I'm Late To The Party…Can Anyone Play?

by Shaker NYC WeboyA mixed race feminist gay man. Trust me…I've got issues. And a teaspoon.

I've been feeling kind of blocked, these days.

We all get those moments—I just never expected to get one so soon after Melissa—where politics is too much and not enough all at once. Where the things I care about just don't seem to merit a full-on essay. And maybe it's time I got up from the pooter, took a shower, and made my bed. :-)

A friend and co-blogger at my space suggested that I try breaking my writer's block by talking about Jon Favreau, the Obama speechwriter who got caught in this picture at some freewheeling party during the primary season:

I told my friend that Favreau really wasn't my issue—or at least an issue where my passion moved me to write; frankly, these are the moments when I count on my feminist friends to make the case. I just assumed that the sexism of the photo would be so obvious, and the outrage so clear, that the net effect would be as well: Favreau, like Samantha Power might be something of a neophyte, but there are just some things that can't be explained away. Or excused.

Which just shows how naive I am.

Nothing has happened to Favreau—aside from a mild rebuke and an apparent apologetic call to Clinton, Favreau's misbehavior has largely been swept away. Thankfully, Dee Dee Myers wouldn't let it drop:
What's bugging me is his intention. He isn't putting his hand on her "chest," as most of the articles and conversations about the picture have euphemistically referred to it. Rather, his hand—cupped just so—is clearly intended to signal that he's groping her breast. And why? Surely, not to signal he finds her attractive. Au contraire. It's an act of deliberate humiliation. Of disempowerment. Of denigration.

And it disgusts me.

Oh, I know: If Hillary can get over it, why can't I? Her spokesman, Phillipe Reinnes, tried to make light of the incident. "Senator Clinton is pleased to learn of Jon's obvious interest in the State Department, and is currently reviewing his application," he told the Washington Post in an E-mail. Obviously, she has no interest in making a federal case out of this particular incident, particularly as both the Clinton and Obama camps work on letting bygones be bygones. She has to pick her battles, and for her this ain't a hill worth dying on.

But there is a larger issue at stake. At what point does sexist behavior get taken seriously? At what point do people get punished in ways that suggest this kind of behavior, this kind of thinking, is unacceptable? At what point do we insist there will be consequences? Clearly, that didn't happen during the recent presidential campaign, when Hillary was—as I guess she is now—fair game. The press, the pundits, and the public could say things about her ("She's a shrew!") and to her ("Iron my shirt!") that were over-the-top sexist—yet got almost no reaction.
And so, of course, Adam Serwer over at TAPPED calls Myers "riding the victim train":
But say that Favreau had been caught in a picture making a racist joke about Obama rather than a sexist joke about Hillary Clinton. In all likelihood, Obama would have either got angry, or laughed it off, but I doubt Favreau would have been fired, because Obama really hasn't shown a tendency to react particularly emotionally to racial slights. If he had, he wouldn't be where he is.
Never mind the horrendous parallel example, the usual "let's compare oppressions" logic...it's the overall dismissing of sexism as a problem that gets me, the kind which leads one commenter to say "And he wasn't harassing an actual woman, he was goofing around with a cardboard cutout."

To which I replied:
I mean, really...what can you say? "Gee, it's totally better that he was disrespectful to the image of a woman than an actual woman?" In college I had neighbors in my dorm take all of Vanessa Williams second layout in Penthouse and paste it up all over their room. Women in the dorm were outraged. It's totally different, like, when it's just images of women on paper, right?

Adam, I like your blogging and I appreciate your insights...but really—could you be more dismissive of the idea of sexism? I'm guessing no.
Just to expand on it, the college story actually happened—my freshman dorm neighbors pasted Williams' notorious "second" photoshoot (which depicted her fully exposed in various bondage images) on their dorm room walls. Along with others, I was treated to a tour. Including some freshman women. In short order, the pair were reported to the Dean, and eventually subjected to disciplinary action. It was the talk of my hall. It was, for me, an early lesson in both the power of feminism and the power of speaking up.

So yes, my friends, I get it. Sorry I didn't speak up sooner...but Favreau has got to go.

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