11.19.2017 No Comments

On Sexual Overreaction

We’ve heard over and over about the bad behavior of men, sexual predation, sexual harassment, and on and on. Roy Moore dating 14 year old girls. Donald J. as a serial womanizer and harasser. Louis CK whipping out his thing. And Harvey Weinstein, tapes of whom are simply sickening!

The country is in the middle of a great reckoning and it makes sense. There has been too much misuse of power, too much sexual harassment. The imbalance here between the sexes (just think, the “weaker sex??”) needs to be addressed. Such misbehavior needs to be addressed. And in the halting and stumbling way we do these things, we Americans seem to be beginning that process.

But its easy to tar all the so called harassers with a single wide tar brush, and that too will be a mistake. For example, in the New York Times recently, Nicholas Kristof wrote “the recent scandals involving Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K. and Al Franken underscore that liberals can be skunks as much as anyone else.” Equating all these is simply dangerous, and invites a backlash (of which this blog post is one).

Al Franken is not a skunk at anything like the same level as Weinstein. Louis CK is icky, but even here I’m not convinced of skunkiness at anything like his level of blatant misuse of power. But for sure, Franken is being undeservedly tarred with that same brush of skunkness. (Full disclosure; I liked Franken as a comedian and admire him still as a politician.) Lets think on 4 aspects of that picture and her account:

a. The picture: Franken was a comedian and an entertainer, playing around and showing off on an airplane with a buddy. God save us if we can’t play, joke or pretend with our friends! A joke at the expense of another, perhaps. A joke what was maybe unfunny, though I wasn’t there. But clearly a joke. Jokes often push limits, and that’s what MAKES them funny. But lets not get caught up in what Franken calls the “dehumorizing” that Republicans used against him in his first campaign.

b. The Republican: Leanne Tweeden, the woman who brought this out, is not only a Republican, but an avid Trump supporter and defender. What she says should be subjected to a grain of salt. Much as Donald J spoke of the bevy of his attackers as politically motivated, don’t we as a country think that we ought to at least discuss?

c. The Breasts: If you google Leanne Tweeden’s images, a gaggle of semi naked pictures of her from Playboy and elsewhere come up.

This is a woman who has consciously and intentionally paraded her breasts to advance her career. She is certainly entitled. But the simple fact of the matter is that she played on her, ahem, figure to become the celebrity she was. The very reason she was on that USO tour and plane was that she had used her body to attract attention, particularly the attention of men. It doesn’t give a man the right to demand sex or the like. But if someone claims to have “one of he great memories of all time”, aren’t we entitled–nay, nearly REQURED–to joke about him when he forgets? If you parade yourself as having enormous biceps, show them off, isn’t it APPROPRIATE, isn’t it FUNNY, to kid around about your bulging muscles? Don’t you in fact INVITE such joking around? Franken was playfully following the lead she herself had created.

d. The Response: There’s got to be a more nuanced response to a range of bad acts than “off with all their heads.” Franken is not a skunk at anything like the same skunkhood as Donald J or Moore or Weinstein. There have got to be more responses to various levels of misbehavior.

Come on folks! Get a range of grips!

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