Dudebros — 2020 & #MeToo
The New York Times just published an article on sexual harassment in the 2016 Sanders campaign organization, penned by Mark Ember, a Wall Street maven, and former Silicon Valley reporter Katie Benner. While one might suspect the timing, based on the authors’ presumed loyalties, the fact is that sexual harassment did occur during the Sanders campaign, and it will happen again, even if more safeguards are placed on the organization, as the campaign has stated it will.
On January 26, 2018, political reporters Maggie Haberman and Amy Chozick authored a report on the 2008 Clinton campaign, detailing how Clinton herself intervened to rescue Burns Strider, a top Clinton advisor and lobbyist for the Eleison Group — an outfit that goes after church support for neoliberal policies. Strider was accused of multiple instances of sexual harassment, and within two years, Democratic heavyweight and Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was knocked back on his heels by the revelation that he was a serial sexual predator. Weinstein was joined in the #MeToo wave in short order by a list of more than 200 powerful men — politicos and celebrities alike — as women made an historic breakthrough that filtered through pop culture into Main Streets and living rooms . . . and which continues today.
From Al Franken to Nelly to Garrison Keillor to Bill Cosby to Charlie Rose to Roy Moore to Dustin Hoffman, on and on it goes. Republican, Democrat, white, black, old, young . . . the only thing they had in common, across the board, was that they were men.
Then a proud serial sexual predator won the Presidency, based substantially on his contempt for women.
As a Sanders supporter, I remember the daily high tide of polemics on social media between Clinton and Sanders supporters, and the constant struggle many of us had in navigating the simultaneous reality that Clinton was a horrifically bad candidate — as evidenced now by her loss to one of the stupidest men to ever hold the office — that her politics aligns with neoconservatism, and that she was also the victim of sexism, mostly from the right, where Hillary-hatred is totally motivated by the belief that she is the embodiment of that arch-enemy feminism.
But lefty-boys are not immune to masculinity, and many of us supporting Sanders spent a fair amount of energy turning our critiques against lefty-boy machismo and misogyny. Clinton was (pick one) a bitch, a witch, a harridan, and so on. Lefty-boys of all ages found this kind of invective perfectly acceptable, because, in one brand of macho leftism, once you become “the enemy,” anything is permitted. They were utterly clueless about why this was a problem.
Why will it happen again? Because we men are formed by history and culture to believe we are entitled to sex, most of us are heterosexual, and we have been trained to see women as sexual objects. The key term here is entitlement. If you don’t let us have sex with you, we can retaliate; and if you still refuse, then we are entitled to “buy” sex from women whose circumstances have left them little choice.
Not to be quite so categorical, there is certainly a difference between the sexual attitudes of men on the left and men on the right, and on the left there is certainly a great deal more support for feminism/womanism, greater sensitivity to questions of gender, and more vigilance against sexism than one might find on the right. And men on the left generally speaking will voice support for the formal legal equality of women — which the right generally opposes. There are generational differences, too.
I don’t doubt that the timing of this article by Ember and Benner might be more about resurrecting the Bernie Bro narrative that was tactically deployed by the Clinton campaign to create the impression that Sanders supporters were a pack of feral sexist fratboys than it is a jeremiad against sexual harassment. The best propaganda always has an element of truth to lend it verisimilitude. But, this is a crap tactic, because — as we have seen — if there are enough men in any organization, a bunch of them are going to be entitled dudebros who can’t keep their hands and remarks off of women.
The Democrats, who consistently apologized for that other serial predator, Bill Clinton, were hoisted on their own petard when they made a blood sacrifice of Christine Blasey Ford, whose story they held until it seemed tactically advantageous, failing utterly to stop the appointment of another serial predator to the US Supreme Court. Dr. Ford courageously recounted her story, the Republicans did what they wanted anyway, and she is now the target of thousands of harassers who have escalated to rape and death threats.
Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Beto O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Cory Booker (and a dozen less-known others) are all potential candidates for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Based on their actual records and public positions, speaking for myself, there is only one on this list I would work for, and that is still Sanders, because I regard the rest as opportunists or neoliberals or both. On this “issue” of Senator Sanders’ being an old white man, I am far less concerned about his personal demographics than I am about what his policies will do to alleviate the suffering of those who are poor, racially marginalized, female, sexual minorities, and immigrants. In every case, Sanders’ proposals are well ahead of any of the other contenders.
The cynical tactics will continue, because American politics is as ugly as American society, and modern politics is as ugly as modern society, and capitalist politics is as ugly as capitalist society. That’s part of the terrain . . . like traversing a treacherous bomb-scape. And men, until we arrive at a state of contrition for our formation as men who believe they are entitled to sex, will continue to harass, assault, and rape women.
Sexual harassment did occur during the Sanders campaign, and it will happen again, even if more safeguards are placed on the organization. Why? Because right now any organization with more men than a soccer team includes some men who will sexually objectify and harass women.
The fact that some of us have renounced this entitlement does not excuse us from naming it, even among our allies, or stating that men are the problem. The belief by men that men are entitled to sex, and the objectification of women by heterosexual males, is still absolutely hegemonic. This is our struggle (not only women’s) until it is not, or we are still complicit.