Posts Tagged ‘Harvey Weinstein’

The Feminist Arguments against the Metoo Activism at the Golden Globes

January 15, 2018

Last Sunday, 7th January 2018, was the Golden Globes. This got on the news around the world, not just because of the coverage of which actors and films were given awards, but because the female actors wore black in solidarity with all the women, who had suffered sexual abuse, harassment and exploitation. This culminated in one of the leading actors at the ceremony announcing that Hollywood’s ladies would stand in solidarity with every woman, who had suffered such sexual abuse and assault, and that they would be dedicating a special fund to help poor women sue their abusers.

Coming after the scandals about Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes and others at Fox News, including its long running host, Bill O’Reilly, such an announcement is clearly well meant, and for many women facing the cost of having to drag their abuser, who is probably their boss, through the courts, the prospect of being able to get some money from a charity dedicated to helping them would surely be welcome. But not all women, and not all feminists, saw it quite like that.

Roza Halibi in Counterpunch and the Sane Progressive on YouTube both put up pieces about it, criticising the move. Many women, including the French actress Catherine Deneuve, are critical of the #Metoo movement as they feel it demonises men. All men are now being viewed as sexual predators, real or potential. They also object to the way distasteful and unpleasant forms of sexual contact – like the boss with wandering hands – has been lumped in and conflated with far more serious forms of sexual abuse, like rape and women being told that if they don’t sleep with their boss, they’ll lose their jobs. Groping is unpleasant and humiliating, and it’s quite right that there should be a campaign to stop it. But it’s not at the same level as the other two.

They also found the stance of the individual actresses involved in the speech and this display of solidarity hypocritical. Weinstein’s behaviour was known for years by people within Hollywood, including Meryl Streep. And at the time they kept their mouths firmly shut. Some of this might have been because Weinstein was a powerful man, and no matter how respected and successful they were as ‘A’ list actors, he could have the power to destroy their careers, as he threatened numerous aspiring actresses if they wouldn’t sleep with him. But some of it no doubt was also the attitude of the time, to put up with it regardless.

But there’s also an attitude that the speeches against sexual harassment and exploitation were also a form of faux feminism, by rich, entitled women, who were trying to appropriate the protests by ordinary, middle and lower class women. Critics like the Sane Progressive and Halibi have argued that the successful protests always come from below. They are won by ordinary working people standing up for themselves and demanding further rights and change. They are not achieved by members of the upper classes deciding that they will charitably act as the saviours of the lower orders. The #Metoo activism at the Golden Globes represents very rich, entitled women trying to take control of a protest by their sisters lower down the social scale, and wrest it away from any meaningful challenge to a corrupt system as a whole.

The same critics have also made the point that the #Metoo activism has also acted as a diversion. Sexual abuse is only part of a whole series of problems corporate capitalism is inflicting on American society. This includes mass poverty and starvation, the further denial of rights to low paid workers, Trump’s attempts to repeal Obamacare and destroy Medicare, the destruction of the environment, and the political paralysis caused by a corrupt party system taking money and its orders from wealthy donors in big business, rather than acting in the interests of ordinary citizens. All of these issues need tackling, but the leadership of the Democrat party has become, under the Clintons and Obama, as thoroughly corporatist as the Republicans, and has no interest in tackling these issues. That would harm the interests of their donors in big business. So they make symbolic liberal gestures. Like Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency last year. Her policies were more neoliberalism, corporate greed, and aggressive militarism. For ordinary Americans she offered nothing but more poverty and exploitation. But she claimed that, because she was female, she was somehow an outsider, and that a victory for her would thus be a victory for women. Even though, as the lowest paid group, women would have suffered the most from a Clinton presidency. If you didn’t vote for Clinton, you were automatically a misogynist. And if you were a woman, and didn’t vote for her, she and her followers denied it was because you had opinions of your own. Rather, you were just doing what your husband or boyfriend told you. So much for Clinton believing in women’s independence and their agency as human beings.

But this experience of a very rich, entitled woman trying to make herself appear liberal when she was anything but, has clearly coloured some left-wing and feminist attitudes in America towards other attempts by the rich to embrace or promote left-wing causes. Clinton’s liberalism was a fraud, and so some people are suspicious that the actresses stressing their commitment to rooting out sexual abuse are less than wholehearted in their determination to ending the general poverty, exploitation and other issues plaguing American society. And just as the corporate Democrats are desperate to take power away from the real radical left, like Bernie Sanders, so these ladies are trying to take power away from ordinary women, determined to solve the problem their own way. Because this challenges their position in society and their political influence as arbiters and spokespeople of the nation’s conscience.

Now I think the #metoo speeches were well meant, regardless of the possible hypocrisy of some of the actresses involved, and hopefully some women will benefit from the money available to sue their abusers. But the Guardian’s Marina Hyde a few years ago wrote a book, Celebrity: How Entertainers Took Over the World And Why We Need an Exit Strategy, pointing out numerous instances where Hollywood celebs decided to take over a cause, only to make the situation worse. There’s a very good case to be made against such Hollywood activism. And this problem may well become more acute, as more celebs decide to promote symbolic issues, while leaving the other problems affecting ordinary people untouched.

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The Flippant Jokes about Sexual Harassment – Partly Due to Public School Education?

November 4, 2017

Earlier this week, Mike put up a post commenting on this week’s cover of Private Eye and an off-colour joke about sexual harassment by Michael Gove and a letter Labour’s Dawn Butler had written to Theresa May, condemning not only the culture that turns a blind eye to the sexual harassment of female staff at best, and at worst actively condones it, but also finds the whole subject hilariously funny.

Private Eye’s cover is a joke about the venue for the next meeting of the Tory party: it’s a sex shop. And Gove’s joke was about how an interview on the radio was like entering Harvey Weinstein’s bedroom. In both cases you weren’t likely to emerge with your dignity.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/11/01/why-are-people-turning-the-tory-sexual-harassment-allegations-into-a-joke/

Last night, the BBC news comedy show, Have I Got News For You, made the same joke as the Eye, with the same picture. This week’s host, Jo Brand, got an enthusiastic round of applause, however, when she rightly pointed out that to the women, who had suffered such harassment, it wasn’t a joke but a very unpleasant experience.

So why turn it into a joke? Why dismiss it so flippantly? I’m aware that some of it probably goes back to the old double standard, where men are expected to be sexually active and predatory, while women are condemned as whores if they behave the same way. I’m also aware that attitudes may be better or worse towards it amongst different societies. For example, a book I read on Japan in the 1990s said that the Japanese didn’t take the issue seriously at all. There was even a nightclub in Tokyo called Seku Hara, or something like that, which is the Japanese for ‘sexual harassment’. And in parts of the Islamic world, it’s also regarded with amusement as ‘Eve teasing’.

I’m also very much aware that people will make jokes about all kinds of things, no matter how dark or tasteless, such as sexual abuse, disability, murder, rape, and so on. In these instances sexual abuse is just another subject amongst these to make tasteless jokes about.

I am also very much aware that there is, or there was until very recently, an attitude that those subjected to such abuse should just grow a thick skin and endure it. I can remember reading one piece by a female journo in one of the right-wing papers, possibly the Mail, back in the 1990s. She said that when she started working in journalism, female hacks regularly had to deal with lewd comments and jokes, and wandering hands. Women just had to endure it and get used to it. It was even beneficial in that it spurred them on to become better journalists.

You can see there the ‘macho management’ attitude that was common in the Thatcherite ’80s. I’ve heard tales of how the hacks working in various papers were called into the office every morning by their editors to be insulted and belittled on the grounds that this would make them better journalists. I think it was abandoned long ago in the 1990s. Though the attitude just seems to have shifted to the unemployed, who are insulted and belittled at Jobcentre interviews, while their ‘job coaches’ ring them up at odd hours to insult them further, all on the spurious grounds that they are ‘motivating’ them.

But I also wonder how much of this attitude goes back to the public schools. I’ve blogged before about how bullying, and sexual abuse including rape, was common amongst the feral children of the rich. A number of readers commented on this piece, and wrote about the stories they’d heard from their friends of horrific abuse in the schools for the British elite. You can read some of these tales in Danny Danziger’s book, Eton Voices, reviewed in Private Eye when it came out in the 1980s, and reprinted in Lord Gnome’s Literary Companion, edited by Francis Wheen. Punch also reviewed the book shortly before it folded, commenting that the abuse described was so horrific that if Eton had been an ordinary state school, it would have been very loudly denounced by the Tories as part of a failing and brutally neglectful state school system.

The younger boys in public schools were subjected to all manner of physical and sexual abuse by the older boys. But the public school ethos seems to be that they were expected to take it, and not blub. They were to ‘play up, and play the game’. Now this is part of the ‘rules of the schoolyard’, as Homer Simpson put it in an episode of the cartoon comedy back in the 1990s. Bullying goes on, but you don’t break ranks and tell the teacher, or else you’re a sneak. But it is slightly different in British state schools over here. Bullying goes on, but it is not supposed to be tolerated. Whether it is in fact depends very much on the individual head master/mistress/principal. I’ve known headmasters, who were very definitely strongly against it. Others much less so.

Public schools are supposed to be the same, but the attitude revealed in Danzier’s book suggested that Eton, and presumably the others, in fact tolerated it. The reviews almost gave the impression that despite the disgust by many of the interviewees about how they had been mistreated, the dominant attitude was almost that it was just jolly schoolboy japes. Nothing more. Don’t worry, they’ll get over it. One ex-public schoolboy told me that the attitude is that after you’ve been bullied, you go on to bully the younger boys in your turn as you go up the school.

And power is very much involved. I’ve also been told by those, who have gone through the system that the elite send their children to the public schools not because they necessarily give them a better education – and indeed, stats show that actually state school kids do better at Uni than public schoolchildren – but because it gives them access to the same kind of people, who can help their careers.

It’s about the old boy’s club, and the old school tie.

Which, together with the abuse, means that the boys preyed upon are expected to take it, because one day their abuser will be able to do something for them in turn, in politics, finance, business, whatever.

Which sounds exactly like the mindset behind the abuse here. Powerful men, who tell those they’re preying on that they’ll help them out if they just submit to their advances. But if they don’t, they’ll never work again.

Private Eye, in itself, isn’t a radical magazine. it’s founders – Peter Cook, Willie Rushton, Richard Ingrams and co. were all solidly middle class, ex-public schoolboys. As is Ian Hislop. With a few possible exceptions, the Tory cabinet is solidly aristo and upper-middle class, as is the senior management at the Beeb.

Which probably explains why the Eye and Have I Got News For You yesterday night decided to treat the subject of sexual harassment as a joke, even if Jo Brand, as a feminist comedian, made it very clear that to many women it wasn’t funny.

Betsy DeVos Removes Guidance Documents for Disabled Students

October 28, 2017

More from a growing pile of already abundant evidence that Betsy DeVos should not be in charge of education in America. Actually, I wouldn’t trust her to run a pre-school or kindergarten. In this piece from The Young Turks, Jeff Waldorf reports and comments on the move by DeVos to rescind the 72 official documents, which explain to students and their parents, what the rights of disabled people are when they go to Uni. American universities are granted money by the federal government to support the needs of disabled students. DeVos hasn’t revoked these. She’s just making sure that disabled students, their carers and relatives, don’t know what they are.

One of these documents translates the official jargon of the legislation into ordinary plain English, so that regular peeps don’t need a lawyer to interpret it for them. Now it’s gone, things are going to be made difficult so that people will need a lawyer, which only the wealthy will be able to afford.

Waldorf states that not only is this move contradictory, as she hasn’t repealed the legislation itself, but it’s the first step to depriving disable people of the state support they need. He aptly describes it as ‘weaponising ignorance’.

DeVos is coming for the very weakest members of American society. That includes transgender people. She got rid of a whole load of federal directives demanding that the transgendered should be allowed to use the toilet facilities of the sex they identified with, on the grounds that this should be left to state and local government.

And she’s done the same with official legislation detailing how universities should deal with sexual assault on campus. That too, should be left to state and local authorities to decide, as well as the unis themselves.

Waldorf parodies the old Pastor Niemoller poem, ‘First they came for…’, with ‘First they came for the transgender, then the sexual assault victims, then the disabled’. He concludes that DeVos and her government are terrible people.

This is truly disgusting. It’s another attempt by the Republicans to restrict access to higher education, so that only the rich can afford it. And the able-bodied. I thought I’d post it here, as I know that many of the readers of the blog are either disabled, or the carers and relatives of people with disabilities. The people this government despise.

Waldorf is absolutely right about ‘weaponised ignorance’. Since John Major’s day there has been a culture of silence with the DSS/ Benefits Agency/ DWP. People are not being told their rights by DWP staff, and it’s been part of a campaign to make sure that benefits are not taken up. The government can then claim that millions of pounds in benefits are going unclaimed, and so appear generous when announcing this fact, while at the same time planning to cut the amount of benefit. That’s how it’s worked out for several decades. And the delays in the benefits system now and the sanctions system has created a murderous system of ‘checkbook euthanasia’ in which the government is apparently trying to make sure that people die of starvation before they get anything from the state.

As for transgender people, they’ve been vilified as potential sexual predators and a danger to women and children based on a single incident, if that. Some commenters have made the point that Trump and the Republicans are turning on them, because they lost the argument about gay rights and marriage.

They’ve also shown how hypocritical their attitude to sexual violence is by repealing the legislation regulating the way universities should handle real sexual assault. So they’re only worried about rape and sexual assault if it involves the transgender. If it’s carried out by cis-gendered people, then apparently they’re completely indifferent to it.

Despite the recent revelations of the sexual assault and exploitation of women – and men – in the movie business by predatory moguls like Harvey Weinstein.

This is being done in America. But the Republicans over here absolutely love every nasty trick the party of Ronald Reagan has ever played, and it will come over here. No doubt loudly supported by the Heil and the Torygraph.

Lee Camp: New Docs Show America Knew about Indonesian Genocide

October 21, 2017

In this clip from RT America’s Redacted Tonight, comedian Lee Camp talks about the recent findings from 39 declassified documents that the American government was fully aware of the mid-1960s genocide in Indonesia. The docs came from the American embassy in Jakarta. The killing was launched by the Indonesian dictator, Suharto, against real or suspected members of the Communist party. Over a million people were butchered. Suharto continued as president for the next thirty years, looting billions from his country. The radical American magazine, Mother Jones, called the carnage ‘the biggest genocide you’ve never heard of’. Another reputable paper named Suharto as the world’s most corrupt politicians. Camp jokes that it’s a very crowded field, like finding the sleaziest Hollywood producer at Harvey Weinstein’s pool party.

Before he talks about this, however, he discusses the Dow Jones index recording a massive rise, as the banks that screwed the American people carry on as usual and resist proper regulation and oversight.

From what I’ve read, the declassified docs about Indonesia are just the tip of the iceberg. A number of historians have argued that not only did America know about the genocide carried out between 1965-66, but that Suharto had the full backing of America. The parapolitics magazine, Lobster, carried a very detailed article about it back in the 1990s.

There is also a very, very grim documentary about the massacres, which talked to the families of the victims and the generals and government officials responsible. I haven’t seen it, but I’ve read some of the reviews that have called it ‘harrowing’. And I’ve no doubt it is, considering the subject matter. And what is particularly disgusting is that those responsible show no remorse whatsoever.

Weinstein, Acting and the Sexual Exploitation of Women

October 18, 2017

The big news story this week has been the numerous accusations of rape, sexual assault and other forms of indecency against the big movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein. The papers and news broadcasts have been full of the accounts by actress after actress about how Weinstein assaulted or otherwise tried to degrade them for his own sexual gratification. And as the scandal has gone on, other women have also revealed how they too were demeaned or sexually exploited in order to get roles or keep their jobs in Hollywood. I saw one headline for a video about Weinstein on YouTube, which quoted one female celeb as saying that he was just ‘the tip of the iceberg. And I’m not remotely surprised.

Hollywood has always had a reputation for the dark side of the glamour of showbusiness. This isn’t just the sordid off-screen lives of some of the stars and directors and producers themselves, but also for the sexual exploitation of aspiring actresses. The most notorious aspect of this was the ‘casting couch’, in which producers would pressure actresses to sleep with them if they wanted to get a part. And I really wouldn’t be surprised if the same thing existed in the theatre. Something very much like it is portrayed in the film All That Jazz, in which Roy Schneider plays a dissolute theatrical producer, who in one scene sleeps with one of the women, whom he is supposed to be auditioning. The film tries to make it somehow less sleazy by having her asking him if he wants to go to bed with her.

And even when there is no personal sexual contact, there is nevertheless a culture where women are very much judged on their beauty and sexual allure in a demeaning manner. Jennifer Lawrence has told how she, along with a group of other young women, were made to strip naked, with only pads covering their private parts, while a female producer looked them over. In Lawrence’s case, she was told to lose a lot of weight in order to compete with the much thinner girls in the line-up. She has said how she told another, male producer about the experience afterwards, to be insulted by him in turn when he said that there was nothing wrong with her weight, and that she was perfectly ‘f***able’.

These stories have been about the American film industry, but I really don’t think we have cause for complacency over on this side of the pond. A friend of mine a while ago told me about a young woman he knew, who applied to enter one of the country’s most prestigious stage schools. She got an audition, during which she was asked to take her clothes off. When she asked why, she was simply told that they wanted to see if she would do anything to get a part.

I don’t know the person involved myself, and this could be another Friend-Of-A-Friend story, but it does have the ring of truth. Some British film stars have told in interviews how they were messed about by the stage schools or acting academies to which they had applied. Euan McGregor said on one interview that when he was trying to start out in acting, he tried several times to get into RADA. Eventually, he got an audition. So he spent £125 on a train ticket from Edinburgh to London. This was in the 1980s, when the money was worth rather more than it is now. When he got there, he found that there was nobody to see him except one man. He was told quite frankly that he hadn’t got in. When he complained that he’s spent a lot of money getting down there just for nothing, the man just replied ‘Well, you’re going to have a lot of disappointments’. Which shows just how arrogant and casually spiteful RADA was, at least to him.

And some men have also said that they were the subject of unwanted advances by powerful cinema executives, who tried to use the immense power they had over their careers to exploit them sexually.

It seems to me that the YouTube video is right. Weinstein is just the tip of the iceberg, and the whole showbiz industry is rotten with amoral, exploitative predators. It desperately needs cleaning out.