A Journey of Artistic Comrades

[Content note: Sexual harassment]

Yael Stone, of Orange is the New Black, has accused Geoffrey Rush of sexual harassment. Stone and Rush worked together in 2010 on The Diary of a Madman.

Via IndieWire:
"Stone told The Times that Rush’s inappropriate behavior included sending her sexually explicit text messages, exposing his penis to her in the dressing room, joining her uninvited as she took a nap backstage, using a mirror to watch her shower, and touching her in a 'very sexual manner' at an awards show. Yael said, 'There was no part of my brain considering speaking to anyone in any official capacity. This was a huge star. What were they going to do? Fire Geoffrey and keep me?'"
Rush has responded by calling Stone's accusations “incorrect" and, well, there's a lot going on in his statement in addition to the bit I've highlighted, below:
“'...[C]learly Yael has been upset on occasion by the spirited enthusiasm I generally bring to my work,' Rush said in a statement. 'I sincerely and deeply regret if I have caused her any distress. This, most certainly, has never been my intention. When we performed in ‘The Diary Of A Madman’ 8 years ago, I believe we engaged in a journey as artistic comrades. Over the years we have shared correspondence that always contained a mutual respect and admiration. As I have said in the past, I abhor any behavior that might be considered as harassment or intimidation to anyone – whether in the workplace or any other environment.'”
What could that possibly mean, that a man said he was engaged on a "journey as artistic comrades" with a woman who accused him of sexual harassment? The "comrades" suggests equality, light-heartedness, and togetherness, but unequal power dynamics are built into every workplace and it's clear that Stone did not have the same sense of shared power and camaraderie that Rush suggests existed.

It's always a strange thing when men use rape culture tropes within their shitty #MeToo responses, but the notion that an abuser and a target are equally-witting conspirators in the target's debasement has long been one of rape culture's most enduring deceptions. When a response uses a trope, nonetheless, it at least demonstrates which crowd the accused is playing to - those who don't question the trope.

But here's a fun fact you won't see in any famous man's sorry-not-sorry-if-anyone-was-hurt letter:

Rape culture exists, in part, to grant ugly, powerful old dudes sexual access to young attractive people under the lie that such men are hot, sexually-desirable studs, rather than just possessive of some financial, physical, emotional, professional, and/or cultural power over their targets. And, a target's accommodation to this reality the man perceives as willingness (unless they're of the type that gets off on the unwillingness, which many are), when it's really just a need to exist within the parameters of whatever rape culture shithole the man has power.

In the #MeToo era, as women (primarily) continue to shine a light on the abuser who is also an artiste, and usually also a man, we keep having to have national conversations about the vital need to separate the art from the artist lest, perhaps, men become banned from creating art altogether or something. Don't forget, after all, lost artistic potential in men is a human rights violation of the first order. Lost potential in women is just another ho-hum day ending in a "y."

As men experience temporary or no consequences for their behavior unless, say, like Larry Nassar the tally of human beings they victimize numbers into the hundreds, I am increasingly disturbed by the backlash to #MeToo that demands a collective pretense that a man mistreating a woman is irrelevant to his professional character, competence, and integrity.

As women bare detail after detail of their traumas, the backlash crowd starts first from the assumption that cushy jobs are certain men's birthright and second from the assumption that even if women might have "experienced distress," the men's pain is simply the more compelling pain for us to concern ourselves with.

Of course, in that department, the men get a huge assist from the reality that, quite likely, women sharing their sexual traumas is jerk-off material for millions of men in this country who consume pornography centered around the degradation of women, including in all likelihood those who are helping shape public opinion about the "excesses" of #MeToo. Consider, that many of the high-profile #MeToo cases involve attractive, thin cishet white women is a reflection of the complicated reality that the pain of attractive, thin cishet white women matters more in the court of public opinion than other women's pain, that no woman is safe, and that a lot of misogynistic sadists exist in the US who love nothing more than reading about "hot" powerful, uppity women being humiliated.

So tell me, how, exactly, is art separate from the human beings who both create it and live, love, breathe, eat, sleep, laugh, fuck, rape, and terrorize within rape culture?

Rape culture rigs systems against women and is one of the most significant labor issues in the nation. If an artist isn't aware of, contemplating, and interrogating the power dynamics within the culture in which they live, then I believe they are infinitely more susceptible to replicating those power dynamics in their work and process, and because of that, I highly doubt such an artiste would be any woman's fucking comrade.

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