MeToo, still.

I’ve encountered many predators throughout my life.

Somehow, the deeper commonalities between them escaped me until last year.

Last year, I started developing a personal theory about power:

Power is the ability to define “we,”
and have your definition enforced.

I’d read Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear many years before I began developing this theory. I was well aware that “forced teaming” is one of seven tactics used by persuasion predators to coax potential victims into ignoring their survival instincts.

Somehow, despite multiple encounters with various predators sexual and non-sexual, I’d spent my life believing “forced teaming” was limited to predation that culminated itself in sexual assault.

It took me weeks reflecting on a profoundly uncomfortable situation last year to realize that sexual assault is not itself the core objectification in assault, but rather one horrific expressed consequence of it:

You are not a human with rights;
you are an object, on whom I may
force my definition of “we” as suits me.

Sometimes, objectification-as-entitlement-to-you may be expressed in sex-mimicking acts; other times, it can take form in situations utterly devoid of such acts,
whether in private spaces, in public ones, or both.

Soon after I began realizing that sexual assault is but one expression of an urge to dominate, I stumbled across She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite A Movement.

If I’d had any doubt about my theory, this book crushed it:

Time and time again, Harvey Weinstein defined “we” in various ways that suited him. He did this anywhere and everywhere, in private spaces and in front of audiences. Wrote authors Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, “Weinstein had harassed Perkins from practically the first day, she said. ‘He was pathologically addicted to conquering women,’ she said.. ‘ That was got him out of bed in the morning.'”

Many, many people were long concerned about Weinstein’s behavior. They were also, understandably in light of the circumstances, terrified what would happen to them if they spoke up.

Fearing the punishment should they speak up, many chose–for many years–silence.

Power is the ability to define “we,”
and have your definition enforced
(no matter which mechanisms,
like fear, are used to help enforce it).

After reading She Said, I posted “I believe you.

This was a collection of three 2015 posts I’d written on what I’d learned from my experiences with one pedophile decades ago.

These posts were my early #MeToo. They were my way of saying, as one law student angel said to my sister, “I believe you.”

(I believe you, whomever is reading these words who may never yet have known the grace of hearing them.)

I opted to repost these because She Said informed me I had more story to tell, and the post I had yet to write on the matter “will benefit mightily by my being able to reference the older ones I reread this morning. So I’m posting them here, now, knowing I will be drawing on them soon.”

I might never have gotten around to writing that post, but for tweets by–and responsive to–the same newspaper that broke the Weinstein story.

On Sunday morning, I discovered on Twitter a flurry of tweets responding to text in both a New York Times article and one of its tweets.

The article addressed allegations by a former Joe Biden staffer that Biden had sexually assaulted her.

That staffer, Tara Reade, had come forward last April about inappropriate touching during her time on Biden’s staff. She was one of seven women to speak after Lucy Flores wrote about a deeply discomfiting encounter with Joe Biden: “An Awkward Kiss Changed How I Saw Joe Biden.”

This January, Reade sought legal assistance from Time’s Up. Time’s Up then declined to assist her, citing technical reasons for declining.

Last month, Katie Halper interviewed Reade about her experiences. With a handful of exceptions, the media coverage then was … crickets.

Then, days after Bernie Sanders, Biden’s final Democratic presidential competitor, suspended his campaign, the NYT got around to covering Tara Reade’s allegations. It did so with a sentence that inspired, on Twitter, reactions ranging from bemused to enraged: “We found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Biden, beyond hugs, kisses, and touching that women previously said made them uncomfortable.”

Upon request of the Biden campaign, the New York Times later disappeared each word beginning with “beyond” from the article. With that, they also disappeared from any subsequent readers the history of unwanted touching they had captured,

and the women whose stories they captured.

The new sentence read simply: “We found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Biden.”

Why were they removed? The Biden campaign found them “awkward.”

In other words, the newspaper that touted its bravery breaking the Weinstein case ended up affirming my theory on power.

Power is the ability to define “we,”
and have your definition enforced,
whether by others’ commission or omission,
or both at once.

Meanwhile, at the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post, a few words found their way into the middle of a quote from a police report: “she believes.”

In the Post‘s article, language from that police report was transformed from “she disclosed that she was the victim of sexual assault” to “she disclosed that she believed she was the victim of sexual assault” (emphasis mine).

In January 2015, I recalled my experiences testifying against a pedophile and wrote:

When I see women coming forward months or years after an alleged assault, I don’t usually think, “What’s in it for you?”

I think, “I wish you the best in the days ahead, because the days ahead are going to be exhausting and terrifying.” That was so for me and mine even when the man we faced wasn’t powerful and nationally beloved for the roles he played.

At the time I reposted those words this January, I was thinking only of weaving my experiences together with passages on Weinstein from She Said.

I had no idea that I’d revisit those 2015 posts with a Democratic presidential candidate in mind, nor that I’d see such egregious examples of walk-backs of what #MeToo stood stands for:

I believe women.
I believe women when we’re politically aligned,
and I believe women when we’re not.
Because I believe women.

A few things haven’t changed since I wrote in either January 2015 or January 2020.

First, I stand by my words on how today’s disbelief is the root from which tomorrow’s predation is enabled to grow:

So [people] go on believing conspiracy is likelier than assault because it’s comforting. Because they have never read Gavin de Becker and fail to understand that, per de Becker, “the solution to violence is acceptance of reality.” Because they don’t understand–or willfully disregard–that the misbegotten “truths” perpetuating their own comfort comes at the cost of the weak and vulnerable around them.

That disbelief is the carefully tended pathway pedophiles and other perpetrators dance along gleefully, trusting it to keep enabling them as it did those who came before them.

More importantly, regardless of how you cast your votes, this or any year,

when you say you did not want the “we” forced upon you,

I believe you. Still.

And I believe Tara.

One thought on “MeToo, still.

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