Kick Against the Pricks

It turns out that in the tallest skyscrapers and plushest hotels of the most advanced economies, many high-profile men have been acting the part of feudal lords, demanding droit du seigneur from their vassals, the vassals in this case being their female employees and others wishing entry into their fiefdoms. Evidently there’s been a covert system of taxation on female advancement in the work world, with the unluckier among us obligated to render not just the usual fealty demanded by overweening bosses but varying degrees of sexual homage too, from ego-stroking and fluffing (which is gross enough), to being grabbed and groped, to the expectation of silence about full-on rape.

.. historians have written extensively on the importance of gossip and its venues, such as coffeehouses, in fomenting previous revolutions

.. Every revolution has its weapons of choice—once it was muskets and guillotines, this time around it’s “sharing” and media exposure. It wasn’t heads that were rolling, it was careers: contracts yanked, deals canceled, agents quitting, e-mail accounts shuttered.

.. When the Times recently compiled the names of twenty-four prominent men accused of sexual harassment, it did rather bring to mind the spectacle of heads on a pike in a public square

.. If recent events tell us anything, it’s that power is a social agreement, not a stable entity. The despots had power because they did things that were socially valued and profitable, but the terms of the agreement can shift abruptly.

.. Social upheavals like the current one—chaotic and improvised, yet destined—happen when certain echelons retract their consent to existing conditions and make new demands. Gramsci calls it “war of position.” Toppling power isn’t about storming the Bastille these days, it’s about changing the way people talk and think. If our upheavals come dressed in different garb, creating a crisis of authority for those in power is still how the world changes.

.. But speaking of unlikely agents, that one of the more significant battlefield wins recently was achieved by a former Miss America, Gretchen Carlson, is tough for those who’d prefer their feminist victories to come from women with better feminist credentials.

.. Unfortunately you won’t learn any of this from Be Fierce—you don’t get $20 million without a nondisclosure agreement.

.. It’s from Sherman we learn that Carlson secretly recorded her meetings with Ailes on her phone for a year and a half—including his remark that the two of them should have had sex long ago to resolve their differences, spoken sometime before she was fired (after an eleven-year stint as a newscaster) and sometime after she lodged complaints about the climate of sexism at Fox, for which Ailes labeled her a “man hater” and demoted her.

.. The less job security you have, the worse it is; fast food workers are especially vulnerable.

.. Women who come forward are likely to be passed over for promotions and good assignments, or find their jobs mysteriously eliminated.

.. On rare occasions when a boss-harasser is actually fired, the woman who brought him down often gets treated like a leper by his allies. The majority of those who report harassment end up in different jobs, which makes it understandable that, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 70 percent of women who are harassed don’t report it.

.. Have a plan before you go to HR or you’ll find your options predetermined; you may have a mandatory arbitration clause in your employment contract you don’t know about

.. Trump himself boasts of barging into dressing rooms in the Miss Teen USA contest to gape at unclothed teenage girls. Upon purchasing the Miss USA franchise, he says, he “made the heels higher and the bathing suits smaller.”

.. The “idealized pedestal” Miss America gets put on is itself a form of disempowerment, Carlson eventually came to realize. True, and if you flip to your local Fox affiliate, you’ll see the same compliant femininity distilled to its purest iteration. Like beauty contestants, the women of Fox are hired on the basis of looks, then laminated into near mannequins.

.. The point is that the way Ailes expected “his” women to dress makes clear the role they were expected to play: receptacles

.. If those who signed on had difficulty speaking out about harassment in the workplace because they felt shame regarding the trade-offs they’d made—and many have said that they did—shame is what women are meant to feel in this equation.

.. The convenience of misogyny is that men are spared from hating themselves because they have women to hate instead.

.. You want to know when to tell someone to shut up and when to jump out of a moving car.

This would also involve the ability to distinguish between force and power.

.. Those who didn’t buy into it seem to have fared better. The actress Lupita Nyong’o recalled several encounters with Weinstein in an essay for The New York Times. When he trotted out his familiar moves, she refused to play the expected role: when he asked to give her a massage, she turned the tables and gave him one instead, consciously putting herself in control of the situation. When he tried taking off his pants, she walked to the door, not giving him the satisfaction of seeming intimidated. And he backed down. She seems to have understood that Weinstein may have had power over her career, but he didn’t have power over her, and making that distinction gave her more options for negotiating a bad situation.

.. Anthony Weiner has been the public face of the sexual tic for some years now: a man of demonstrable intelligence under the sway of a compulsion so intellectually disabling that after a string of previous life-wrecking exposures, he still allowed himself to be set up once again, this time by a fifteen-year-old. Anyone could have seen from ten miles away that it was a frame—anyone but Weiner, that is. (The girl later said she was trying to influence the course of the 2016 presidential election, which she probably did—James Comey reopened the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails after seizing Weiner’s computer once his new friend turned him in.)

.. feminist Dorothy Dinnerstein’s The Mermaid and the Minotaur (1976): the problem for men is that they had mothers.

.. Mother-dominated child-rearing, thought Dinnerstein, is the reason behind men’s loathing of women and everything culturally inscribed as female

.. men can’t give up ruling the world until women cease to have a monopoly on ruling childhood. To push Dinnerstein’s speculations to an even gloomier place: do mothers take out on their sons the abuses they themselves have suffered at the hands of men?

..  Online feminism is itself a playground of bullying and viperishness, most of it under the banner of rectitude.


Eyewitness to a Title IX Witch Trial

She did however conclude, splitting hairs with the impunity of a papal inquisitor, that while Ludlow may not have forced Hartley into a relationship, he did manipulate her into one. This was the essence of her case against him, despite the fact that the relationship hadn’t violated any university codes.

.. When I eventually read the two reports, I found them shocking. At every turn, speculation and guesswork became the basis for establishing “a preponderance of evidence,” the standard demanded by the Office for Civil Rights in Title IX cases. The reasoning was frequently ludicrous. Potentially exculpatory evidence from Ludlow was ignored. And the gender bias was incredible — exhausted clichés about predatory males and eternally innocent females were apparently sufficient grounds to convene this massive show trial.

.. Though it was staged as an actual trial, both of Ludlow’s accusers had declined to participate, meaning there was no opportunity for his lawyer to question their stories, meaning the whole thing was, judicially speaking, an elaborate sham.

.. But however rickety their case, I could see why the university needed Ludlow to go away. For one thing, he’d become a public-relations nightmare. When student activists staged a protest about the university’s handling of sexual-misconduct cases (namely Cho’s), they did it, cannily, at the kickoff for a $3.75-billion university fund-raising campaign

.. a feminist philosopher at the University of Toronto named Jessica Wilson, had volunteered to testify as a character witness for Peter Ludlow.

.. But however rickety their case, I could see why the university needed Ludlow to go away. For one thing, he’d become a public-relations nightmare. When student activists staged a protest about the university’s handling of sexual-misconduct cases (namely Cho’s), they did it, cannily, at the kickoff for a $3.75-billion university fund-raising campaign

.. Ludlow told me he was thinking of pulling the plug and resigning. As his faculty adviser, I advised him against it, but he didn’t foresee a positive outcome; also he was bleeding money on lawyers who were no match for the university’s, numerically or otherwise.

.. There had also been an ugly exchange with the faculty panel’s counsel, who could be exceedingly unpleasant, at one point chewing Ludlow out so viciously (over whether he could switch counsel midway through the proceedings) that he was reduced nearly to tears in front of a roomful of people. I’d never seen anything like it in all my years in academe, and it’s not like academic aggression is unknown.

.. Also, she’d had an epiphany: Northwestern hadn’t operated or conducted itself in good faith, and its “inner machinations” had been driven by a singular motive: protection and preservation of the institution at all costs.

.. To call this letter convoluted is an understatement, since if the findings in her case had been faulty, the fault lay in Northwestern’s Title IX officer believing Cho’s story. Besides, I had a hard time grasping what Cho could possibly hold Northwestern responsible for. As far as I could see, the university had merely tried to stay in compliance with the incoherent directives on Title IX issued by the Education Department, even if that meant trying to fire a professor by using as evidence the statements of a student who’d already cast doubt on the reliability of her own statements.

.. It’s an unprecedented behind-the-scenes view of just how haphazard and, frankly, incompetent the kangaroo-court system that reigns on American campuses can be. Reading through it was appalling, and believe me, I’m not unjaded when it comes to institutional power.

.. Personally, I don’t think he abused his power. The problem was that he didn’t share the conception of power in vogue in academic precincts. Yes, Ludlow was guilty — though not of what the university charged him with. His crime was thinking that women over the age of consent have sexual agency, which has lately become a heretical view on campus, despite once being a crucial feminist position. Of course the community had to expel him. That’s what you do with heretics.