“He has demons.” The language of madness is the last resort for a society that can no longer deny the evidence of structural oppression and violence.
We’re through the looking glass now. As women all over the world come forward to talk about their experiences of sexual violence, all our old certainties about what was and was not normal are peeling away like dead skin.
.. “Back in the day we’d all heard stories about it, but… well, the people telling them were all a bit crazy. You know, messed up. So nobody believed them.”
I took a sip of tea to calm down, and suggested that perhaps the reason these people were messed up — if they were messed up — was because they had been, you know, sexually assaulted
.. The process we are going through in our friendship group and in our culture as a whole is something akin to first contact. Abusers, like little green men in flying saucers, have a habit of revealing their true selves to people nobody’s going to find credible — to women who are vulnerable, or women who are marginalized, or who are just, you know, women.
.. So who’s the crazy one now? To be the victim of sexual assault is to fall down a rabbit hole into a reality shaped by collective delusion: specifically, the delusion that powerful or popular or ordinary-seeming men who do good work in the world cannot also be abusers or predators. To suggest otherwise is to appear insane.
.. Something important has changed. Suddenly women are speaking up and speaking out in numbers too big to shove aside.
.. Now, instead of victims and survivors of rape and assault being written off as mentally ill, it’s the abusers who need help.
.. The social definition of sanity is the capacity to accept the consensus of how the world ought to work
.. Anyone who questions or challenges that consensus is by definition unhinged.
.. Suddenly, it’s Weinstein, not the women calling him a rapist and a pig, who gets to be the one with “demons.” He needs to see a therapist, not a judge.
.. What’s the word for what happens when a lot of people are very sick all at the same time? It’s an epidemic.
.. They are not able to express righteous rage without consequence, because they are not men.
.. if you had sought justice or even just comfort and found instead rank upon rank of friends and colleagues closing together to call you a liar and a hysteric, telling you you’d better shut up — how would you feel? You’d be angry, but you’d better not show it. Angry women are not to be trusted, which suits abusers and their enablers just fine.
.. This is what we’re talking about when we talk about rape culture
.. If everyone around you gets together to dismiss the inconvenient truth of your experience, it’s tempting to believe them, especially if you are very young.
.. More to the point, predators seek out victims who look vulnerable. Women and girls with raw sparking wires who nobody will believe because they’re already crazy.
.. Now it’s the abusers who are seeking asylum. Asking to be treated as sufferers of illness, rather than criminals.
.. The language of lunacy is the last resort when society at large cannot deny the evidence of structural violence.
.. We can’t pretend it didn’t happen, so instead we pretend that there’s no pattern here, just individual maladaption. A chemical imbalance in the brain, not a systemic injustice baked into our culture.
.. Lundy Bancroft, who has spent decades working with abusive men, abusers are no more or less likely to be mentally ill than anyone else. “Abusiveness has little to do with psychological problems and everything to do with values and beliefs,” says Bancroft. “Abusers have a distorted sense of right and wrong. Their value system is unhealthy, not their psychology.”
.. The abusers who are now being excused as mentally ill are not monsters, or aberrations. They were acting entirely within the unhealthy value system of a society which esteems the reputation and status of men above the safety of women. Many abusers, on some level, do not know that what they are doing is wrong. They believe that they are basically decent. Most men who prey on women have had that belief confirmed over the course of years or decades of abuse. They believe they’re basically decent, and a whole lot of other people believe they’re basically decent, too. They’re nice guys who just have a problem with women, or booze, or their mothers, or all three.
.. Right now, all around me, I see women working to support men, as well as each other, through this difficult time. It’s not just because we’re nice and it’s not just because we’re suckers, although it’s probably a little bit of both.
It’s because we know how much this is going to hurt.
.. we worry that men are too weak to cope with the consequences of what they’ve done and allowed to be done to us.
.. The threat of extreme self-harm is a classic last-resort tactic for abusers who suspect that they’re losing control, that their partner is about to leave them or tell someone, or both. It’s effective because it’s almost always plausible, and who wants to be the person who put their own freedom and safety ahead of another person’s life?
.. the bone-deep knowledge drilled into us from birth that we were put on this earth to protect men from, among other things, the consequences of their actions. We’ve been raised to believe that men’s emotions are our responsibility. Even the men who hurt us.
.. As the list of names grows longer, the plea for mercy on the grounds of mental illness is being deployed in exactly the same way. These guys are suffering, too. If you carry on calling for them to come clean and change their behavior, well, that might just push them over the edge. And you wouldn’t want that, would you? You’re a nice girl, aren’t you?
.. We are expected to show a level of concern for our abusers that it would never occur to them to show to us
.. I’m worried about the several men I know who have hurt women in the past and who are now facing the consequences. I’m worried about the men who are analyzing their own behavior in horror, who stood aside and let it happen, and who are suddenly realizing their own complicity — and struggling to cope with the guilt, the shame of that knowledge.
.. we can worry about whoever we like — as long as we worry about the survivors first. We were not liars, or hysterical. We were telling the truth.
.. Reframing serial abuse as a mental health disorder stashes it conveniently on the high shelf marked “not a political issue.”
.. sickness does not obviate social responsibility. It never has. Sickness might give a person the overwhelming urge to act in repulsive ways but sickness does not
- cover for them during business meetings or
- pay off their lawyers or
- make sure they get women dropped from films:
it takes a village to protect a rapist.
.. toxic masculinity leaves a lot of broken men in its maw. That culture conspires to prevent men and boys from being able to handle their sexuality, their aggression, and their fear of rejection and loss of status in any adult way; that it is unbearable at times to exist inside a male body without constant validation.
.. People say that they are shocked, and perhaps they are. But shock is very different from surprise. When was the last time you were really, truly surprised to hear a story like this?
.. The truth is that a great many of those surrounding Weinstein did know. Just as the friends and associates of most sexual predators probably know — not everything, but enough to guess, if they cared to.
.. It is easier to cope with the idea of sick men than it is to face the reality of a sick society
.. I’m sure it’s not a lot of fun to be Harvey Weinstein right now, but sadly for the producer and those like him, the world is changing, and for once, cosseting the feelings of powerful men is not and cannot be our number-one priority. For once, the safety and sanity of survivors is not about to be sacrificed so that a few more unreconstructed bastards can sleep at night.
.. We’re beginning a second transition of moral cultures. The first major transition happened in the 18th and 19th centuries when most Western societies moved away from cultures of honor (where people must earn honor and must therefore avenge insults on their own) to cultures of dignity in which people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transgressions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There’s no more dueling.
.. Campbell and Manning describe how this culture of dignity is now giving way to a new culture of victimhood in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture. But they must not obtain redress on their own; they must appeal for help to powerful others or administrative bodies, to whom they must make the case that they have been victimized. It is the very presence of such administrative bodies, within a culture that is highly egalitarian and diverse (i.e., many college campuses) that gives rise to intense efforts to identify oneself as a fragile and aggrieved victim.
.. Indeed, the core of much modern activism, from protest rallies to leaflet campaigns to publicizing offenses on websites, appears to be concerned with rallying enough public support to convince authorities to act. [p.698]
.. A second notable feature of microaggression websites is that they do not merely call attention to a single offense, but seek to document a series of offenses that, taken together, are more severe than any individual incident. As the term “micro” implies, the slights and insults are acts that many would consider to be only minor offenses and that others might not deem offensive at all. As noted on the Oberlin Microaggressions site, for example, its purpose is to show that acts of “racist, heterosexist/ homophobic, anti-Semitic, classist, ableists, sexist/cissexist speech etc.” are “not simply isolated incidents, but rather part of structural inequalities” (Oberlin Microaggressions 2013). These sites hope to mobilize and sustain support for a moral crusade against such injustice by showing that the injustices are more severe than observers might realize.
.. Rather, such forms as microaggression complaints and protest demonstrations appear to flourish among the relatively educated and affluent populations of American colleges and universities
.. Microaggression complaints are largely about changes in stratification. They document actions said to increase the level of inequality in a social relationship – actions Black refers to as “overstratification.” Overstratification offenses occur whenever anyone rises above or falls below others in status. [Therefore…] a morality that privileges equality and condemns oppression is most likely to arise precisely in settings that already have relatively high degrees of equality
.. [In other words, as progress is made toward a more equal and humane society, it takes a smaller and smaller offense to trigger a high level of outrage. The goalposts shift, allowing participants to maintain a constant level of anger and constant level of perceived victimization.]
.. It is in egalitarian and diverse settings – such as at modern American universities – that equality and diversity are most valued, and it is in these settings that perceived offenses against these values are most deviant. [p.707]. [Again, the paradox: places that make the most progress toward equality and diversity can expect to have the “lowest bar” for what counts as an offense against equality and inclusivity. Some colleges have lowered the bar so far that an innocent question, motivated by curiosity, such as “where are you from” is now branded as an act of aggression.]
.. Honor is a kind of status attached to physical bravery and the unwillingness to be dominated by anyone. Honor in this sense is a status that depends on the evaluations of others, and members of honor societies are expected to display their bravery by engaging in violent retaliation against those who offend them (Cooney 1998:108–109; Leung and Cohen 2011). Accordingly, those who engage in such violence often say that the opinions of others left them no choice at all…. In honor cultures, it is one’s reputation that makes one honorable or not, and one must respond aggressively to insults, aggressions, and challenges or lose honor. Not to fight back is itself a kind of moral failing, such that “in honor cultures, people are shunned or criticized not for exacting vengeance but for failing to do so”
.. Honorable people must guard their reputations, so they are highly sensitive to insult, often responding aggressively to what might seem to outsiders as minor slights (Cohen et al. 1996; Cooney 1998:115–119; Leung and Cohen 2011)… Cultures of honor tend to arise in places where legal authority is weak or nonexistent and where a reputation for toughness is perhaps the only effective deterrent against predation or attack
.. The prevailing culture in the modern West is one whose moral code is nearly the exact opposite of that of an honor culture. Rather than honor, a status based primarily on public opinion, people are said to have dignity, a kind of inherent worth that cannot be alienated by others
.. Insults might provoke offense, but they no longer have the same importance as a way of establishing or destroying a reputation for bravery. It is even commendable to have “thick skin” that allows one to shrug off slights and even serious insults, and in a dignity-based society parents might teach children some version of “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” – an idea that would be alien in a culture of honor (Leung and Cohen 2011:509). People are to avoid insulting others, too, whether intentionally or not, and in general an ethic of self-restraint prevails.
.. Unlike the honorable, the dignified approve of appeals to third parties and condemn those who “take the law into their own hands.” For offenses like theft, assault, or breach of contract, people in a dignity culture will use law without shame. But in keeping with their ethic of restraint and toleration, it is not necessarily their first resort, and they might condemn many uses of the authorities as frivolous. People might even be expected to tolerate serious but accidental personal injuries…. The ideal in dignity cultures is thus to use the courts as quickly, quietly, and rarely as possible.
.. Public complaints that advertise or even exaggerate one’s own victimization and need for sympathy would be anathema to a person of honor – tantamount to showing that one had no honor at all. Members of a dignity culture, on the other hand, would see no shame in appealing to third parties, but they would not approve of such appeals for minor and merely verbal offenses. Instead they would likely counsel either confronting the offender directly to discuss the issue, or better yet, ignoring the remarks altogether.
.. But insofar as they share a social environment, the same conditions that lead the aggrieved to use a tactic against their adversaries encourage their adversaries to use that tactic as well. For instance, hate crime hoaxes do not all come from the left. [gives examples] … Naturally, whenever victimhood (or honor, or anything else) confers status, all sorts of people will want to claim it.
.. Ley notes, the response of those labeled as oppressors is frequently to “assert that they are a victim as well.” Thus, “men criticized as sexist for challenging radical feminism defend themselves as victims of reverse sexism, [and] people criticized as being unsympathetic proclaim their own history of victimization.”[p.715] [In this way, victimhood culture causes a downward spiral of competitive victimhood.
.. What we are seeing in these controversies is the clash between dignity and victimhood, much as in earlier times there was a clash between honor and dignity…. At universities and many other environments within modern America and, increasingly, other Western nations, the clash between dignity and victimhood engenders a similar kind of moral confusion
.. Add to this mix modern communication technologies that make it easy to publicize grievances, and the result, as we have seen, is the rise of a victimhood culture.
By stepping up to the line without crossing it, a commander in chief tacitly acknowledges that a line exists.
.. President Trump does not possess the sense of nuance a well-told joke requires. He does not seem to know when he is pushing the envelope.
.. This refusal to recognize the unwritten rules that govern us, so evident during Mr. Trump’s failed attempts at humor, is a central feature of his presidential tenure thus far. If a leader does not understand the idea of benign violations, blatant violations inevitably occur.
.. Presidents can either laugh at the strangeness of their circumstances or be consumed by them.
.. Without the qualities that laughter both demonstrates and fosters —
- a willingness to find common ground,
- the respect for agreed-upon norms and
- the awareness that we are all only human —
Mr. Trump’s attitude toward the presidency is defined by the one characteristic that remains: a lust for power.
.. Thanks to the power of the internet, there is proof that our president has indeed laughed at least once. This was during a campaign rally in January, when Mr. Trump’s speech was interrupted by a barking dog.
“It’s Hillary!” an audience member shouted. And the candidate tilted his head back, opened his mouth wide and laughed without reservation, quite possibly for the first time in his political life.
This documented incidence of Trump laughter is as illuminating as all the grim smiles that preceded it. For they reveal a president who is constantly, endlessly preoccupied with status.
If it is a one-off, this strike is the very definition of a symbolic pinprick. It was launched with highly precise weapons against the airfield from which the Syrian chemical attack emanated. According to reports, we apprised Russian personnel at the base beforehand, meaning the Syrians effectively had advance warning as well.
In other words, if this is all that we have in store for Bashar al-Assad, President Trump’s dismayed anti-interventionists don’t have that much to worry about and interventionists have less to celebrate than think (more about them in a moment). Assad can go on killing women and children — he will simply have to use less efficient and more conventional weapons to do it. What a massive moral victory for the West!
•.. Look, I get why — morally, strategically, and legally — chemical weapons are different than conventional ones. But if my entire family and village were wiped out with bullets and bombs rather than chemical weapons, I wouldn’t draw much solace from any of these distinctions.
.. But Trump opposed enforcing Obama’s red line back then, nevertheless. The difference, as Trump admirably admitted from the Rose Garden, is that he’s president now and that changes your perspective on things.
.. That is a sound argument. But it was just as sound in 2013. Trump’s real motivation seems to be the fact that babies were “choked out” and that he saw it on TV. And it is this apparent fact that should give everyone — supporters and critics alike — the most cause for concern.
.. But the problem with charismatic leaders is that they are often a kind of Rorschach test. People project onto them what they want to see. I’ve lost count of how many conversations I’ve had with hardcore Trump fans who’ve described wildly different Donald Trumps — not simply different from the man I see, but different from each other. As a matter of logic, not all of these assessments can be right.
.. Earlier this week I wrote a column about how the core problem with Trump’s presidency so far isn’t his lack of an agenda or his tweeting or any of that. It’s Trump’s own character.
.. I do talk to a lot of people in and around the Trump administration. And the simple fact is that the chaos in the Trump White House is an outgrowth of the president’s personality. He’s mercurial. He cares more about status, saving face, respect, “winning,” etc. than he does about any public policy.
.. I think he’s sincere in his views about immigration, trade, excessive regulation, etc. But they take a back seat to Trump’s desire to maintain his charismatic status (which is why we’ve seen so many stories about how he gets mad at staffers who get good press — a really bizarre attitude for a manager when you think about it).
.. As Rich put it the other day, writing about the (first) push for Trumpcare:
Trump, for his part, has lacked the knowledge, focus or interest to translate his populism into legislative form. He deferred to others on legislative priorities and strategies at the outset of his administration, and his abiding passion in the health-care debate was, by all accounts, simply getting to a signing ceremony.
.. The strike on Syria is the single best proof that Trump has no overriding commitment to any ideological position. And I say this, again, as someone who supports the strike.
.. If Trump can abandon his position on this — all because of some horrific pictures on TV — what position is safe?
.. The fact that some in the Trump-can-do-no-wrong crowd are setting their collective hair on fire over the Syria strikes is a sign of ideological health (even if, again, I disagree with the substance of their complaint).
.. But the idea that the chaos in the White House is a function of bad staff is grossly unfair, even to Bannon. The chaos isn’t a bug in the Trump program — it is the program. It’s how he likes to run things. He could bring in a whole new roster of people, the result will likely be the same.
.. But pragmatism about ends isn’t pragmatism at all, it’s Nietzschean nihilism. If your goals are made slaves to your desire to seem like a winner, then the question of what you “win” at becomes entirely negotiable.
.. Conceptually, this is the difference between a knight and a mercenary. A knight fights for certain lofty ideals; a mercenary fights to win and reap the rewards. Politically, this is the lesson of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s governorship. He decided that he’d rather be a successful liberal governor than a failed conservative one.
.. if I were a committed America Firster like Coulter and Ingraham, I’d see this for what it is: incredibly positive reinforcement for a politician who responds to flattery more than most.
.. second, I’d recognize that the lesson Trump might learn from this is that your poll numbers and press clippings get better when you throw your biggest fans under the bus and listen to the establishment, Jared Kushner, or Lord knows who else.
There exists a species of person — typically a well-groomed overachiever — who, when asked where he or she went to college, rather than state its name directly, will provide a Russian nesting doll set of geographical responses.
In New England. Massachusetts. Well, Boston. Um … Cambridge.
Finally, sotto voce, with an apologetic wince or sheepish smile, anticipating the word’s being volleyed back in an affected
.. that formerly contrived embarrassment may be ceding to sincere shame and a reassessment of the merits of a Harvard education.
.. Daniel Golden’s 2006 book, “The Price of Admission,” about how the rich buy their way into elite schools, has become newly relevant for its disclosure that Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, received acceptance to Harvard despite an unremarkable academic record, possibly thanks to his father’s donation of $2.5 million.
.. A spokeswoman for Mr. Kushner denied the allegation, noting that Mr. Kushner graduated with honors; Mr. Golden observed that, in a climate of rampant grade inflation, so did about 90 percent of Mr. Kushner’s graduating class of 2003.
.. The acquisitive-rather-than-inquisitive Harvard grad is not a baseless stereotype: Nearly two-fifths of the class of 2016 said they were going into finance or consulting
.. By comparison, just 6 percent went into nonprofit or public service work, and 4 percent into education.
.. In fairness to Harvard, it asks no contribution from families making less than $65,000 per year and provides sliding-scale tuition for those earning more. The New York Times 2015 College Access Index, measuring schools’ efforts to promote economic diversity, ranked it 11th over all and fourth among private colleges, far ahead of places better known for their diversity, such as Oberlin (ranked 132nd).
However, its ratio of federal Pell Grant recipients (for low-income students) to endowment per student is much less impressive.
.. over a third of the student body comes from families earning more than $250,000 a year (the wealthiest 4 percent of households), with more students from the $500,000-and-up 1 percenters than $40,000-and-below families.
.. A 2005 book, “Equity and Excellence in American Higher Education,” determined that, all else being equal, top schools do not offer any admission advantage to low-income students, despite lip service to the contrary.
.. Some parents, though, including alumni, are rebelling against the Harvard-or-bust mentality, not only because of the stresses it places on their overworked children, but from misgivings about the conformist and careerist atmosphere of the Ivy Leagues.
.. “I would like my kids to find their passion, take risks and be curious, engaged, educated people,”
.. “Elite schools discourage kids from being that; they want them to build résumés, to build careers, to be cautious. The kinds of people who go to Harvard tend to be people who succeed by traditional metrics, and that continues after Harvard. I’d like my kids not to be so beholden to those metrics.”
.. “only privileged people” like himself “can afford not to be concerned” about the attainment of privilege.
.. he encounters more students who question whether going to a prestigious school “is something that’s really going to make me happy and lead to a fulfilling life.”
“But there’s a feeling like you don’t have a choice” in an increasingly aristocratic society in which one’s college is a primary determinant of status, he added.
.. what privilege says about each of our characters — makes us uncomfortable. Our privilege forces us to question our worthiness and our merit, two of the things most highly valued at an institution like this one.”
.. Is the Trump campaign about the man or the message? In other words, will Trumpism survive Trump?
.. I solicited white Americans’ support for Donald Trump, but also for a hypothetical third party dedicated to “stopping mass immigration, providing American jobs to American workers, preserving America’s Christian heritage, and stopping the threat of Islam”—essentially the platform of the UK’s right-wing British National Party, adapted to the United States. How many white Americans do you think would consider voting for this type of protectionist, xenophobic party?
Clearly, Trump’s allure is bigger than Trump himself.
.. those who would consider voting for this third party are more likely to be male, of lower socioeconomic status, without a university education and ideologically conservative—in other words, the Republican Party’s longtime base. They are also more likely to be young (under 40 years old)—so this is not a phenomenon likely to pass quickly.
.. if Republicans, in an attempt to appeal to independent voters and the growing minority population, pivot away from Trump’s rhetoric, they could face internal upheaval, and perhaps even widescale defection to a third party from this 65 percent of whites. On the flip side, if Republicans do allow Trumpism to define the party, they risk ushering in an era of unprecedented Democratic dominance. Current polling predicts a Democratic landslide.
.. From six months of fieldwork in post-industrial cities in the British and American Rust Belts, I observed a remarkable sense of loss. Lost wealth in many cases. But more poignantly, I observed a sense of lost status.
.. For Democrats, their challenge is to draw white working class voters into their diverse coalition by convincing them that challenges in the household and workplace are general working class challenges that have very little to do with being white.