The reckoning we've been having over sexual harassment has been piling on names and stories of harassment and assault in a way that that can tend to enervate. For some, it's a reminder of their own assault, harassment, or other abuse; for others, a discovery that the world is populated by too many abusive men entrusted with too much power over others' livelihoods; or maybe it's a mixture of both. It can be a shock to recognize the blind eye that has been turned to the abuse of others from people who considered themselves protected, or to come to terms with the degree that people with quite clear vision aided and covered up the exploitation and dismissal of the humanity of other people for their own personal reasons.
It's a fucking lot to accept, although a lot of people who have been through it kind of already knew. The insult added to all this injury is the commentary of people who either haven't grasped the pain and waste of all this cultural sexual/sexist bullshit, or will happily lay the blame for all this at the feet of the victims.
A lot of the handwringing has been about how the allegations against powerful men will now derail their careers and cast a pall over whatever work they've done--there's a better point to be made (as Caroline Framke at Vox has done) about how abusers have been gatekeepers that have hounded out and silenced good talented people from their fields. They could have brilliantly mentored them, building teams and encouraging fledgling enthusiasm, but chose to just be petty and treat them with a kind of disregard. I think of Charlie Rose, saying that he felt that he was "pursuing shared feelings". He, the celebrated interviewer--could not be bothered to ask the women what they felt? No--he disregarded them. Their feelings did not matter. The good, productive journalism they could have assisted in did not matter.
I feel the same sort of recognition regarding the allegations against Rep. John Conyers. This employee was disregarded. The patterns of protection from his circle against the accuser's claims just seem too familiar to discount. Her ability to do her job was jeopardized by the very person she was working for. How can that be productive? Whatever good Rep. Conyers has done, I have to consider this sort of thing very seriously because it speaks to his effectiveness as a public servant.
With the politicization of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and rape claims, the defenses are not a great look for any culture. We learn that Congress really has created a system where sexual malefactors never learn from their fuckups. We learn that anti-gay activist Tony Perkins is okay with same-sex sexual harassment, if the perpetrator is also vocally anti-gay and in the process of gathering political power. These are examples of disregard--people not caring who is harmed.
In the defense of former Judge Roy Moore, the arguments go further: Pastor Flip Benham claims Roy Moore may have favored underage girls because older women were either married or tainted. It's disgustingly reminiscent of the abstinence lessons that compare a woman who has lost her virginity to chewed gum. It disregards a woman's value as being about anything but what is between her legs. Pastor Earl Wise performs an astonishing act of victim-blaming, managing to cite the young girls being pursued as having asked for it and looking like they were 20 years old, anyway. I would be interested to know if Pastor Wise has made this mistake about the age of young girls, himself, and whether he ever felt himself the prey of their "sweet dreams".
What I don't hear in any of these arguments is any empathy for why these accusations are being made, or any acceptance that Moore may have behaved inappropriately at all. The accusers are disregarded. But of all shocking defenses, I have to go to Stephen Moore--who equated Roy Moore's underage predation with...being pro-choice. Of all the nonsensical claims that could be made his has the worst math. Both the issues of reproductive choice and not getting raped rely on a respect for bodily autonomy and the world where support for reproductive liberty equals child molestation only exists where one divides both sides by the proposition that women have no rights that a man need respect. This is horrific. Women, their right to and ownership of their bodies, are disregarded. For the sake, as near as I can tell, of tax cuts.
And of course, President Trump likes Moore too. And he would.
This is the disregard that stresses us; the claims that we are liars when we talk about our abuse, or that our abuse doesn't matter because we are taking things the wrong way. This is the narrative that we don't know what is best for us, and the lie that our careers are only made possible by support of "great men". This is the dismissal of children's innocence. This is the blame that falls on victims. This is sexism and class war. This is religion reinforcing a cultural crime.
And while I hate it all, I am glad we are finally airing it out, even though there will be lies, and bullshit, and tears all around. Because too many people have been disregarded and we need to stop and recognize we all benefit when we all can live our potential.
The above scene is Bernini's Apollo and Daphne. Daphne was a nymph pursued by Apollo who chose to be a tree rather than succumb to his advances. Things happen in mythology for reasons. The title of this post is a call-back to the novel by Tim Powers, The Stress of Her Regard. Who got his title from here.