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A Wary and Weary Word on Harvey Weinstein

George Salamon
October 16, 2017

by George Salamon


It’s not that all the outrage about and disgust for Harvey Weinstein are misplaced. It’s just that misogyny and sexism remain such broad and deep elements in our culture that directing the outrage and disgust at Weinstein, or at Trump’s pussygrabbing exploits, lets the rest of us off for not erasing or at least diminishing the ubiquity of such behavior.

When, in the late fall of last year, the men’s soccer team at Harvard was found to be circulating a “scouting report” on members of the women’s team filled with sexual comments, the women’s team responded with a letter printed first in the Harvard Crimson. They got it right by going beyond “outrage” and “disgust” at the male soccer players of their college: “The sad reality is that we have come to expect this kind of behavior from so many men, that it is so ‘normal’ to us we often decide it is not worth our time or effort to dwell on…More than anything, we are frustrated that this is a reality that all women have faced in the past and will continue to face throughout their lives. We feel hopeless…”

Blaming Trump or Weinstein for being “misogynists” and “sexual abusers” will not change anything, not in Hollywood or Washington, not in country clubs or locker rooms from sea to shining sea. “Locker room” culture — a reference to Trump’s blithe attempt made in 2016 to explain away his sexist comments — is as ingrained as racist culture in much of the talk heard or overheard in those country clubs, offices, neighborhood taverns, and family rooms.

A very brief list of such “talk” from my experience, gathered in the Dartmouth College gym, a St. Louis country club, the offices of an aerospace/defense industry corporation: what a piece of ass; wouldn’t throw her out of bed; ask a broad what she thinks and she’ll tell you how she feels; boy, I know what would get her thinking straight and I’d love to give it to her; dumb as a rock; impossible to train; lazy as a pet coon.

Could one put together a similar list of comments about Asian-Americans, about gays and lesbians, about Jews and Hispanics? About the goyim among some Jews? If I were a betting man, I’d bet on it.

The melting pot has turned into a sour-tasting salad bowl. Perhaps it was always part myth.

Comparisons to other societies don’t help. Each society is dysfunctional in its own way.

But what I do know is that our outrage must go beyond the big-time and celebrity offenders. The always-ensuing spectacle about “America talking about race,” or sexism, or inequality, injustice, or gun control gets us nowhere, for it always lacks honesty. Very little, if anything, happens when the talk no longer gets on the news, so it remains just talk, hot air, and produces such silliness as “post-race” in our language.

What we have, in place of honest conversation, was best summed up by Harry Frankfurt, professor emeritus of philosophy at Princeton University: “One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share.”

Nobody knows what could get us to stop.