In an interview with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi disappointed me a little. Although she quietly pushed Rep. Conyers to give up his role in the House Judiciary Committee, she seemed to dismiss the claims of his accusers, claiming she did not know who they were.
This isn't quite what I want to see in response to claims of sexual harassment in this day and age. I respect John Conyers for his long years of service and his generally being on the side of right, too. I think he is an icon politically and has done some good. And yet, even icons fail. Even "good guys" screw up. The point is that there really isn't anyone so sacrosanct that we can dismiss the claims against them. This is why, even though the claims against Sen. Franken bear a certain whiff of rodent carnality, I'm reserving my judgement about why his accusers are being heard now--because for a long time, so many would-be accusers' voices were never heard, because they would not have been believed. Yes, maybe some claims are going to be flummery. But we can't get anywhere by dismissing people out of hand, and we need to create a process for people being heard out and supported.
Rep. Conyers is 88 years old. Maybe you can call this ageism on my part to suggest that one of the things I find very troubling is the idea that the Representative is not quite as able as he needs to be and is not as in control of his own behavior as he should be. He is still putting up a good fight. But I want to know that the leaders of my party are truly capable of carrying out what they promise us. I need to know they understand that times are changing, and that they will need new, young, vital and unstained people to move into safe seats, get their bones made, and move up into leadership. They need to be working now to mentor and motivate people to run for House seats and become the leadership we need tomorrow. Like, Tuesday. Actual tomorrow.
Without intending it, Rep. Pelosi kind of sent a message that if it were politically expedient, she would maybe throw accusers under the bus. That is not ok.
I think she understood she fell short later on, after the interview, but I would have felt so much better about this if her instincts were right-on in the first place. I do have to wonder if this is in part, a generational thing--a difference between her expectations, and what I might expect.
Another interview that was "not quite there" was an interview in The Guardian of Susan Sarandon. Now, I don't hold Sarandon to the same standard that I would Pelosi. She is an actor first and an activist second and for a lot of things, her heart seems to be in the right place. She cares about climate and the death penalty. She knows inequality exists--she just isn't in a place to experience inequality except as a person in the upper end. So maybe her ideas of economics fail. Maybe she claims Hillary Clinton would have lead us to war as president, notwithstanding we were already in Iraq, Syria, much of Africa, Afghanistan, etc., and that the GOP choice has apparently revised the ROE of our alleged anti-terror combat to be more tolerant of civilian casualties, and the failure of Trump to even acknowledge diplomacy as an option has lead to the utter degradation of the State Department.
I don't expect her to understand that. I wish I could. I wish the understanding that diplomacy is the better part of military valor and Clinton would have elaborated on that was a commonplace not just for her, but for, you know, people who vote in elections as a general thing. But what I shudder at is her understanding of feminism as "strident" and "shrill". Her interpretation of what Weinstein et als being recognized as abusers means, seems stuck in the "nobody sees" camp. She is happy to dismiss. She succeeded. Isn't victimization culture about failure?
This is what we might call "exceptional feminism"--women who prevailed despite sexism (which might being owing to white privilege, class, or connections) have experienced a privilege that many women don't, and therefore don't even entirely grasp the discussion. I feel like we need a better and broader understanding of intersectional feminism to even start these conversations without prominent voices stalling them.