The New York Times ran a story last week exposing the sordid history of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual predation and payoffs sending shockwaves through Hollywood and beyond. Many have rightly wondered since how this loutish behavior went on for so long without anyone crying foul. (Other than his victims who apparently didn’t warrant defending by those with power in the industry, though they clearly have no qualms calling out bad behavior in those whose politics they oppose — more on that in a bit.) RedState’s own Patterico wrote an interesting piece last night attempting to answer the question as to how the Weinstein story didn’t break before now. He raises a good point about the Lee Smith article in The Weekly Standard which, itself, alludes to another Hollywood mover and shaker who, despite acknowledging his own depravity, is spared being named.
I was particularly struck when I read Patterico’s article by this excerpt from Smith’s piece:
Hollywood is full of connoisseurs like Weinstein, men whose erotic imaginations are fueled primarily by humiliation, who glut their sensibilities with the most exquisite refinements of shame. A journalist once told me about visiting another very famous Hollywood producer—you’d know the name—who exhibited for my friend his collection of photographs of famous female actresses—you’d know their names, too—performing sexual acts for his private viewing. As with Weinstein, this man’s chief thrill was humiliation, and the more famous the target the more roundly it was savored: Even her, a big star—these people will do anything to land a role; they’re so awful, they’ll even do it for me.
That last sentence called to mind the big story from almost exactly one year ago: Donald Trump’s obnoxious comments to Billy Bush on the infamous Access Hollywood tape. At the time, I wrote the following about the message we send:
Several friends shared this tweet by Kim Carroll (whom I do not know):
I hesitated before sharing it myself, as I knew it would likely rankle some of my other friends. Ultimately, though, I felt compelled to post it – and to elaborate on my reasoning.
Let’s get this out of the way right up front: I do not like Donald Trump. I have never supported his candidacy – have, in fact, objected loudly to it since June 16, 2015. I have stated repeatedly that I will not be voting for him. I also do not like Hillary Clinton. I have never supported her candidacy and have stated repeatedly I will not be voting for her either. My reasoning as to both is fair game for discussion but is not the purpose of this post.
The purpose of this post is to state why Donald Trump’s comments — and how we react to them — matter. They’ve been excerpted (and replayed) elsewhere, but I will set them out here (somewhat reluctantly) in order to make my point clear:
Trump: “Yeah that’s her with the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful… I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.”
Bush: “Whatever you want.”
Trump: “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
Unlike some, I’m not overly shocked by the comments. I have, in fact, heard similar statements before. No, not all men speak like this – and no gentleman does – but some men do. And it comes as zero surprise to me that Donald Trump falls into that category. (Frankly, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.) Actually hearing the audio and watching the video of him emerging from the Access Hollywood bus with Billy Bush only to make a show of hugging the woman whose appearance sparked their comments is a bit jarring – more so than reading them in print. There is no question that Trump made the comments; we get to hear them straight from the horse’s [ass’s] mouth.
I’ve seen many draw the distinction that these are just words and not actions (like, say, another prominent male politician whose wife is seeking the same office as Trump.) That is true (and I’ll circle back around to Bill in a moment.) However, Trump’s words imply that these are actions he’s already taken. On multiple occasions. What if he’s just bragging, though? What if he’s never actually just started kissing on a woman without waiting? What if he’s never just grabbed some woman in the most intimate of ways without first verifying her consent (because “when you’re a star…you can do anything”)? We’ll go with that, and set aside the allegations that have been made by more than one woman that Trump has, in fact, acted in just such a way (because we don’t have incontrovertible proof of such – just allegations.) This means that, in his view, kissing and grabbing a woman “by the pussy” (side note to Donald – it’s not a handle) without her consent is something to boast about; something which ought improve his image in the eyes of others; something about which men should laud and applaud other men. It isn’t. It’s sexual assault.
No, really, it’s squarely within the legal definition of sexual assault. Some may balk at that because it seems like such a harsh characterization, but that is exactly what it is. And anyone who believes that boasting about either doing it or having the intent to do it is just hunky-dory, needs to be disabused of that notion right quick. I say this as a woman who adores men and in no way views them all as predators. However, I also say this as a woman who on occasion has been groped or touched in inappropriate ways by men (or boys) who did not have my consent for same, and yet didn’t feel I had the right to object. I may have jumped away or yelped or even tried to laugh it off, depending on the circumstances, and to be very clear, I was (luckily) never harmed physically. But I was made to feel like an object, and it was and is belittling and demeaning. In hindsight, I regret not objecting and not making it clear that this was not okay – for two reasons: First, because I believe many men, if they realized how it made women feel, would not engage in such behavior, particularly not if they thought of it in terms of their mothers, sisters, wives or daughters. Second, because those men who simply don’t care how it makes women feel should not be given a pass.
Most importantly, I say this as the mother of a fourteen-year-old girl. And quasi-step-mother to sixteen and eighteen-year-old girls. And aunt to seventeen and twenty-one-year-old nieces. I adore all these young women beyond belief, and I don’t ever want any of them to think that it’s okay for someone else to touch them without their consent, or to belittle or demean them by treating them as anything other than the dear beautiful souls they are.
So let’s be crystal clear on this: Kissing a woman or touching her private parts without her consent is NOT OKAY. Bragging to others about having done so is NOT OKAY. Giggling with others over your intent to do so is NOT OKAY. And if you wish to be a nation’s leader, if you wish to have millions of people (including women) place their trust and faith in you to set the tone and steer the course for our country, saying what Donald Trump said is NOT OKAY.
“But it was 11 years ago!” some exclaim. Yes, it was. Setting aside that Trump was a 59 year old married man at the time, who hadn’t the slightest compunction about sharing with others his “heavy” pursuit of a married woman (Nancy O’Dell), that still isn’t long enough ago to excuse him from issuing a full-throated apology and repudiation of the comments – which he hasn’t done. Nothing in his statements about it since indicates he has the slightest clue as to why his comments were inappropriate – only that he knows others were offended by them.
“Bill Clinton has said and done worse,” others point out. Yes, though we don’t appear to have handy audio or video of quite such a crude comment or of his acknowledged indiscretions or alleged improprieties, I’m willing to accept that it’s extraordinarily likely that he has. But nothing Bill Clinton has said or done excuses Trump. Does the fact that many have elected to give Bill a pass and/or to deny that any/all of his alleged malfeasance actually occurred exhibit an ugly double standard? Yes, it most certainly does. If you’re willing to give one person a pass for the same thing for which you’re condemning another, purely because the political party/affiliation of the former aligns with yours, you’re being a disingenuous hypocrite. And I have to acknowledge that I’m guilty of that. I voted for Bill Clinton twice (though that was before most of his bad behavior was known), and I’ve even recently mused that I might be more willing to vote for him than either Donald or Hillary. I was only half serious (as that’s virtually an impossibility) but I was wrong to do so, even if it was to make a point. The fact remains that Bill Clinton’s bad behavior – whatever your belief as to the extent of it – does not excuse Donald Trump’s or anyone else’s.
“Hillary Clinton has enabled Bill and victimized his accusers.” This is often pointed out, as well. And certainly, if even half of the allegations are true, she’s rightly criticized for doing so. But even assuming all of them are true and she’s as ruthless and calculating as many believe her to be, that still does not excuse Donald Trump – and if you’re attempting to excuse a grown man gleefully recounting his past (or contemplated) physical assaults on women because you don’t want her to win, then yes, you are doing the very thing she’s accused of doing. You’re rationalizing bad behavior – which you’d likely not tolerate if it were directed to yourself or a loved one – for political purposes.
Two wrongs never do make a right and the lesser of two evils is still evil. If you’re someone who’s decided that despite his multitude of flaws, you’re still willing to vote for Trump in an effort to prevent Hillary Clinton from winning, I accept that, even while I won’t be joining you in that endeavor. What I don’t accept is any attempt to excuse and normalize his comments or the behavior they describe. They are NOT OKAY. And I don’t want my daughter, or yours, or anyone’s son to come to the conclusion that they are because we ultimately elect (or vote for) a man who thinks they are.
Now, back to Weinstein. Just as “the message we send” matters when we react to bad behavior by a candidate or officeholder, it matters when we react to bad behavior by a movie mogul or actor or rock star. Or fail to react, as so many in Hollywood who had to know what was going on, seemed all too willing to do. Because it was easier to look the other way and excuse it. As long as they were benefiting from Weinstein’s favor, it was the expedient thing to do.
Something to bear in mind the next someone sashays up to the mic at an awards show and makes grandiose pronouncements about the character of our leaders and reminds us of just how brave and bold they are for speaking out.