should think twice”?

How quickly would he be censured? His license revoked?

Yet that’s exactly what Herman Cain’s lawyer did, except he (safely) delivered that threat to women. “Anyone should think twice before you take that type of action,” Lin Wood said, addressing sexual harassment victims considering coming forward with charges. “And I think it’s particularly true when you are making serious accusations against someone running for president of the United States, but I think it’s equally true if you are making those accusations against your next door neighbor.”

Think twice. As if women who’ve experienced sexual harassment haven’t already thought twice — as she weighed the costs of reporting a boss or co-worker. As she thought about feeling derided and violated, yet worried the backlash of her reporting would be worse. As she wondered whether he was serious when he suggested she’d lose their job unless she succumbed. As she got glares from the other women in the office who thought she was flirting with him. As she wondered how to find health insurance if she quit. As she received no help whatsoever from the human resources person to whom she reported it.

This isn’t about someone else. This is about you.

Wood’s threat — from a lawyer! — has to do with the public shaming women will experience if they come forward. Rush Limbaugh has already started piling abuse on Sharon Bialek, the most visible of the accusers. (Can you imagine if Limbaugh tried to make slurping noises about the boys abused by Sandusky?) But this isn’t just a question of verbal insults: I can’t imagine how many death threats have been thrown at Bialek and Karen Kraushaar.

The Cain campaign has raised $9 million since news of the sexual harassment charges came out on October 1. He thinks it’s really funny to recommend that Mitt Romney get charged with sexual harassment to help his poll ratings, because polls still place Cain at first, or tied for first, in the pack of GOP hopefuls.

Readers: what will it take for you to get angry enough to do something about this misogynistic culture? When will you say to yourself, this is enough — I’m willing to stand up for myself and other women?

Because at the rate we’re going, we’re getting to a place where no woman is a “good enough” victim; we’re all bitches now. No rape or assault will be enough to protect you from the charge of being a bitch for reporting it.

You know how to start? Talk about the sexual harassment you’ve received, and talk about why it put you in an impossible situation. Talk about how hard it was to talk about it. Talk about how the frustration is doubled when you feel both violated and silenced. If they’re telling us we are all bitches now, then they’re going to have to hear something in response. Basta!

We are all bitches now

9 November 2011

Herman Cain’s campaign learned something when those reports of sexual harassment claims came out a couple of weeks ago: this is campaign contribution gold. He reportedly received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations immediately, and $2 million within the week. Message: accusations of sexual harassment made Cain more attractive to some donors.

So now you can buy six different versions of a t-shirt like this one, ranging from $17.70 to $29.60 from HermanCain2012shop.com, which donates some of its profit to the Cain campaign. (I mistook this site at first for an actual Herman Cain organization, but I’d forgotten that the Cain campaign isn’t organized enough to have scooped up all these URLs, nor to have produced a website as professional as this one.)

Here’s why I’m not going to laugh at this t-shirt, even if it was created to criticize Cain’s sexual politics, and even if Cain’s star is falling after the news that four women, not just one, have made claims of sexual harassment against him:

  1. A lot of things are funny about the Cain campaign, but not sexual harassment.
  2. Honestly, this t-shirt isn’t even that funny, beyond a mere heh-heh.
  3. For Cain opponents, this t-shirt still keeps Cain’s face front and center and compares/contrasts it with the President’s face.
  4. It’s easy to see Cain supporters wearing this as a fuck-you to opponents, and a fuck-you to women’s rights.
  5. “Grope” denotes playfulness — the very opposite of how sexual harassment feels to women at work.

And most of all, in declaring Cain to be a groper, the t-shirt begs viewers to consider whether that specific charge might be true — which then opens up the broader question of whether sexual harassment charges should be taken seriously — and in our anti-feminist moment, I don’t want a single additional reason to discredit a woman’s ability to achieve workplace equality. In other words, the t-shirt is too flippant, too easily appropriated by sexists, and not fucking funny enough.

Sounds bitchy, right? That’s because every time a woman questions men’s power these days, she lines herself up for being called a bitch. A rape charge against a powerful French politician by a black maid? She’s a bitch and a liar. A sexual harassment charge against a presidential candidate? She’s a bitch and a liar. A blogger who calls foul on such behavior? Don’t even get me started on the list of epithets against her, but Sady Doyle of Tiger Beatdown (whose motto is, “Kumbaya Motherf*cker Central,” which gives me great pleasure) explains in detail.

Y’see, we’re all bitches now, unless we comply. This isn’t about sex — it’s about power. The only way I can see to object is to be a bitch and keep calling out such naked claims to power. Thus my new motto: BE A BITCH — DON’T LET THEM MAKE YOU THEIR BITCH.

Wednesday: bad news dump.

2 November 2011

Fact is, I’m in a cranky mood. The NY Times has a piece that claims “Progress for Women, But a Long Way to Go” — about the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap Report — but I had to read halfway down the page before I learned anything about that progress. One of the contributors to the report explains in the most tepid way, “We are seeing progress in education and health, but we’re not seeing much progress on the economic and political side, which is a big concern.” Woohoo! Let’s write a headline that leads with PROGRESS!

Then there are the reports that sexual assaults on women at various Occupy! protests are not being reported to the police. “We handle it internally,” says one Occupy! leader. Because we wouldn’t want those upset women’s selfishness to ruin the protest?

Shorter University in Georgia demands that all its employees officially reject homosexuality.

And then there’s Herman Cain’s sexual harassment case in the very midst of the 20-year anniversary of the Anita Hill allegations against Clarence Thomas. Don’t even get me started on the many ways these two cases are different — just because Cain and Thomas are both black men does not make the cases similar in the least — but the shoulder-shrugging about why it should matter sure looks similar. “I guess this proves Herman Cain is more like an actual politician than most of us realized,” writes one online commentator. [Feminéma hits head against wall.]

Twenty years since Anita Hill. Twenty years. “Progress” is not the word to explains what’s happened in the meantime.