AJT -You know it’s coming. The backlash is coming, to all the sexual harassment claims that are out there now. There’s gonna be a wave of people saying that people make it up, and things are being blown out of proportion.
RR – Lena Dunham already did it. This (Harvey Weinstein abuse allegations) has been a blind item for years. The fact that it came out was not a shock to me. The same with Louis C.K. It’s known. There’s this trend now, where there’s a Variety or New York Times piece that’s about to come out, and they let the network know Hey, this is coming. Do you wanna maybe fire your employee? Then they do fire the employee before the story drops. It’s a very interesting cycle.
AJT – In many cases, these companies and networks have already known about their employee’s behavior for a long time.
HP – Yeah, some of these cases have already been settled lawsuits.
AN – Like Bill O’Reilly. Do you remember Bernie Madoff? The guy who was stealing money from people. He got roasted immediately. Everyone was ready to skewer him. Nobody was questioning whether his victims really got their money taken. There was no dispute. Different offenses don’t get the same reaction as sexual assault.
RD - So there’s defense mechanisms for all this. I was reading about how politicians use a standard response when accused of things like this.
RR -Like Roy Moore?
RD -Yeah. They say If the allegations are true, then he should step aside. It leaves it open for the person who is accused to either remain silent or deny deny deny until it finally goes away. When they say If…then he should step aside, that leaves it in the hands of the accused to decide whether they WANT to resign or not.
RR -YES. Which is awful! There’s the letter that came out of past femme writers and producers of SNL saying that they had nothing but fond experiences working with Al Franken. I was like How is that helpful? Who are you helping? There is this culture of not believing the victim.
RD – I’m also gonna say SNL is trash, for the record. I watch it, but it’s still awful.
Riss -They have Leslie Jones pop in and say, "you know it's like way worse for women of color right?" and the girls agree, but they don't get into why. but that's the SNL way of like, being edgy without really getting into the intellectual/social/psychological backup because comedy isn't a scholarly journal. It's fine if you want to skewer it but you're not really adding to the conversation or helping even remotely. They are so far behind. I’d also like to point out that the only thing missing from this roundtable is a femme of color.
RD -Yeah true. It is a much needed perspective.
I find that snl does that a lot. It conveniently sidesteps the deeper issues. Like "Am I right?"
"Racism is not good. Am I right? Violence against women...also not good. Am I right?"
They don't even go as far as all that either. They basically just say "Racism is happening...am I right? Violence against women is happening...am I right?" Like, they don't even condemn the shit.
AJT – I think in some ways they intentionally go for being behind, because that’s where most of America is. They have to sell to the broadest audience to get the largest ad revenue. It’s all based on viewers. So they can’t make educated, conscientiously aware jokes. They have to appeal to the middle.
RD -This is why all of Leslie Jones jokes are about being black. One of the privileges of being white is not ever having to talk about being white.
HP -I think it’s important to mention that much of the focus has gone to Hollywood, but there have been allegations of abuse and harassment in the art world and the literary world as well.
RD – I was reading the story of this ArtForum Magazine scandal, and it said that in its 2014 issue, of the 73 advertisements associated with New York Galleries, only 11 of those promoted solo exhibitions by women artists. That’s 15%.
HP - That’s totally the history of the industry.
AJT - I think we can all agree that wherever there are men in power and institutions to support that power, this is likely going to be an issue.
RR - I’m still mad about Bill Cosby. Something to the tune of fifty women came forward, and not a lot happened. People laughed at those women. Why did it take Harvey Weinstein? I think it was Jane Fonda who said that it’s because its rich white women who are the victims.
HP – It’s just serving Trump well to have this distraction. It’s provoking infighting among liberals. We’ve pinpointed these specific men in these specific positions of power and influence instead of acknowledging that this deserves a much broader conversation.
AN – Yeah I agree. It’s such a distraction. No one cares about Russia, or the new tax plan. Let’s get mad about that, or at least give it some fucking air time. This deserves to be talked about but—It’s sensational.
RR - I want it to be a footnote.
RD - But also, there is now a window for actual legal change because of it becoming a mainstream conversation.
AJT - That’s the other side of the coin. If the media didn’t run a story on it, then abusers wouldn’t get fired. But you know, as we said, it’s only surprising for men.
AN - I’m just so grossed out by all the handwringing that gets done publicly. I’m sick of seeing it trending on MSNBC. I think it’s super triggering, and I’m sick of hearing it all the time. None of this fucking shit is shocking. We all knew this. This shit is rampant. It’s been this way FOREVER. It’s in our culture. What are you gonna fucking do about it?
RR – My campaign these days is “STOP ASSUMING”. Like touching someone – don’t assume. Gender expression – don’t assume. Relationship dynamics – don’t assume. I think we’ve gotten a long way, just making our own conclusions based on available evidence without having all the information. I think that is where we need to start unlearning. There’s plenty for me to unpack and unlearn personally. I think it would save a ton of time and offense if people stopped assuming. I’m trans, so my pronouns are not female. Being called “girl” enrages me. Stop assuming. Even when presented with new information, and a polite request to make a change, [some people] find it too much to put into practice. So they just do away with it altogether.
AJT – It’s like Now I gotta work on something.
RR – You’re adding mindfulness to something that never required it before.
AJT – And here’s the controversial bit – from their perspective, it’s not their problem. So how would you feel if I came up to you and asked you to do some extra labor to solve my problem? That’s how the person who is doing the oppressive behavior is taking your request, I’d imagine.
AN – I think it’s interesting how for so many people, social interaction is mindless behavior, when really we should be putting thought into approaching other people. I fucking do it all the time. I’m on autopilot. I don’t know how I talk to people. It’s hard. But everyone should put effort into it. I think that’s one more step towards being empathetic.
RD – I think we should accept that we’re flawed. So if someone calls us out on the fact that we haven’t been mindful, we should just be like Oh yeah, maybe I wasn’t. How could I be more mindful? Because it’s going to happen at some point.
RR – The one thing I would like to spend some time on is micro-aggressions; things that are not overt, that are still hurtful and damaging, things that we experience on a daily basis, things that add up over time. That seems to be consistently the thing that causes me the most grief, the build-up of micro-aggressions over time. Even in a polite workplace, I have been called “darling” or “a sweet girl”, and both of those things get on my nerves. “Girl” because it infantilizes me, and “darling” because I HATE that, and I hate that people default to that. Another example took place at an event I was at recently. I went up to sing, and one of the regulars at the bar decided to come sing backup for me. He put his arm on my lower back, and got very close to me to sing with me. I was frozen. In that situation I felt powerless, like I had to go along with it, because that was less of a hassle than being like GET OFF OF ME. To respond that way would cause a scene, there would be a backlash, there would be a fallout.
AJT – What I have found is that 9 times out of 10 when guys do that (acts of micro-aggression), they genuine believe in their heads that they’re being nice, like it’s good behavior. Most men, probably myself included, don’t know how to convey that (friendliness) in a way that’s not a micro-aggression. It’s a weird feeling to feel like I don’t know how to act, and I think there’s probably a lot of guys right now who are feeling that way.
AN – They don’t know how to act and because of that, they get super defensive. How do you unlearn that?
RR – I have no patience for it.
AN – No, me neither.
RR – I think that what it means to be a man right now is confined to such a small space, and a lot of that space is misogyny, and that’s what people identify with. I think that goes along with not knowing how to behave; not knowing how to be a person.
AN – “Don’t assume” is a really good motto.
RR – I swear to god it comes around to this more than anything. “Stop Assuming” is like my bottom fucking line.
AN – “Stop Assuming” and like capitalism is destroying fucking everything.
RD – I think there’s something in particular about American culture, this idea of freedom. I think among many things it means being free from having to be considerate. A lot of these people who are really patriotic are like Yea! I’m a maverick! I can do whatever I want! And they chastise Europeans for being more considerate. They call it political correctness.
AJT – They’ve divorced liberty from responsibility.
AN – How often does the average white cis male take the time out of his day to think about how someone from a different perspective of society goes about their day? Probably not at all. Ever. EVER. If they did….
HP – I feel like Trump supporters are frustrated with having to be responsible. I also think that in this Trump-dominated time we live in, this respectful mindset appears to be weak.
RD – This brings me to my next question. In regards to all these accounts of sexual assault coming to light, how do you think this would have played out during the Obama administration?
RR – I don’t even remember what that’s like! I think [Obama] would have words for both Roy Moore AND Al Franken, whereas Trump only criticized Al Franken.
AJT – I think there would actually be less outrage, because the pent up anger and frustration with living in Trumpland is what I think is feeding the reaction to the news stories.
RD – We touched on capitalism. I did want to make a point to talk about how economics really influences all this.
AN – I have a thought. People don’t respect other people because [other people] aren’t real to them. People think that we’re living in the matrix or something. We’re all just like commodities. What can I provide you? What can I get out of you?
RR – If you don’t consider that the person you’re talking to is a PERSON, then there is room for mistakes. Mindful social interaction, we have to be doing this.
HP – [In a capitalist society] Single-mindedness is a route to success. You hear these motivational speakers all the time saying that I came from nothing.
AN – Rags to riches.
RD – Does that mean that everyone at that level they came from is nothing?
RR – That’s like the whole fitness industry. I subscribe to a streaming workout service, and the misogyny in the P90x program…I have to turn it off. The shit this guy says to his partner, to other women who are training on the show. Unbelievable. AND, he has an EMPIRE behind him that does not care. Capitalism.
AN – He’s next.
Everyone – LOL!
AN – I don’t even know this guy, but he’s probably next.
Harriet – The other night I was walking home, and a guy driving past was like “Hey! Can I speak to you for a moment?” I was like “No, I’m walking home. Get lost.” But it was actually safe enough for me to call him out on it and have a conversation that one day he might look back on and learn from. Maybe he would decide not to do that someone else in the future.
Riss – Even if you have it in you to respond, the situation might not be safe enough for you to respond, because it comes down to us permitting things for fear of our lives. If I get cat called and its dark out, I keep walking. It’s not worth dying for.
Harriet – But if there is that window, if you deem it safe enough to say something, what would you say?
Riss – I don’t know. I’m not there yet.
RR – There was this guy whose college girlfriend broke up with him. So he committed himself to playing piano in the quad of some university until she took him back. The conversation that came out of it, was like Hey, this is fucked up.This Say Anything behavior is social pressure, and it is unkind. This was the boombox outside the window. The grand romantic gesture was at the core of it. This is a form of violating consent. This is holding someone hostage publicly and socially until they change something that they fundamentally don’t want to change.
AJT - (speaking to Rohan) – Were you told that persistence was the way to get a date?
RD – No, I wasn’t. I was raised by my mother. She never told me that, but even so, I think it’s something that all men are told at some point; that persistence will get us through any door, any barrier.
AJT – I had to have a conversation with my son who was in his first relationship with a girl, and I discovered on his phone that he kept asking if he could kiss her. They kissed once before. But he was just asking over and over. So I had to have a conversation with him about consent. I had to tell him that that’s not okay. And we’ve had several conversations on consent as he was growing up, but that was the first time it hit me, that I need to have that conversation with him. Consent is the real issue. If you are having a consensual game of persisting and both parties are okay with it, cool.
RD – I think it actually depends on people being sensitive creatures. Sometimes people don’t really know how to pick up on those signals.
HP – Yeah, and I think catcalling is related to this too. Guys think that they need to make the first move, and somehow that’s the way to do it. The--
AJT (interrupting) - You’ve got these learned issues of masculinity--
RR (to Harriet) - I'm sorry. Were you finished with your point?
HP - Yes, I'm done. Thank you.
AJT – I'm sorry. We’ve got these learned issues of masculinity. There are a lot of these, what I would consider “good actors” who are doing bad things because that’s what they think they’re supposed to do, and then you have the level above that, which are the actual predators. The issue with the predators is that they exist in all groups. There’s the classic ultra-feminist guy who is just as much a fucking predator as Weinstein. Predators are “bad actors” going along with the bad shit, versus the “good actors” going along with the bad shit because they don’t know any better. And there’s no way to tell the difference.
RR – Only time.
AN – This is something my dad says a lot. He feels bad for young men today, who like, aren’t married, who are just trying to approach women. People gave him a lot of shit about it, but I can see what he is saying.
RR – Yeah. Men have centuries to unlearn. All of the examples we were raised on technically no longer apply. If we are going to do this right, and not hurt people, we have to unlearn a lot. So I understand, it is tough for sure.
RD – Yeah, it’s a necessary toughness.
RR – There was this episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt where Kimmy goes to a college party, and she meets a boy she is interested in. They sit down and fill out consent contracts, and Tina Fey was SKEWERING it. I was just like This isn’t funny. That show was problematic last season. There was the episode where Titus, the black character, did a show as a Japanese geisha. People got offended without seeing it, and Tina Fey was like But you haven’t seen it, how can you be offended? I’m like, Cuz it’s racially insensitive Tina. More and more Tina Fey is coming out on the wrong side of history.
AN – She’s trash.
RR – She fucking is, because if you stand there and champion women, but mock consent, GET FUCKED. You’re not a hero to me.
AN – 30 Rock is FULL OF THAT. So many weird jokes that turn you off.
RR – My husband had to stop watching episodes. He was like This is fucked up now. I can’t watch this.
RD – Matt Lauer actually had a secret button at his desk that controls the lock on his office door.
AJT – The reason he has a button is because it allows him to physically control that person’s presence in the room. When there is no consent, it’s not about the sex. It’s about the power. It’s the exact same thing as rape.
RR – That’s what catcalling is about. It’s about exerting influence on me at any given moment.
AJT – I can do this to you.
RR – Without any consequence.
HP – If you are that easily able to disrespect someone, then that means that you think they are lesser.
AJT – That goes back to capitalism. How much are you worth as a person? One of the problems concerning the sexual harassment issue, is that real predators, Weinstein and the like, they’re going to do it forever, because that’s who they are. I think because the rest of us don’t do a good job of teaching men how not to be this way, we learn on the job, we learn by fucking up. When I was dating in my 20s after I got divorced, I was an asshole. There are plenty of things that I did that were totally inexcusable, and I know that now, but I learned that by fucking up. It would be better if we didn’t need to learn that way, by hurting other people.
RD – I saw an article about how young kids should not have to hug people if they don’t want to.
RR – I come from a Latin and Italian family, so like, hug, kiss, physicality. My sister will scold my nephews if they don’t hug me, and I said to her They don’t have to.