Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Fury

Last night on her top-rated news analysis program, Rachel Maddow ran ancient (1991) video of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s questioning of Anita Hill, with regard to the awful experience that she was alleging: repeated, wholly unprofessional instances of sexual harassment, at the hands (metaphorically) of then-Supreme Court nominee, now Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas.

I forced myself to stay with it till the end, and it was excruciating. Not merely because of the subject matter; and not merely because Ms. Hill’s parents were in the room at the time, being forced to listen to stories from their daughter’s life that no parent should have to listen to. At least as excruciating was the dogged determination of the questioners, from an all-male Judiciary Committee, to extract from Hill every last lurid detail of various events and conversations, and to spare no opportunity to take from her the refuge of euphemism. Exactly what physical attributes are we speaking of, Ms. Hill? Exactly what name did Judge Thomas assign to his penis, Ms. Hill?

Notably, all of the coveted seats on the Senate Judiciary Committee then were occupied by older white men. Some professed, uncomfortably but inevitably, the wish to get all the evidence “on the record”. Some of them disguised less well their wish to force Anita Hill to recount nearly-unspeakable things in public, in a Senate hearing, before the eyes and ears of the nation, for reasons other than “getting all the details on the record”. You want to challenge the status quo by carrying out what amounts to a genuine act of bravery, Ms. Hill? You’ll have to endure the humiliation once again, then. That’s how it has to be. We say so; as we have said so for a very long time.

Fast-forward twenty-seven years, and how ’bout that. Here we are again.

If and when there is Senate Judiciary Committee questioning of Prof. Christine Blasey-Ford, with regard to her (so far alleged) awful experience: outright sexual assault, at the hands (literally) of now-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh … is there any guarantee that the questioning will be any less excruciating?

Not merely because of the subject matter; and not merely because as recently as 2012, Prof. Blasey-Ford reportedly engaged the services of a therapist in order to further process an event that she says happened when she was a teenager. Most likely, at least as excruciating will be the dogged determination of Committee questioners to similarly extract from Blasey-Ford every last lurid detail of the event, and to spare no opportunity – in as many words, in effect – humiliate her. You want to challenge us, Dr. Balsey-Ford? We’ll take the opportunity to (metaphorically) take you down.

And the most hostile questioning will come from the Republican, Congressional-majority side of the Committee, which is still completely comprised of older white men. (The chairman of the Committee will be Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) … who was on the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991, during the Anita Hill hearings.)

So much has changed, and yet nothing has changed.

And we wonder why women are furious.

In saying this, I will come off sounding like a white knight; a “woke” man trying to ride to the rescue of women; a bandwagon-jumper. Despite numerous blog posts in full-throated support of women, over the last eight years, from Sandra Fluke to the #metoo movement, I recognize that a worthy strategy would be to shut up and step aside. Women can speak for themselves.

(And yet here I go. I know, I know.)

No surprise, then, that the very day after the 2017 Inauguration, a nationwide – no, worldwide – protest … one whose size dwarfed that of said Inauguration, and one which was so large and so vocal that the mainstream corporate media was forced to acknowledge that it had even happened … was called the International Women’s March and was driven by the anger, the rage, the fury of women.

Historically, when women have had it up to here and rightly called BS – whether they were the Suffragettes or Serina Williams – they’ve been called hysterical and shrill and mixed-up and pipe down, little ladies, it’s not your place.

Sorry. That was way too passive-voice. When women have risen up, men have actively worked to shut them down.

In the last month or so, with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York and Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts being not nearly the only examples … it’s begun to become clear that politically, the force-to-be-reckoned-with will be women. Women of color, in those cases, but not exclusively. It’s a force that looks like, and represents the interests of, a constituency that has long been dismissed as hysterical, shrill, emotional, insubstantial, unimportant, not qualified to make decisions.

And that force, clearly, will be driven by firmly-channeled and tightly-focused fury.

In the words of maybe not the most effective feminist icon ever, “That’s all I can stands, cuz I can’t stands no more.”

Not long ago, on the floor of the US Senate, a speech by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was interrupted on allegedly procedural grounds by Senate Majority Leader and ancient male Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Within half a day, Warren (ably assisted by her fellow American citizens and their spectacular meme skills) had turned McConnell’s condescending “nevertheless, she persisted” into a rallying cry and a future campaign slogan. She went on cable news programs and pointedly pushed back against McConnell’s attempt to shut her down. She didn’t yell … but she didn’t whisper either.

This past week, during the early moments of the Kavanaugh hearings, Senate Judiciary Committee member Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) interrogated the Supreme Court nominee in such a clinical and legal-eagle way (“Be sure about your answer, sir,” advised Harris in a tone that was at once glacial and “be reminded that you’re under oath, fella”) that it made me glad not to be the object of her inquiry in that moment. Harris’ voice was calm, but the fuel behind it was more than just one hearing-day worth of frustration and the honed skills of a professional prosecutor.

Flailing anger alone can be dismissed as emotion triumphing over logic, or self-control. Volcanic rage can be written off as short-lived (as demonstrated by a teacher or two of mine, whose explosions at roomfuls of students only had its intended effect for a few minutes) and not worth remembering.

Fury, though … fury is all that emotion, curated. Collected. Concentrated. Unleashed in a specific direction, for a specific purpose, with a specific target.

Such as… well, seven weeks from tonight we get to try and save our democracy, eh?

For my money: as many women as can be elected to Congress, state legislatures, governor’s mansions, local school boards, whatever … will be the best outcome.

No, it isn’t right to generalize about any group of people, whether for weal or for woe. Hashtag “not all fill-in-the-blank”. Not all men…! Not all white people…! Not all people of color…! Not all Republicans…! Not all Bernie supporters…!

Not all women are working for the good of humanity, or even of people who look like they do. Not in a world where people like Ann Coulter and Roseanne Barr and Jeannine Pirro still rate a platform and can behave the way they do.

Not one hundred percent of any group of people are pulling the oars in the same direction.

But I’d be willing to see the world give this particular constituency a whirl, since this is also a world in which people like Rachel Maddow and Carmen Yulin Cruz and Maxine Waters and Aisha Tyler have platforms and behave the way they do.

I can only speak for myself … and I can only offer advice … I can’t force you to do anything.

But I’ll at least let you know … that in November, when I go to the polls, if I look at an election ballot and have a choice one way or the other, I know what choice I’ll make.

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September 18, 2018 Posted by | current events, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It Isn’t Enough To Be the Guy Who Doesn’t Do That

This morning, my friend Daniel Katz wrote, eloquently:

“… ‘me too’ isn’t just about survivors speaking up. It is about the sheer universality of the experience for women. Every woman. Every woman you know. Every woman you care about. Every woman has experienced either sexual assault or sexual harassment at some time in her life. Possibly a lot more than that. We live in a world where this is a universal experience for women, and even if you already knew that in your mind, the gut punch of seeing it everywhere you look in the context of people you love is supposed to be the wake up call.”

That’s exactly, *exactly* what it was. A gut punch. And another and another. All day yesterday. Post after post.

I was not unaware of the problem … I thought. But I hadn’t taken time to consciously consider that it could be so many people that I knew personally.

Which means I was unaware of the problem. Which means I’m some part of the problem.

And me writing about how I felt like I’d been punched in the gut … is fine, but does it recognize that women who have experienced assault or harassment feel that gut punch, over and over?

I didn’t consciously consider that, yesterday. Which means I’m another part of the problem.

And then, this Tweet from the writer Alexis Benveniste, yesterday:

Reminder that if a woman didn’t post #MeToo, it doesn’t mean she wasn’t sexually assaulted or harassed. Survivors don’t owe you their story.”

Or, as my friend Daniel continued:

If any woman in your life does not say ‘me too’ it is not because her life has been free from assault or harassment — it is because she is choosing to not share or because our society taught her that her experiences ‘don’t count’ because other women have had it worse. … Our homes, our social spaces, our public spaces, and our workplaces are dumpster fires of men who think they can objectify, commodify, and own women’s bodies without fear of legal, social, or professional consequences. It isn’t enough to be the guy who doesn’t do that. We have to be the guys who see it and demand that other men change.”

Which I thought I was doing, with a blog post or two in the past … writing well-intentioned things that still made the issue about me, to some degree …

From 2014:

“In thinking about this topic, I first wondered if perhaps the people who are most prone to saying hideous things about (or to) and doing hideous things to women … just lacked any previous interactions with strong women that might have caused them to view women differently.”

As if being a “strong woman” (as assessed by someone else) (someone male, natch) means that one is more deserving of basic respect. As if there were a scale of deserving to not-deserving. Um, no. Care to backtrack, Rob?…

What I was thinking of, I believe … was the sheer number of women I have known, throughout my life, that shaped my understanding of how women were just as worthy of respect as men. To put it bluntly, I have indeed known women who either [1] were exceptionally good at whatever they did, [2] had personalities that included the almost cheerful disinclination to take crap from other people, [3] were wonderful, kind and decent people, or [4] all of the above.”

Fine to appreciate these features, but –really? As if, again, there were characteristics beyond Being A Human Female that qualified one for decent treatment. Not the most effective backtracking, there, Rob.

This list would include my mother [and sister, hello?!] … all of my elementary school teachers … friends from high school … people from that summer arts program I have occasionally referred to … people I met in college … numerous professional colleagues …”

Nice. Better still, would this list not include every woman I ever met, and every one I never met?

By 2016, when there was talk — a specific, out-in-the-open monologue in fact — about unsolicited grabbing and such … I hope I got closer to the target. You can be the judge:

“… I have known many wonderful, strong, competent women, and I want to come to their defense, and they have demonstrated all kinds of reasons for me wanting to do so … but honestly, that shouldn’t need to be a reason. The reason is that they’re humans, and as it says in the Bible that so many people love to quote but hate to follow, ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, and don’t give me that BS about “we’re the kind who LIKE the pain!’.”

It was easy to speak of wonderful people whom I have known, who are deserving of basic human decency because they are themselves humans … in the abstract.

I created that list. (See? All about me, still.)

Yesterday’s torrent of #MeToo posts was very, very concrete.

Those posts made up that list.

And with every new addition to that list, throughout the day, my heart sank further.

Holy hell.

What’s worse than having no idea? Thinking you had enough of an idea, and then finding out that you didn’t, really.

I’m sorry.

There’s a lot of work left to do. I want to try to do it better.

October 17, 2017 Posted by | current events, social media | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teachable Moments

No.

I take it back.

I don’t want Trump out of the presidential race.

I want him to stay in, straight till November 8.

So that he can be crushed, electorally speaking.

So that he can lose an American presidential election by the largest margin in the history of American presidential elections.

So that he can set the record for being the biggest loser.

So that he can lose to a woman.

Then I want as many women as possible to sue him, or better yet, press criminal charges, for sexual assault.

So that statistically speaking, so many women have charged him with sexual assault that he has to be hauled into court in at least one case.

So that he has to testify in court, under oath, under a far bigger spotlight than if he had never run for president.

So that either he has to lie about it, in court, under oath, and face perjury charges … or he has to tell the truth about it, in court, under oath, in public, to be recorded and replayed For. Ever.

Because: of all the awful things he’s said and done … and I have been sympathetically outraged on behalf of veterans, Muslims, African-Americans, reporters, cheesy pre-teen pop singing trios, and a host of other subsets of the American population in the last sixteen months … every one of the groups he’s insulted or denigrated or abused or assaulted have included women.

So the righteously aggrieved expressions that I’ve read online, in response to Trump’s 2005 comments about how he behaved when he was attracted to women, cut across all the lines.

The status posts about Trump’s 2005 comments on my Facebook feed alone, in the last sixteen hours alone, particularly from my FB friends who are women, I have read with wrenching sympathy … because an uncommon amount of pain has radiated from many of those posts.

He needs to do time. And the best reason for him to do time would be because he violated women.

And when he’s convicted of sexual assault and faces jail time, he’ll know that it’s karma that’s come to hit him in the backside: because his entire life has been devoted to making sure everybody except him gets screwed.

And even when he gets out of prison, and thinks that chapter in his life is over … he needs to be followed for the rest of his life by the knowledge that he was beaten in the American presidential election by a qualified, competent woman.

By a woman who didn’t need to rig the system to do it. Who in fact had to face plenty of system-rigging herself, for a very long time before that election.

By a woman who is therefore not so different from many, many other women in the world. Some of whom I am privileged to call friends.

Trump doesn’t just need to be defeated, or beaten, or crushed, or convicted, or jailed.

That guy needs to be taught a lesson.

By the right people.

 

Thirty-one days.

October 8, 2016 Posted by | current events, Famous Persons, news, politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment