CW: Rape, Sexual Assault, abuse and consent
TW: Rape, discussions of sexual assault, interviews and commentary of violence against women, gaslighting
Whilst having a conversation last night with an enlightened soul, I had something articulated to me that I had been mulling over for a couple weeks. Why were all the apologies coming from misogynists, rapists, abusers, racists – and in general, really fucking awful men – so grating to my skin? Why did I dismiss everyone instantly, knowing full well they were not in any way ‘sorry’?
Because, they all know exactly what to say. How to say it and in the best way. This is a PR stunt, en masse, of the Toxic Masculinity™ empire.
And frankly, although Elton said ‘sorry seems to be the hardest word’ – I can think of a million others.
Men and their toxic abuse ring are exactly that – a well organised, well equipped group of powerful people that have set up a world in which they can do what they wish, to whom they choose and be protected by one another. I liken these upheavals to the paedophile rings of the catholic church or the white supremacists shooting dead black folk and hiding behind a police badge. They make their apology – quite often not – and are shifted around the institution, put on sick leave or suspended and then turn up somewhere else, ready and willing to do the same again.
So, what have we been seeing?
Louis CK’s statement reeked of smugness, of self-approval. It was littered with his self-proclaimed ‘admiration’ that all of his victims had for him. He was accused of masturbating in front of people, after warning them he was about to do it, in concealed private places. But lest we not forget, this came out at a time where he was releasing a film about a man that had a penchant for… masturbating in front of women at his will and loved being called Daddy. The statement was less so an apology and more a dark dip into the pool of his sick ego:
Harvey Weinstein, arguably the biggest and heaviest domino to be pushed – never actually apologised. He felt “remorse” or was “going to try and be the man he thought he should be now” and even in the closing of his statement, tried to justify why he didn’t hate or disrespect women because he was opening a foundation for them. A great example of a not-apology:
Kevin Spacey was one of the most fucked up “apologies”, given that he decided to come out as Gay whilst omitting no guilt to sexually harassing a teenage child. Note how he uses the words “I owe him an apology” or “I’m sorry for the feelings he describes having..”. This is not an admission of guilt, it’s a denial and gas-lighting as hell for anyone having to deal with the memories of what this fuck did to them:
R. Kelly has been accused of rape, sexual assault and enrolling black teenage girls as sex slaves in a cult-like set-up since 1994 – where he married then 15-year-old Aaliyah.
That’s twenty-four years of allegations and even still today, his music is played. He has vehemently denied and falsified the truth – but what gleams most from the R. Kelly case is the abuse and dismissal of said violence against WOC, namely black women and how they are treated generally when they speak out against sexual assault and rape – which is deeply rooted in misogynoir and never treated the same way if a white girl comes forward.
The R. Kelly team even singles out WOC in their statement as them just trying to scapegoat him to ‘raise their own profile’ – calling his treatment a lynching. He needs to die a death:
Chris Brown is another man that has a long list, of not just abuse of women, but in general being a dick hole behaviour. Mostly recently being accused of rape and general violence against women, yet he still appears on Black-ish last year and is still supported widely through his music. I can’t be bothered to waste much time on him to be honest.
James Franco is one that really goes under the radar, like Jared Leto and Casey Affleck. Franco has a long list of abuses, most prominently in my mind is the seeking out of 17-year-old fans on Instagram to come and have sex with him. When pressed to give a statement or apology, this is the type of shit he gives out:
Another example of gas-lighting supreme against these young girls plus another example of when men protect men, as earlier this year Franco’s long-standing man-child, prick of a friend Seth Rogen decides to finally speak up, but doesn’t say anything at all:
(Actually, Seth, you are exactly the person to speak up – call him out, stop working with him and bring attention to this in the community of men).
And finally, one case that has really got my blood boiling is the Jeffery Tambor allegations. Most widely known as the Dad on Arrested Development, he has since been playing a transgender women transitioning in the TV show ‘Transparent’. There has been several accusations of him rubbing himself up against the trans actors on set, whilst erect – and also being verbally and physically threatening. There seemed a glimmer of hope that he might get kicked off of the show and it would continue without him, however, his behaviour has instead got the show cancelled and what has been a TV series that gave a delicate insight to the lives of actual trans actors (albeit the lead being played by a cisman, *Hollywood*), they co-opted to protect his name.
But low and behold, when you think it can’t get any worse, the men on Arrested Development – the men that would never have been victims of this scum-bag’s abuse – claim, categorically, that it is not true. They staunchly stand by his side and declare it all bullshit in a gut-wrenching interview and actually defend it as “part of the business”. Funny how it’s only part of the business when it’s women getting abused – what does that actually say about “the business”?
I’ve had many conversations with people over the last 12-18 months, with regards to sexual assault, allegations and the concentration of Hollywood cases. Many have been dismissive that “it’s just happening up in Beverly Hills” or when men get a certain type of power, they then – and only then – abuse it. And that therein lies the problem.
I was reading a small thread on Twitter, from Ash Sarkar, and it kind of hit the nail on the head for me:
Every single man lives in the culture of rape that they have helped cultivate, they live with the hegemonic power of toxic masculinity which is fuel for the fire of misogyny and quite often live their whole lives never having to dissect or assess their actions within it. And what Ash said is exactly true, although we live within a system we don’t necessarily see ourselves doing the bidding of it. We blame others, ignore, stay silent or – in the case of the vast majority – overtly deny and protect other men. Why? Because to call out one man on toxic behaviour runs the risk of having to call yourself out, and no man wants that.
I was sat down as a child, multiple times, and told about sexual abuse, child abuse, assault and consent – by my mother – due to her experiences as a child, as a woman and her urgency to protect me and, probably unintentionally, others from the threat that I could be as an adult man. Now, this didn’t protect me from anything happening to me, but it made me aware and it didn’t stop me from being toxic in many ways as an adolescent and adult, but again, it made me aware.
Yet, we can see it every day in the news we read, our friendship circles and our families. There’s this colonial rhetoric of MOC being savages and rapists which is still prevalent to this day in the media, main stream or otherwise. We see it with paedophile rings that are of predominantly South Asian descent. The overwhelmingly white, middle class men of the newspapers jump on it with fever and proclaim that we must stamp out the plight of these rapists on our shores that seek to destroy the very existence of whiteness by attacking the bodies of our pure white women – more often than not this actual discourse is trolled out by white women, because they are the beacons of what are considered women, but womanism is another story for another time.
But the reality is, regardless of statistics, white men are always at the top. They are the biggest killers, biggest abusers, biggest criminals and the most likely to rape or abuse, by quite a margin.
But this intersection, other than highlighting why intersectionality is important in everything we are critical of, is just another layer of this ring’s power to abuse. It has everyone involved in it, not just men. If it isn’t men protecting men, it’s white women protecting white men. If it isn’t men actively covering up or protecting men’s abuses of women, it’s them staying silent knowing full well what has gone on – and we know the saying, your silence makes you complicit.
I’ve had people cover for me as I cheated, I’ve treated women like dirt and never been called out, I’ve also covered for other people as they cheated and stayed silent when I’ve heard a rape allegation or been told something a friend has done which is downright abusive.
And still, there was a constant cycle of protection. Men staying silent, men bragging, men changing the subject, men finding ways around every corner of every story to bring back their absolution.
This isn’t a problem for Hollywood, although what is happening in Hollywood is quite particular. We have a culture developing of people being called out, people being accused and found guilty – but not being charged. Okay, the likes of Rolf Harris and – eventually – Bill Cosby, yes. But the men I mentioned previously? Nothing much. They say their fake apology, so well scripted and so well lawyered that they lay no guilt at their feet. They supposedly go to therapy and realise that “they have been a bad boy”. Where’s the education? Where’s the active attempt at trying to change the culture?
There should be a social obligation – a social law – that requires these men to now dedicate the rest of their powerful, wealthy, extravagant lives into dismantling toxic masculinity. But there isn’t. What we are seeing in Hollywood is a blockbuster version of what we see in our normal, pitiful lives. Men are accused of rape, men perpetrate rape and assault and it gets called “sexual misconduct”, they file a statement and their lives continue. They rarely lose their job, they rarely have their career ruined and they certainly don’t lose their wealth and power. They are actively given jobs in the face of these abuses of power, they win Oscars, they get commemorated and are allowed to keep their platform. Their friends and their family rally around them, they are called “genuinely” good guys by their long-standing man-friends (quite often women too, look at the Roman Polansky case), petitions signed to keep them from their downfall.
And that’s exactly how it works for us too. We watch our friends cheat and talk absolute trash about women yet, stay silent. We hear misogynistic and sexist stuff in the work place and take women’s silence as a green light to continue, rather than fear of deeper abuse or loss of their job. We brush off toxic behaviour as “just what he does” or “yeah, but he is nice deep down” because ultimately, understanding and seeing this behaviour in others, makes us complicit because we have probably done it too.
The burden of this shit should not be that of women. Men have the power to change this, calling out their fathers, brothers, uncles, friends, work colleagues – but properly. Not just “nah man, don’t say that”, actual reprimanding them. Police your friends, enforce rules and social laws. Also, understand that what you consider normal or regular behaviour, is laced with toxicity.
The irony is that speaking out like this makes me a threat to men, I’m an enemy on the front lines. I’ve seen it and felt it. I’ve had the argument “yeah well you’ve done X, Y and Z” and yes, I have. Or I hear “well then you think you haven’t done anything bad recently?” no, I have for sure. But again, this knee jerk reaction to being called out, of cutting out people that call you out and just falling closer in rank with those that allow you to remain unseen, is a part of the problem.
Knowing that these men have abused and raped women, doesn’t stop men from watching their work or supporting them. I often hear “yeah, but not all men”. But yes, all men. If you aren’t actively trying to change yourself and the environment, you’re upholding the status-quo. The same goes for racism, if you aren’t explicitly racist towards POC, then how do you uphold it? Do you even understand race and racism? Because if you’re white, you’re a part of it, as you are if you’re a man within toxic masculinity and rape culture.
If we are to dismantle this, we need to first acknowledge it’s a problem. Secondly, be prepared to be uncomfortable and lastly, it’s time to get personal.
Time’s up on toxic masculinity.