When it comes to women, men are going back to the ’50s

This has been in my head today as I see tweets from important people who are shocked to learn there’s “gambling in this establishment.” That as recently as August 2015, when I originally wrote this, some male journalists — at the liberal The Atlantic, no less — couldn’t figure out what the big deal was.

He’s tweeting this weekend, too.

Politicians and journalists are jumping off a ship that’s sinking. Good for them. But they should be forced to ask an important question: On the question of the mistreatment and objectification of women, where were your voices before?

[Originally published on August 27, 2015]

A few days ago, a colleague of mine tweeted that she couldn’t even use an ATM the other day without some guy stopping to critique her breasts.

At Old Dominion University this week the fellas in a frat house felt compelled to welcome incoming freshmen with these signs.

As the University of Minnesota moves to adopt its “yes means yes” policy at a glacial pace, the trial continues of a St. Paul School (New Hampshire) student, charged with rape, who described the “senior salute”, the practice of seniors “getting together” with younger students before graduation. Others use a different term — raping.

Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic felt no shame at all in writing that the reaction to the Old Dominion frat boys’ attitude was overblown.

“How did we reach a place where Local Frat Makes Crude Joke causes staffers at the BBC, CNN, The Washington Post and USA Today to spring into action?” he asks.

Maybe there are people there who tried to use their ATM.

“Debates like this are polarizing because a false choice is often presented: defend the transgression that is generating outrage or join in condemning the perpetrators. But there is a third way,” he writes. “It requires circumspection and a sense of proportion.”

Boys will be boys.

He quotes others to support his position. All are men. Men specialize in what it’s like to be women. Just ask them.

Adrienne LaFrance, a senior editor at The Atlantic, tries to shake some sense into her colleague.

That the dust-up at Old Dominion made international headlines may indicate the outrage cycle is ever-churning and the bawdy tastes of cable news are unflinching—but it also hints at something worthwhile: that how women feel might finally be worthy of attention, and even corrective action, on college campuses and in wider culture.

In the Boston Globe today, columnist Yvonne Abraham, watching the New Hampshire trial, concludes we’re going backward.

“Some of us hoped they would be growing up in a more enlightened world when it comes to sex — one where our daughters are more empowered, and our sons more respectful of their rights,” she writes, contending it’s still 1950.

If St. Paul’s School is any indication — and there’s no reason to think it isn’t, since the elite prep school’s graduates go on to run the world — our more open sexual culture has changed the basics very little. There, it appears, senior boys see far less powerful and more vulnerable freshman girls as marks, as sexual conquests to be tallied on an actual scoreboard. And girls can risk their social standing if they don’t play along.

It seems a very mixed up place, St. Paul’s. But let’s face it, it could be any place and any school. The business of coming of age sexually has never been more complicated than now.

If we assume the worst is true, and that Labrie’s accuser is telling the truth, her testimony has been a study in powerlessness. She was a 15-year-old freshman who didn’t want to go off with this popular senior, until one of his allies convinced her to change her mind (“You’re a [expletive] god,” a grateful Labrie told his pal, afterward). Alone with Labrie, then 18, she grew uncomfortable as the hook-up progressed. She said no more than once, but he continued, raping her, prosecutors say.

It’s not just here, of course. In the UK, a candidate for Labour leadership has proposed segregating buses by gender because of the rise in assaults.

The Telegraph’s Emma Barnett doesn’t like the idea, but not because she thinks it’s a great time to be a woman.

Women-only carriages on our transport networks would be an admission of defeat and a step backwards for the UK. Instead, we need politicians and educators to address the behaviours and attitudes that lead a minority of men to think this kind of treatment is ever permissible. Penalising women through seating segregation is the stuff of dystopian nightmare – not an egalitarian and thoughtful society, which the UK should always be.

The few voices from men in support of even a woman’s right to go to an ATM without being assaulted does not suggest we have that capability.

  • Tony Cifaldi

    So just to make sure even the author knows what he’s talking about, I’ll ask this: So Bob, in your entire life so far, you’ve never commented on a women’s features or beauty? If you answer no, I want to see your nose because it has to be growing!!

  • Erin

    Tony – your Disqus profile shows you asking when it became illegal for a man to ejaculate in the coffee cup of a colleague to get her attention, commenting on a story which ran in the PiPress describing a man who did exactly that. It is unsurprising that you seem hellbent on demonstrating exactly the argument made in this post.

  • Anna

    I had a brief conversation about the Trump revelations with my sister of all people. Her justification for Trump was, “All men talk that way.”

    I had to forcefully control my impulse to put my fist through the phone if that were possible. I resisted the urge to ask her if she thought our father, now deceased, ever talked trash about women.

    This is the same man who told my ex-husband after he punched me in the face, “If you ever do that to my little girl again, I will hunt you down like a dog and take your head off with a double-barrel shotgun.” He meant it. My ex never was never violent with me again. I didn’t find out about that conversation until after we divorced.

    My father told me years ago when I started dating that there are men who will (cheat) and men who won’t. There is no gray area.

    • Fred, Just Fred

      I wonder if Juanita Broderick ever wants to put her fist through the television when Hillary Clinton says all women claiming rape should be believed, and all accusations of rape should be investigated.

      • Anna

        I was not raped, Fred. My ex husband punched me in the face in a fit of temper. What followed after he stopped and my father gave him the ultimatum was worse. Verbal abuse for 17 years.

        When we ultimately separated, my son who was 16 at the time said, “Mom, it’s quiet now.” I never fully understood what effect our shouting matches had on him until that moment.

        • Fred, Just Fred

          I’m sorry to hear that, but Trump has never been accused of punching anyone. Why would you drag him into it?

          If you are suggesting Trump’s rude, sophomoric bragging condones violence against women, how could you excuse Hillary Clinton’s enabling of her physically abusive husband, and subsequent shaming of his victims in the most vulgar terms?

          How would you feel if your husband remarried a woman who said you deserved his physical abuse? That is what Hillary did. That is how her husband’s victims feel.

          Trump has apologized several times for his crude comments; Bill Clinton has never apologized to the victims of his physical abuse, and neither has Hillary.

          • crystals

            Stop. Please. Stop using abused and assaulted women as your talking points.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            You speaking to me, or HRC?

        • I’m glad you were able to get away from the abuse. No one should have to endure that.

    • >>”All men talk that way.”<<

      No, no we don't…not in locker rooms…not anywhere.

      The "men that talk that way" and those who enable that sort of chatter are known as "assholes" and are best avoided.

  • Khatti

    Forgot about the Old Dominion photo. Ahh to be that young and stupid and–frankly–angry again. I don’t particularly approve–when all else fails, this sort of behavior is counterproductive–but I do understand.

    If I had a son of college age, I would tell him that this sort of thing is a really bad idea and, again if all other arguments fail, counterproductive. What I would probably tell him is that sometime halfway through the What You Can’t Have and What’s Required of You Instead speech he should raise his hand and ask: “If you feel these measures are necessary for the safety and well-being of the women here okay–but under these circumstances why is it still in my self-interest to be involved with a woman here?”

  • lindblomeagles

    You could make the same argument about racism too, seeing as Donald Trump put that on full display throughout this election from 2015 kickoff to October 8, 2016 when the same people appalled now, sat silently then too, or argued against Trump’s racism with the words “political correctness” but I digress. This entire 2016 election is an analysis of us, the American public — where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are attempting to go. You can argue Trump is the old grandpa in the room that just won’t buy into “times have changed,” BUT WHAT ABOUT US? How is it that more than 1/2 of the country waited for this video to come out when Donald Trump LEFT NO DOUBT about his “GENDER EQUITY” ideology IN THE SUMMER OF 2015 when he attacked Fox News’s Megyn Kelly and GOP opponent Carly Fiorni with the same objectifying speak???? What excuse can we give more than 40% of American citizens who whisked him into the “Captain’s Chair” and suggested, WITH SUPREME CONVICTION, he was better than any other candidate in either party’s race, especially Hillary Clinton, who, herself, IS A WOMAN????? Showing the complete remorse of a lion gorging a gazelle’s carcass, Donald Trump told a crowd yesterday Hillary Clinton was “resting” instead of working — implying implicitly she couldn’t work like a man, like himself; and this was 24 hours AFTER “P—–Y Video’s” Release to the media.” Trump IS NOT a blundering chowder head. He didn’t con any of us like Bernie Madoff did. We KNEW who he was and what he was all about. His candidacy is OUR creation, our desire, and its high time we stopped jabbing him with spears and arrows, and started looking IN the mirror.

  • Rob

    It’s always interesting to see how individual members of the Fourth Estate exercise their freedom of the press rights. In Friedersdorf’s case, he chooses to be an apologist for rape culture. Wonder if he’s also a Trump supporter?

    • Fred, Just Fred

      Why would you wonder that? There are three women that Bill Clinton has admitted to having sexual relations with, currently claiming they were raped. There are several accounts from former body guards while he was governor of Arkansas that back their claims.

      Rape culture was cultivated in a town called Hope.

      • KTN

        What’s your point regarding Clinton, and how is it relevant. Has there been a trial, conviction or sentencing. Absent Due Process, I guess all we need is you to determine if there is guilt or not – cool, must feel pretty good about all that.
        You share that ability with the sociopath, casue he knows, knows for sure that even after DNA evidence proved otherwise, the 5 young men who were wrongly convicted of assault in NY in the 90’s are still guilty.
        Exoneration by the government means nothing to he who knows better, the sociopath knows they are guilty and that’s all the law need – so you’re in good company with that superpower.

        • Will

          You hold that same standard for Bill Cosby, right???

          • KTN

            I hold that standard for everyone – so should you.

        • Fred, Just Fred

          We’re virtue signaling here, man; moral decency and legal boundaries don’t matter. It’s all about throwing shade on the other side.

          If decency or legal boundaries did matter, Hillary’s calling the women who have accused her husband of raping them “Trash” would have removed her from government even before she leaked TS/SAP Intel to our enemies.

          Get with the program.

          • RBHolb

            First of all, a person who uses a white supremacist meme as his avatar, shouldn’t go around talking about “virtue signaling.” What do you think you’re signaling here?

            Second, the idea that there is any comparison between Trump’s pattern of misogyny and celebration of rape culture and Clinton using insulting language about her husband’s accusers is beyond ludicrous.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            First of all, neither you or any race baiting leftist are qualified to assign a meaning to my meme, it is what I say it is; period.

            Second, maybe you’ve been on Mars the past two decades, but blaming the victim is something that any feminist would tar and feather anyone for. Hillary Clinton’s slurs were exactly and precisely the same as someone suggesting a rape victim deserved it because she wore short dresses. It’s an excuse, meant to qualify an assault.

            Do you agree with that tactic?

          • RBHolb

            Gotcha, Fred. It’s just a coincidence that Pepe the Frog has been adopted by the most vile elements of the alt right. How dare they!

            No, I don’t agree with shaming the victim. I do, however, think that Senator Clinton’s victim shaming is far less reprehensible that Donald Trump’s record of treatment of women.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            Many of the most vile elements of the fringe left have a severely compromised sense of right and wrong; Hillary has bet everything on them, and Bill really appreciates the cover too, probably.

            Like much of the country, I don’t put much stock in what they think.

  • jon

    The amazing part about all this to me is that this is the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    Racism? nope. Calling for war crimes to be committed? nope. Making fun of McCain for being captured? nope. Accusations of rape, sexual misconduct, and even sleeping around on multiple wives? nope. Repeated violations of election laws? nope. committing numerous violations of election law? now. Demonstrated complete disregard for large portions of the constitution? nope. Video of him saying he grabs woman’s privates? That’s the line.

    I’m not suggesting that this isn’t a new terrible revelation… it’s a long line in terrible revelations… this one just seems to be getting a reaction that the others didn’t… and I’m astonished that the idea of having a commander and chief who has to ask “Why don’t we use nukes?” isn’t more terrifying than having one who is so engaged in rape culture.

    Yes, the idea that we’d have a role model for children who treats women this way is terrible, but so much of this is terrible, and we kind of already have that with so many role models and former role models…

  • Fred, Just Fred

    Trump is a crass, rude boor.

    What he said is nothing worse than I’ve heard hundreds of times, even from women on leftist internet media such as Shakesville, but Melissa McEwan isn’t running for office and Trump’s character doesn’t come close to meeting my standards for POTUS.

    So should this tape disqualify him? Maybe, but if it does, Hillary is done too.

    Trump has apologized several times, I think he regrets getting caught more than he regrets his language, but he did own it and apologize. Neither Hillary or Bill Clinton have ever apologized for their history of abuse towards women, and make no mistake, Hillary has plenty to apologize for. Take this infamous interview Hillary did on the Today Show with Matt Lauer on January 27, 1998; after famously blaming Bill’s “bimbo eruptions” on the “vast right-wing conspiracy”, Hillary said of Bill’s victims:

    “I think we’re going to find some other things. And I think
    that when all of this is put into context, and we really look at the
    people involved here, look at their motivations and look at their
    backgrounds, look at their past behavior, some folks are going to have a
    lot to answer for.”

    Some have called that a threat; Juanita Broderick has said she considered it a threat, but at the very least, it is victim blaming. Hillary famously went much further, calling the women “trash” and worse.

    As bad as Trump’s behavior is, he has a point. His behavior is restricted to crude language in public. Bill and Hillary Clinton’s sins were contained in their actions.

    The leftist MSM has made hay with this issue, which is fair enough, but personally I think it’s done. The only way I can see the left keeping it alive necessitates both Bill and Hillary taking responsibility for their actions, as Trump has done. Lacking that candor, no one will mistake a continuing effort as anything other than poorly disguised faux outrage and blatant hypocrisy.

    As for me, an apology won’t cover the real issue I have with HRC. I served in the military, and the thought of a cabinet level politician knowingly and deliberately hanging Top Secret intel out on the WWW laundry line cannot be forgiven until her debt to society is paid with some time, like any other criminal.

  • Mike Worcester

    I always seem to show up late to these spirited conversations. With my luck, everything I’ll say has been said already. Okay then, let’s hit it…

    When I was young I acted dumb. I admit it. I engaged in and said stupid stuff. Why? Because someone told me I was not to do that, so of course I rebelled and did exactly that. Fortunately for me no one got physically hurt, but there were a lot of bruised feelings and likely more than one lost friend. That’s my burden to bear. Thankfully there were those who called out my boorish actions and made me understand that no, that was not right and I needed to shape up. I like to think I did and now really try to call out others who are making the same mistakes I did.

    I think of my own mother, who just turned eighty, and graduated in 1954. She wanted a life outside the home and chose teaching because that was about all that was available for women at the time. She was a damn fine teacher and touched a lot of kids lives. Good for her. Shame on those who wanted to restrict what women could do at the time. Perhaps it is the proud child in me but my mother could have made a great almost anything. Teaching is what she got into and she did it well.

    Any time I hear “boys will be boys”, I want to scream. It’s enabling language that excuses the actions/words. Boys may say/do stupid stuff — I’m Exhibit A — but what is needed is instruction and guidance, not enabling. Doing the latter helps nothing. Doing the former moves us (hopefully) to a better place.

    Okay, that’s enough for now, this got long enough. 🙂

    • Tony Cifaldi

      Your a good man and that you don’t look at a sexy women and think some thought is remarkable. There’s no enabling in saying this does happen. By enabling you infer such talk among “the boys” leads to behavior that could turn criminal. That’s not accurate. Bad behavior to a women is just that bad. Talking about a beautiful woman among the guys is not necessarily the same behavior. You do know women do the same thing, right? Women or men who dress or look sharp or sexy don’t do so for shear comfort. You also know that right?

  • Tony Cifaldi

    Anna, first you are comparing “locker room” talk to violence against women. you should be smart enough to know they aren’t even remotely close to the same. Second, I don’t know you’re Dad and won’t even try to speak for him but you have no idea if he ever talked about a woman’s looks or features when he was alone with his male friends because you weren’t there and your sister is right, groups of men all talk this way right or wrong. If we were to randomly ask 50 women if they think men talk like this when together, you would probably be the only one who doesn’t think this to be true. Also, women do the same thing. If this was not true, 55 million copies of “Fifty Shades of Gray” would not have been sold!