I’ve encountered various bits of whining on social media about Franken and about “witch hunts” and two things: for the love of god people, will you please learn to use the phrase “witch hunt” properly? No, the reckoning that some men have had to face (some; I repeat, some) over their harassment/predatory behavior at work has not created an environment where anybody accused = guilt and immediate punishment. No, this is not like McCarthyism where innuendo got you blacklisted.
There is no government commission threatening these men with jail, although it sounds like some of them should be facing charges. (A homeless dude pulls out his baloney pony on the street to take a whiz because we’re too cheap and stupid to provide toilets in public places, and cops get all over him; Louis CK and Charlie Rose do the same with their dingles at work with much less justification, apparently, and they just retire to private life with their gobs of liquid cash.)
Let’s do some deep background here: due process doesn’t come into play in employment except in environments where unions have a very, very strong hold. Americans cheered while Reagen lead the charge to destroy those, and they continue to vote for labor-hating plutocrats like Trump, so I think it’s pretty clear that Americans could care less about protecting people at work.
Thus: You can be fired if your boss simply doesn’t like you. Yeah, they may need to manufacture some “cause,” but that’s not terribly hard, especially since we’ve made American workers so poor most can’t hire private counsel to start challenging such dismissals. You can be fired if people suspect you of anything, really, and proof can be cursory, for the same reason.
You can be fired after years of excellent work because some pointy-headed Ernst and Young management consultant decides that you are superfluous.
So, yeah, I kind of think having a whole bunch of coworkers come forward to say that somebody assaulted them or exposed themselves to them merits being let go. And while it’s sad that all this happened to the various men involved here in a way that involved public shaming, they worked pretty hard to become famous and that fame and influence shielded them for years from the way it looks. The fact that it is now embarrassing is unfortunate but part of the deal with fame.
Male panic over all this has diddly to do with protecting employment or due process or anything else. It has to do with protecting male privilege. Male privilege works like white privilege. Just like supposedly nonviolent whites benefit from violent racism expressed via police and white supremacist organizations, supposedly innocent men benefit from hostile work environments. Crapping on women, from interrupting them to forcing them to look at your junk, is a way to a) alienate them from the workplace in ways their male colleagues do not experience and b) discipline them to their place in the work hierarchy. Both lead to less competition for men at work; men, as long as they avoid becoming feminized in any way themselves (“ya pussy”) enjoy status simply for not being women and thus subject to abuse. It’s a way of reinforcing the whole “We may have to let you in here, but we’re still on top” bullshit. And it works to bestow prestige on men who fear economic competition from women at work.
Men are nasty to me at work because they are scared shitless of my brains. This started in grade school. It continues today. Seriously: in my department, there are dudes that nobody can stand; dudes the rest of us wouldn’t spit on if they were on fire. One of these dudes basically ripped into me (under the guise of a “joke”) during a seminar, and I sat back and waited for my male colleagues to step up. None of them, not a single one, did. Not even men I considered friends, who had acted as mentors to me, said anything real. Not even a man in the department who was getting praised and petted and elevated for all his wonderful work on equity in the academy.
Not a single one. This had happened so many times before this instance that I can’t even count.
Now, part of this may be simply that I can generally take care of myself, but I shouldn’t have to. As I sat in that room listening to the nonresponse, I realized that absolutely all of these men were afraid. They were afraid of him; he’s the sort of dude that is pretty smart, but hasn’t done any real work in years, and people circle around him because he is mean, and somewhat clever, and they don’t want to be bested in a war of worlds because that’s how the academy measures penises.
But they were also afraid of me. Still are. There’s a reason this ass goes after me, why men like him always go after me, and there’s a reason why male bystanders–supposed allies–don’t really ever join my opposition when in reality, all that would do is shut down an asshole.
And it’s the same reason why some men are pooping their pants watching powerful men get taken down. If the meanest, most powerful man can get taken down, their maleness is not the armor it has been before, and that’s scary.
One thought on “Male panic about exposing harassment is not about due process; it’s about losing male privilege”
I am closely following your stories because I am staring down a graduate program in the Fall (fingers crossed for USC Price) and I look to you for tips on how to navigate those spaces. I am deeply sorry that you are treated so crassly by your colleagues and supposed friends.
I had someone say recently (“someone” I’m sad to say is the father of my children) that he is concerned about the “loss of humanity” in having to be so careful in one’s word choice. My immediate response was “whose humanity?” and then countered with the idea that the epitome of humanity is being so aware of the power of your words as to be deeply concerned with how they affect the wellbeing of others.
Wtf, why are we having these conversations? This seems like basic respect, but requires men to see non-males as fully human and therefore worthy of that respect.
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