By Rev. Kate Braestrup
If you wanted a nice example of why so many Americans no longer trust the mainstream media, you couldn’t do better than to read Jia Tolentino’s Comment Limits of Power in the October 30 edition of the New Yorker.
Reacting to recent allegations of sexual abuse, assault and rape against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, Tolentino offers a list of men who used positions of power to sexually abuse and assault women: Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and Donald Trump.
“Thanks to the advent of mainstream feminism, these women have been supported, to an unprecedented degree, by much of the media and the public,” she writes. “At the same time, political backlash insures (sic) hard limits for this support.” She goes on to point out that while Cosby, Ailes and O’Reilly lost their reputations and livelihoods, Donald Trump was elected President, and laments that “the increasing narrative clarity about male power does not always translate to progress.”
Why no progress? Well, let’s consider that narrative clarity for a moment. Anyone happen to notice who is conspicuously absent on Tolentino’s list of powerful and predatory males? Bill Clinton.
Whatever creepy things Trump did on the debate stage or said on the Hollywood Access tape, surely Hillary is an old hand at managing abusive men? In addition to her husband, she’s been surrounded by the powerful and predatory throughout her long and, we are told, illustrious career. Not only did she consider the repulsive Weinstein a good friend (and generous donor) but Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer and even Trump himself were pals to be hobnobbed with, not creeps to scorn. And last but definitely not least, she remained married to Bill even after he had been credibly accused of rape and numerous sexual assaults and abuses, a man who used his position as the Alpha Male of the Planet to extract sexual favors from a woman young enough to be his and Hillary’s daughter.
In an essay written for Vanity Fair in 1998, journalist and feminist Marjorie Williams excoriated her fellow feminists who had explained and excused their boy Bill, and muddied the “narrative clarity about male power” they claimed to be committed to. Williams wrote:
[Clinton] has been sued for sexual harassment over an episode that allegedly included dropping his trousers to waggle his erect penis at a woman who held a $6.35-an-hour clerical job in the state government over which he presided. Another woman has charged that when she asked him for a job he invited her into his private office, fondled her breasts, and placed her hand on his crotch.
A third woman conceded to friends that when she was a 21-year-old intern she began an affair with the man — much older, married, and the head of the organization whose lowliest employee she was. Actually, it was less an affair than a service contract, in which she allegedly dashed into his office, when summoned, to perform oral sex on him. After their liaison was revealed, he denied everything, leaving her to be portrayed as a tramp and a liar. Or, in his own words, “that woman.”
Let us not even mention the former lover who was steered to a state job; or the man’s alleged habit of using law-enforcement officers to solicit sexual partners for him; or his routine use of staff, lawyers, and private investigators to tar the reputation of any woman who tries to call him to account for his actions.
Can you find the problems with his behavior? Take your time: these problems are apparently of an order so subtle as to escape the notice of many of the smartest women in America — the writers, lawyers, activists, office-holders, and academics who call themselves feminists.
Do we really need “internalized misogyny” to explain why a majority of white women in America (few if any of whom are likely to be unfamiliar with the problem of powerful men and sexual abuse) looked at the choices, shrugged, and pulled the lever for Trump? There are indeed “significant constituencies in America who are not yet interested in holding men accountable for abusive behavior.” One such constituency is, evidently, American feminists. Another is the Democratic Party. And yet another is the mainstream media, as exemplified by the New Yorker.
“A genuine challenge to the hierarchy of power will have to come from those who have it,” Tolentino sadly concludes.
I couldn’t agree more.
Copyright 2017 © Kate Braestrup