To all you men: could you please stop embarrassing the rest of us?

Jen Gunter, gynecologist extraordinaire, had written an article about how a former boyfriend had tried to control her by constantly criticizing her appearance, which got picked up by the NY Post as a story about how she got dumped because of her smelly vagina…and then the men got ahold of the story. They assumed, of course, that the criticisms by the controlling, negging boyfriend were all true, so she got all kinds of mansplaining mail, which she has now written about in the NY Times.

And then the men came. They came to share their opinions regarding my vagina, writing on my blog and at me on Twitter. They flocked to my Instagram and my Facebook. One group of gentlemen, in at least their 40s, even decided that this story of me being dumped supposedly because of my vagina was worthy of a laugh on their podcast.

This rash bombarded me in both public and private comments. Men wondered if I had washed “that thang yet?” One man wrote that I “must be INTO smelly ones! How nice for you — we prefer FRESH as a daisy ones!” Another man warned me that “We men had a meeting, all 3.5 billion of us.” At the meeting they had apparently decided to “double down on calling out” my smelly vagina.

A man said I should call my ex and thank him “for alerting me to my smelly vagina.” There was also the #notallmen contingent, who felt it was impossible that my personal experience and 25 years as a gynecologist could offer any evidence that men ever try to control women by preying on insecurities. Obviously it was just my vagina that stank.

More men sought me out to explain vaginas to me. They gave me false information on how to clean and prep them (for men, of course), and told me how gross my vagina must be, and hurled insults that I cannot print here.

This has not been a good day to be male, but then, I guess it’s only fair — men have been making women’s lives miserable for millennia.

I was not invited to that meeting of 3.5 billion men, and I suspect most of us weren’t. It’s time to fire that committee chair and sweep the conference room free and get some non-assholes in there.

Crap, no, not Al

Now it’s Al Franken’s turn. He treated a broadcaster, Leeann Tweeden, with gross disrespect on a USO tour.

Then, on an airplane flight, Franken snuck up on her while she was sleeping and groped her breasts, she writes. Franken even had someone snap a photo of him doing it while he looked at the camera with a big smile on his face.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she writes. “He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep. I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated. How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?”

Franken told Raw Story in a statement: “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”

I have some expectations of what ought to happen when someone is caught in this kind of behavior. 1) Apologize, 2) Admit that it was wrong and inexcusable, and 3) Explain what you’ll do to make amends and correct the behavior. Franken has done #1 and #2, at least, but #3 is just as important and remains to be done. Tweeden makes it clear that he treated her poorly multiple times, which is disturbing — are there going to be other women stepping forward with similar stories about him?

Does every man who comes into a little power immediately turn into a crude, abusive asshole? In my despair at this constant problem, I thought that maybe this means that we should only elect women…but then I remembered Ann Coulter and Katie Hopkins. And Margaret Thatcher. And Jill Stein.

OK, next election, write in a vote for A Bag of Spiders in every position. It can’t be worse. These hu-mans are not to be trusted.

You should also read Tweeden’s account. It’s distressingly awful.

And now…Leeann Tweeden takes the high ground and accepts Franken’s apology.

Shut up, Katie Hopkins

I’m not terribly familiar with Katie Hopkins — she’s more of a British affliction — but I did run across her writings a while back, when she was busy advocating for the outright murder of immigrants. She is not a nice person at all. Now she has stepped into the Roy Moore story. Anyone care to guess what her position is? No? You can’t get your brain down to that level? OK. Here’s her two cents:

If you take 40 years to remember how upset you were at 14, you are not a victim. You are a weapon #RoyMoore

What if you have a 40 year history of harassment? Why is that to be ignored, while Katie focuses on the victim?

Not all girls are innocent at 14. I was pleasuring my boyfriend harder than a Russian gymnast working a pole (Capital P optional) #RoyMoore

I assume she consented to her wild sexual escapades — good for her — and that her boyfriend was of her age, and not 20 years older. If the targets of Moore’s unwanted advances had boyfriends and the beginnings of a romantic life and normal desires, how does that make being hit on by a creepy old guy suddenly acceptable? That Katie Hopkins clearly was not “innocent” at 14 does not mean that it was open season on teenaged Katie by anyone who wanted her.

Hopkins, by the way, has one of those verified accounts with Twitter — she has the little blue checkmark next to her name. Presumably she won’t have it for long, since Twitter is finally cracking down on handing out that acknowledgment to spokespeople for hate, a club in which Hopkins is a prominent member.

A self-reflection exercise

I’ve been thinking about the recent surge of awareness of harassment, and wondering if I’ve been as flawed as the people being accused. There’s been a bit of introspection going on here.

And my conclusion is no, I’ve not taken advantage of women…or anyone, for that matter. I’ve never casually fondled anyone, I’ve never tried to pressure anyone into sex, I’ve never threatened anyone into serving my whims, I’ve sure as hell never raped anyone. I’m not saying this to pretend to be some paragon — I think I’m pretty ordinary, and I suspect most guys consider respect for others’ autonomy to be the norm. But I also say this as someone who was born in the 1950s, so forget that bogus “oh, that’s just the way we were back then” excuse. I’ll also point out that, for example, when Roy Moore was haunting the Gadsden Mall, most people seemed to think that 30 year olds trying to pick up teenagers was awfully skeevy.

The common, petty failing was not participating in such behavior, but looking the other way. There was too much deference to male authority, which was given by default, and preserved an imbalance of power. We didn’t do the kinds of things these horrible people have done, but we were at worst made uncomfortable about them, and our only action was to avoid confronting those people. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t confront the harasser, and don’t meet the eyes of the woman who is being mistreated.

I remember my sins of omission. I was in the locker room when the high school jocks were bragging about the things they did to their girlfriends and casual hookups, and I just got dressed and left as quickly as I could. But I knew the people they were talking about, and I liked them as people, and I did not defend them. So that talk flourished.

I’ve been oblivious. There have been several occasions where I blithely suggest that my wife just do some particular thing, and she looks at me like I’m insane, and explains that I can’t possibly expect her to walk alone in that dark parking garage late at night. There are many behaviors I take for granted as normal and safe that are exercises in reasonable fear for women. That’s a lack of empathy, an ongoing insensitivity that hinders my ability to see how the world works for others.

I’ve been cavalier about some situations — I’ve been light-hearted and tried to be amusing about common sexual situations that, for men, are just opportunities for fun, but for women, are opportunities to be harmed. It’s taken too long for me to realize that that little chuckle wasn’t about my nice joke, but more an attempt to defuse a situation, or to conceal what they were really thinking, which was “what an ass.” I can at least say that I’ve been getting better — I’m sure 20 year old me was even worse — and that I’m aware that I can be better still.

I think, though, that the biggest sign of progress and the best hope we have is that increasingly we are acknowledging that it’s not enough to not do bad things, we also have to openly oppose others who do bad things. We also have to listen when we are criticized.

Do not underestimate the military strength of the human navel

After the success of Wonder Woman, you may be wondering whether the upcoming Justice League movie will continue to correct the dismal, depressing failure of the DC comic hero franchise. Have no fear! They’ll find a way to fuck it up.

One sign that they will is…costuming. Wonder Woman’s Amazons wore practical, reasonable armor that were less about fan-service and more about warriors not wanting their guts stirred with a sharp piece of metal. In Justice League, though, the Amazons are ditching the uncuddly, relatively unrevealing metal plates for soft leather bikinis, because, apparently, belly buttons are more ferocious and intimidating.

Perhaps the US Army should ask Zack Snyder to design their uniforms?

Louis CK: just stop and go away, OK?

You’ve probably already heard about Louis CK’s mea culpa. I’m unimpressed.

I want to address the stories told to the New York Times by five women named Abby, Rebecca, Dana, Julia who felt able to name themselves and one who did not.

These stories are true. At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true. But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly.

I have been remorseful of my actions. And I’ve tried to learn from them. And run from them. Now I’m aware of the extent of the impact of my actions. I learned yesterday the extent to which I left these women who admired me feeling badly about themselves and cautious around other men who would never have put them in that position.

I also took advantage of the fact that I was widely admired in my and their community, which disabled them from sharing their story and brought hardship to them when they tried because people who look up to me didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t think that I was doing any of that because my position allowed me not to think about it.

There is nothing about this that I forgive myself for. And I have to reconcile it with who I am. Which is nothing compared to the task I left them with.

I wish I had reacted to their admiration of me by being a good example to them as a man and given them some guidance as a comedian, including because I admired their work.

The hardest regret to live with is what you’ve done to hurt someone else. And I can hardly wrap my head around the scope of hurt I brought on them. I’d be remiss to exclude the hurt that I’ve brought on people who I work with and have worked with who’s professional and personal lives have been impacted by all of this, including projects currently in production: the cast and crew of Better Things, Baskets, The Cops, One Mississippi, and I Love You Daddy. I deeply regret that this has brought negative attention to my manager Dave Becky who only tried to mediate a situation that I caused. I’ve brought anguish and hardship to the people at FX who have given me so much The Orchard who took a chance on my movie. and every other entity that has bet on me through the years.

I’ve brought pain to my family, my friends, my children and their mother.

I have spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want. I will now step back and take a long time to listen.

Thank you for reading.

My reactions:

  • He confessed that the accusations were true. That’s good. This might have been a great statement if he’d said, “These stories are true. I am sorry.” FULL STOP.

  • At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true. See? He should have stopped before this. That was just stupid. Sure, he asked. They said NO. I’m gonna go ask this guy in front of me at the airport for his wallet, and if he says no, I’m just going to take it anyway. Asking first makes it OK.

  • I don’t care if you have power over a person or not, asking them to look at your dick is just plain weird. I have no power over this guy with the wallet in front of me, I’m not going to put on a penis puppet show for him, against his will. Because that would be wrong.

  • How often is he going to tell us how admired he is? I’ll remove that source of guilt from him, at least: he’s not admired anymore.

  • He only learned yesterday how much he hurt people? He should have been able to figure this out before he inflicted his kinks on others. To claim now that he was unaware of the wrongness of his actions is bullshit.

  • He wishes that he’d reacted by being a good example to them as a man. OK. Please understand, then, that he’s been a poor example of a man, and should shut up about how he was admired. That admiration was undeserved.

  • The only people who deserve any sympathy here are his family, friends, children, and wife. And his victims. He can self-flagellate all he wants, it’s not going to win him any pity.

  • He’s going to listen. Great. Listen to this: go away. Louis CK has disgraced himself and his work, and I for one don’t need to hear any more about him.

I don’t accept the Christian principle that an admission of contrition is sufficient to absolve someone of bad behavior. It requires real change. I don’t see what Louis CK is going to do to be a better person, and I doubt that he’s going to adopt a quiet life of faithfulness to his family and respect for others — he’s tasted the heady waters of power over others and used it for self-indulgence. I’ll believe he’s a changed man when he shows it, but not when he practices a written form of exhibitionism.

The problem is that we don’t doubt enough

Take a famous and popular artist, one who is creative and imaginative and breaks through all kinds of walls.

Take a rather sleazy person who enjoys degrading himself and others, who abuses women and takes gross sexual advantage in a way that is so extreme that people refuse to believe it.

Can those two descriptions fit the same singular individual? Of course they can. I’d even argue that the more talented you are, the more likely you are to avoid censure for misbehavior; being talented doesn’t cause abusive personalities, but they are given far more leeway than Joe Schmoe wearing an overcoat and nothing else, with no reputation to reward looking the other way.

Read this story from just a few days ago, about Louis CK. The author praises Louis CK’s comedic ability, and acknowledges that they bias him. But he still doubts the accusations.

I cannot say with any certainty that C.K is guilty of what he’s being accused of.

Yet the current cultural climate has made it difficult to continue to give C.K. the benefit of the doubt. You can’t say “believe women” and then make exceptions for comedians and auteurs you personally admire and respect. I don’t know if C.K is guilty of the transgressions he’s accused of, but I also can’t really imagine how you would develop a reputation for masturbating in front of female comedians without, you know, masturbating in front of female comedians.

Read the comments. Here’s an example.

It’s a chewed over, tired, need-them-monday-clicks kind of discussion, but for my 2 cents until there is any kind of substance to the allegations, let alone ‘proof’, I don’t see what the point in speculating is. ‘Someone who may or may not be Louis CK may or may not have jerked off in front of Garfunkel and Oates – he says no, they say nothing’ is all we have had for years

“Benefit of the doubt” and “innocent until proven” are weirdly complicated terms that are simplified by assumptions. We will give the benefit of the doubt to Louis CK, but we will not give any benefit of the doubt to the women accusing him at all. Louis CK is innocent until every wisp of an argument against him is conclusively proven; the women are assumed to be liars until every jot and tittle is nailed down with absolute certainty in a court of law. The purpose of the “innocent until proven guilty” standard is to prevent harm to someone until their guilt is established, but somehow we don’t care so much about the harm done to the victims of abuse by a privileged, sheltered artist. We’ve been hearing these stories about Louis CK for years, but — and this is the problem — nothing has been done. No investigation, no credibility has been bestowed on the many women who bring nearly identical stories to the table, everything recedes away from the Great Man and his unimpeachable denials.

Money, power, and influence give them a shield against having to address these accusations that the poor, the weak, and the unknown don’t have. In a just world, Louis CK would not be able to stonewall and deflect these stories, and the credible, distressed women would have instantly rallied a call for closer examination rather than the excuses of “Oh, but I really like Louis CK’s work”. Or Woody Allen’s. Or Roman Polanski’s. Or Geoff Marcy’s. Or Colin McGinn’s. Or Kevin Spacey’s. Do you realize how long a list I could make just off the top of my head?

In a just world, no one would be able to dismiss a whole series of accusers with the magic words, “witch hunt”. It’s an interesting twist, that the more women come forward with testimony of a problem, the more likely the claim of a “witch hunt” will be invoked. The volume of the complaints is suddenly used as a reason to dismiss them altogether, rather than to provide evidence that there’s a potential problem that ought to be addressed.

So we wait and do nothing, we practice our denials, until something more substantial than the words and pain of mere women and victims of the powerful rises up. Like, for example, an investigation by the New York Times that reveals that maybe the ‘bitchez’ weren’t lyin’ all this time.

Ms. Corry, a comedian, writer and actress, has long felt haunted by her run-in with Louis C.K. In 2005, she was working as a performer and producer on a television pilot — a big step in her career — when Louis C.K., a guest star, approached her as she was walking to the set. “He leaned close to my face and said, ‘Can I ask you something?’ I said, ‘Yes,’” Ms. Corry said in a written statement to The New York Times. “He asked if we could go to my dressing room so he could masturbate in front of me.” Stunned and angry, Ms. Corry said she declined, and pointed out that he had a daughter and a pregnant wife. “His face got red,” she recalled, “and he told me he had issues.”

Yeah, he’s got issues. I’ve got issues. Everyone has issues. Most of us don’t resolve them by beckoning to the nearest woman and trying to disgust and degrade her.

And yet right now there are going to be people who rise up indignantly and self-righteously declare their rational skepticism — they will doubt the accusers. They will doubt the many accusers who have everything to lose by pointing a finger at the powerful patron who could do so much for their careers. They will not doubt the wealthy and successful man who had the opportunity to abuse his power.

Our new theme is a clear one: RAGE

We had a pretty good election night yesterday, but I don’t want anyone to forget what should be driving you right now, and that is a righteous anger. Read Katha Pollitt about her reaction to the past year.

But the main difference is that I hate people now. Well, not all people, of course. Just people who voted for Trump. People who do their own “research” on the Internet and discover there that President Obama is a Muslim and Michelle Obama is a man. People who use the n-word and can’t even spell it right, because—have you noticed?—Trump supporters can’t spell. Well-off people who only care about lowering their taxes. People who said they couldn’t vote for Hillary because of her emails. Excuse me, sir or madam, can you explain to me what an email server even is? People who didn’t believe Trump would bring back coal or build the wall or Make America Great Again, but just wanted to blow things up. Congratulations! We are all living in the minefield you have made.

I know what you’re thinking: you are the problem, Katha, alienating Trump voters with your snobbish liberal elitism and addiction to “identity politics.” Yes, I wanted them to have health care and child care and good schools and affordable college and real sex education and access to abortion and a much higher minimum wage. And yes, I wanted the wealthy to pay more taxes to provide for it all. Obviously, this offended the pride of the stalwart, mostly white citizens of Trumplandia, possibly because a good proportion of white people would rather not have something if black people get to have it, too. As for pussy-grabbing, sheesh! Men will be men, get over yourselves, ladies. None of that is “identity politics,” though. It is just America.

You know exactly how the defenders of the status quo will respond: sit down, be nice and polite, you might annoy the regressives/alt-right, and their anger will be more defensible than yours. We’re already composing our excuses for them that will consist of blaming you.

Lindy West is also rather angry.

Just this week, Juli Briskman, a government contractor, lost her job after a photo of her flipping off the presidential motorcade went viral. Solange, Britney Spears, Sinead O’Connor, the Dixie Chicks, Rosie O’Donnell — I struggle to think of women who lost their tempers in public and didn’t face ridicule, temporary ruin, or both. And we don’t even have to be angry to be called angry. Accusations of being an “angry black woman” chased Michelle Obama throughout her tenure at the White House, despite eight years of unflappable poise (black women suffer disproportionately under this paradigm). The decades-long smearing of Hillary Clinton as an unhinged shrew culminated one year ago today when, despite maintaining a preternatural calm throughout the most brutal campaign in living memory, she lost the election to masculinity’s apoplectic id.

Like every other feminist with a public platform, I am perpetually cast as a disapproving scold. But what’s the alternative? To approve? I do not approve.

Not only are women expected to weather sexual violence, intimate partner violence, workplace discrimination, institutional subordination, the expectation of free domestic labor, the blame for our own victimization, and all the subtler, invisible cuts that undermine us daily, we are not even allowed to be angry about it.

Ah, yes. Have you ever noticed how Social Justice Warriors in general get chastised for being “disapproving scolds”? How dare we publicly criticize Nazis and misogynists, as if we think we’re better than them! Defending people who want to murder and deport people, or want the right to batter their wives, is better virtue signaling, because the anti-SJWs are so noble that they defend the free speech rights of woman-hating skinheads.

That rage will be used to excuse assault. Take the case of Aisha Walker, a woman who saw a drunk man accosting another young woman, and she chose to stand between them, a brave act. But then another man, a bystander, came to the aid…of the drunk.

A third passenger got involved, Walker wrote, telling her and the other man that they were both being stupid. When she asked him why it was stupid to stand up for a woman being harassed, he became angry.

The bystander began swearing and shouting that he would be happy to “step off the bus” to deal with her.

Walker said when she asked what that would prove, the man punched her “directly in the mouth at full force.”

He broke many of her teeth, requiring a lot of dental work. But he made his point: anger at oppression is a greater crime to these people than the oppression itself. Moral clarity is an affront to people who want the liberty to be selfish.