Don’t Care Who’s Watching When We Tearing It Up

The only thing I know of Kesha’s music is this amazing piece, but I’ve heard a considerable amount about her case, and it’s appalling.  The judge said that her “instinct is to do the commercially reasonable thing,” because Sony would suffer “irreparable harm” if Kesha didn’t give them 6 more albums.  Mind you, this is a label that has sided wholeheartedly with a man who has been accused of raping her.  I can’t imagine she’d be comfortable dealing with any part of that entity, regardless of whether or not they were going to ease up on forcing her to work with the man.

The response from various circles has been loud, with female artists (just now!) lining up to voice their support for Kesha, (not prior to the ruling, but nothing motivates like outrage).  The infighting and gatekeeping has already started, as well.  Taylor Swift tossed Kesha a quarter million to do what she needs to do. Considering Kesha has only two albums to her credit, and her second, from over three years ago, being a commercial flop partially due to some bad timing, it’s safe to assume that her legal fees alone have her looking at some financial hardship.  $250k was probably the best news that she’s had in a long time.  But that wasn’t enough for some people, apparently, because Swift didn’t voice her full-throated support for Kesha.

Putting aside that in America, money is speech, so in effect, this was the largest statement possible, there’s a few other considerations here.  First, Taylor Swift is also signed to Sony, so coming out in direct support of Kesha has, at the very least, financial concerns above and beyond $250k, and quite possibly has legal ramifications.  Second, the statement is pretty clear: that money is a huge show of support, regardless of statement.  It says “I am putting my money where my mouth is.  I support you in a very real, very tangible sense. I have your back in a non-theoretical way.” Third, and probably most importantly, how Taylor Swift deals with what is a horrible subject is her call.  Maybe she’s not comfortable with a statement because of something she’s experienced or someone close to her experienced.  No one should be gatekeeping how women deal with sexual assault.  No one gets to say that her response is any less appropriate.  Her support is there, it shouldn’t be diminished because it wasn’t the exact kind of support that someone else gave.

Game Misconduct

I think it’s safe to say at this point that sports hasn’t been exactly charitable to women, and that has been put on display time and time again recently.  Yet for all the many high profile cases where various leagues and teams have completely failed women and their growing female fan bases, we tend to gloss over the various day-to-day miserableness that women who enjoy sports have to put up with.

Recently, I’ve started following a lot of people who talk hockey on Twitter, and the majority of those new follows are women.  They’re smart, funny, and know their sport, as least as well as, and typically better than, their male peers.  There’s probably an argument to be made that they do because they have to be better to be taken seriously, but I’m not even talking about bloggers here – just casual fans who are independently commenting on the sport that they love.

Most of these women I’ve started following because they said something intelligent about hockey. What keeps me around is that they’re, each and every one, pretty awesome people.  Turns out most of them are passionate about other things I am passionate about, non-sports related things (please see the image at the top of the page for a random sampling). I tend to get a little mad when people I consider awesome are dumped on simply because of their plumbing.

Nearly three weeks ago, someone I respect on Twitter (despite the fact that she persists on rooting for the wrong team) called out a paid commentator of the team she roots for on yet another entry in his long documented history of being an absolute scumbag in his treatment of women.  His response was, predictably, to cast himself as a victim and then double down on being awful.

I can imagine that there’s a temptation to look at the firestorm that ensued as a neutral observer and say “just a random fan getting into it with a shock jock,” but that’s not what it is. I say ‘is,’ because nearly three weeks on and it’s still going on, despite now being an entirely one-sided affair.  Called on his awfulness, the commentator started by deflecting and claiming he was terribly wronged in a way that he was obviously not, and then very quickly ramped up to full-blown threats against her career in order to silence her.

Let me recap – A paid mouthpiece for a professional sports franchise overtly threatened a fan of that franchise with actions that could have lead to dramatic loss of income because she accurately pointed out he was being a misogynist bully. Can you guess what the reaction from that franchise was?

Oh, sorry, I left this box of crickets here.

Eventually, while not exactly concerned over the threats, she locked down her Twitter in order to remove herself from what was an unresolvable situation that was being tacitly supported by said franchise.  But he was having none of that, preferring to mention her on Twitter in a manner akin to a third-grader playing “I’m not touching you!”  Mind you, this is someone who has nearly 70,000 Twitter followers, many of whom “mobilized” on his behalf to back him up, horribly wounded victim that he is.  He gets to amplify his signal many many times over to people willing to step into the fray for 30 seconds. While she has a number of people willing to actively defend her, the effort that they have to expend in defense is far and away more taxing than all of the offense combined.  This is a gross power imbalance, and most of the people on the short side are already weary from having to deal with this kind of shit every day.

We’ve seen this type of behavior from various big-name GamerGate supporters who mobilize their flocks to anonymously peck at their targets while casting themselves as the real victims.  The difference here is that, despite the distributed nature of GamerGate, there actually is a central authority to appeal to here – the team itself.  Unfortunately, that team doesn’t seem to care.  I’ve imagined they’ve done the math already and concluded that even passing acknowledgement of the issue would generate a backlash they don’t want to waste the time addressing.  “So what if the commentator was harassing someone? He interviewed our favorite player and we like him!”  This calculation effectively sells out 40% of their fanbase that, due to various social reasons, tend to be less vocal (and less heard when they are) in favor of not upsetting a rather small minority existing in the other 60%, a minority that gets shriller and more aggressive even as it grows smaller.  Eventually that math is going to look very bad, but the damage is going to be long since done.

Sorry, I can’t control myself. You’ll just have to go.

Iowa’s Supreme Court earned a lot of respect when it ruled that same-sex marriage was legal and denying it was discriminatory.  However, they have decided to balance themselves out with a completely baffling ruling:  Your boss can fire you if he can’t stop thinking about how much he wants to bang you.  No, seriously.  From the ruling:

Can a male employer terminate a female employee because the employer’s wife, due to no fault of the employee, is concerned about the nature of the relationship between the employer and the employee? This is the question we are required to answer today. For the reasons stated herein, we ultimately conclude the conduct does not amount to unlawful sex discrimination in violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

I just… what?

The details in the ruling are simply appalling:

Dr. [James H.] Knight complained to [Melissa] Nelson that her clothing was too tight and revealing and “distracting.”

Dr. Knight later testified that he made these statements to Nelson because “I don’t think it’s good for me to see her wearing things that accentuate her body.” Nelson denies that her clothing was tight or in any way inappropriate.

Dr. Knight acknowledges he once told Nelson that if she saw his pants bulging, she would know her clothing was too revealing. On another occasion, Dr. Knight texted Nelson saying the shirt she had worn that day was too tight. After Nelson responded that she did not think he was being fair, Dr. Knight replied that it was a good thing Nelson did not wear tight pants too because then he would get it coming and going.

In the meeting, Dr. Knight told [Nelson’s husband] Steve Nelson that Melissa Nelson had not done anything wrong or inappropriate and that she was the best dental assistant he ever had. However, Dr. Knight said he was worried he was getting too personally attached to her. Dr. Knight told Steve Nelson that nothing was going on but that he feared he would try to have an affair with her down the road if he did not fire her.

The court held from previous precedents that since favoritism in the workplace based on sexual relationships did not rise to sexual discrimination, then therefore, the opposite was also true. Melissa Nelson had not been discriminated against because of her gender, because Dr. Knight only ever hires women.

She was discriminated against because of her looks, which is apparently legal.  More to the point, she was ogled by a lech who was afraid he was going to try to coerce her into an extramarital affair or be otherwise sexually inappropriate, which is apparently legal in Iowa.

Mind boggling.

“I said ya shouldn’t have worn that dress…”

Anne Hathaway recently had the misfortune of being a woman in public, in case you hadn’t heard from every news outlet in America.  As she exited a limo at an event for her new movie, someone with a camera found himself with a wonderful angle straight up her skirt. Surprise!  That dirty, shameful woman hadn’t properly covered her body in the manner demanded by society!  The cameraman then sold the pictures, and they’ve been tossed all over the internet.

Two things to note:

  1. Someone took an unauthorized picture of a woman who was in no way intending to expose herself.
  2. That person then sold the photo for money.

Hathaway then went on the Today Show, where Matt Lauer proved that his internet search history must be pretty sad.  Immediately attempting to shame Hathaway, he begins by asking her “what’s the lesson learned,” putting the blame for this squarely on her shoulders.  Hathaway, to her credit, has none of it (transcript via Shakesville):

[deep breath; looking down] Well, it was obviously an unfortunate incident. Um, I think— It kinda made me sad on two accounts. One was that I was very sad that we live in an age when someone takes a picture of another person in a vulnerable moment and, rather than delete it, and do the decent thing, sells it. And I’m sorry that we live in a culture that commodifies sexuality of unwilling participants, which brings us back to Les Mis, because that’s what my character is—she is someone who is forced to sell sex to benefit her child, because she has nothing and there’s no social safety net. And I— Yeah, so, um, so let’s get back to Les Mis. [laughs uncomfortably; looks down]

That’s takedown if I ever heard one.  She skewers the entire culture, not just the creep who is sitting across from her.  Of course, Lauer isn’t done with that particular tube of Jergens, and he laughs the whole thing off by noting that’s one of the best turns of a question he’s ever heard, instead of, you know, acknowledging that she had a damn good point and apologizing for feeding into it and (we’re left to assume) ogling pictures of her vagina and calling it “research” for the interview.

Because he totally started that bit with “Seen a lot of you lately.” I’m reminded of Multiple Miggs’ one-sided conversation with Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs.

Lauer attempted to intimidate Hathaway by foisting blame for her own violation back onto her, and though she defended herself quite admirably, she was obviously uncomfortable. Good job, creep.

Next up, comedian and commentator Dean Obeidallah posted an article on CNN entitled “Do you believe in celebrity wardrobe ‘malfunction’?,” wherein he lays the blame for such things on the celebrities themselves. Obeidallah explains that they do this in order to remain relevant and in the news when their careers begin to flag or when they need “exposure.”  What better way to do that than to slip some nip or flash ’em the old beav, huh Dean?  Of course, he absolves Hathaway in this particular case, because “she has no history of these types of antics” and “she is well-respected in Hollywood.”  Sorry, Emma Watson, you’re a has-been and we know you only do this to prolong your fifteen minutes of fame.

I called out Obeidallah on Twitter, and here’s the exchange:

Me: Yeah, what are these women doing even going out in public?! Have they no shame? She basically raped that poor photographer.

Dean Obeidallah: Dont think u get the article but thanks for reading it

Me: @Deanofcomedy I got it just fine. Someone took a picture of her crotch without her permission and sold it for money. Obviously her fault.

DO: Nah, u didnt get it- But again thanks for reading it

Me: (quoting from his article) “since Hathaway was exiting her car sans underwear, she would do so more carefully than a cowboy climbing off a horse.”
Me: “she was being dropped off on the red carpet where the paparazzi were lined up like piranhas awaiting a piece of meat. ”
Me: Or, the shorter version: “She was asking for it, dressed like that and walking down that dark alley.”

He comes back with the “sorry you’re offended” line:

DO: Ur right – Ill ask CNN to take down the article bc some people simply wont get the point

Me: Oh, I get your overarching point. You just use the classic “blame the victim” mentality to get there. Very original.

DO: U get it after all!

I’m not even sure where to go from there, because 140 characters was just not quite sufficient, and I was getting really annoyed by someone using “U” instead of “you” when he had over 100 characters left to work with.

What this whole incident boils down to is the continuing narrative that celebrities are public property, women who are taken advantage of like this had it coming, and men simply can’t be held accountable – the onus is on them to behave themselves. Because for some reason, what undergarments Anne Hathaway does or does not wear is somehow of great importance, and she should feel ashamed that she didn’t rigidly conform to the societal standard.

But what exactly is that standard?  What if she’d been wearing something under that dress?
“Hathaway flashes crotch, shows off sexy panties!”
“Hathaway flashes crotch, shows off unsexy panties!”

What if no one had managed to get that shot?
“Hathaway’s visible panty line!”

What if she’d just tried to avert the crisis altogether?
“Hathaway shocks by wearing pants to premier!”

It’s a no-win scenario.  The media is going to be obsessed with the fact that a beautiful woman has a vagina.  It’s incumbent upon scumbags to not photograph it without her express permission, and creeps like Lauer to not shame her because some scumbag photographed it.  She’s not ours.  Her body is not ours.  Her body is her own.  And if she wants to go commando, more power to her. I don’t care what she wears as long as she’s comfortable in her own skin, and no one has the right to shame her for that.