Category Archives: the media

This is what sexual harassment sounds like

Harvey Weinstein

Every Dog Has His Day

“I won’t do a thing… I swear on my children.”

“One minute, I swear.”

“Don’t have a fight with me in the hallway. Come in, one minute.”

“Please, I’m sorry, come in, sit here please.”

“Don’t embarrass me, you’re embarrassing me.” 

“Don’t ruin your friendship with me. Please you’re making a big scene, come in, five minutes.”

Recorded without Harvey Weinstein’s knowledge thanks to the NYPD and the Italian model who returned with a recording device the day after he groped for the first time, the two-minute recording is chilling. The movie mogul is a kitchen-sink-style predator, throwing down threats, promises and accusations while the model, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, pleaded with him to let her go. “I’m uncomfortable,” she said, “you touched my breast.”

“It’s what I do,” Weinstein replied.

A Refinery29 essay reminds us of the Margaret Atwood quote—decades old but like everything else she writes, all too true: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

With the man outted as a serial pig and sexual predator, raping and assaulting a dozen women (at current count), people in high places are now speaking out about their experiences and also in support of the victims. Emphasis on “now” as this has been going on for decades. A 22-year-old Gwyenth Paltrow was summoned to his hotel suite and asked to perform a massage on the bathrobed Weinstein in 1994. Angelina Jolie and Roseanne Arquette have similar stories. A news anchor was cornered in a hotel corridor and forced to watch him “jerk off into a potted palm,” says George Clooney, one of the few men who have publicly condemned Weinstein’s behavior as “indefensible.”

“A lot of people are doing the ‘you had to know’ thing right now, and yes, if you’re asking if I knew that someone who was very powerful had a tendency to hit on young, beautiful women, sure. But I had no idea that it had gone to the level of having to pay off eight women for their silence, and that these women were threatened and victimized,” says Clooney. “I’ve been talking with a lot of people about this, and I don’t know many people who knew of that.”

This prevarication sums it up: It’s not that people looked the other way, it’s just that they didn’t look at it at all, Clooney says. That Weinstein was a “dog,” was well enough known that it made it into a 2013 Academy Award bit. When Seth MacFarlane announced a list of five female nominees he said, per the bombshell New York Times exposé, “congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.”

There’s an ambivalence expressed in that laugh line—and the audience laughed, per the Times—that has people prevaricating all over the place. Donna Karan says she knows the “wonderful” Weinsteins (Harvey’s wife is leaving him) and denounces his accusers with the age-old question: “…are we asking for it?” And then she retracted it with an apology.

Lindsay Lohan was another of Weinstein’s supporters, offering up the narcissistic defense that he never touched her—in a whack video in which she seemed to be speaking in an English accent (shades of the Annie twin from Parent Trap?) shot in a bathroom. She took the Instagram post down, although it’s widely posted (‘cause that’s the way the Internet works, crazypants Lindsay).

Apologist Lindsay Lohan

And even my husband, upon listening to the tape I found chilling, minimized the incident: “She was wearing a wire. She was baiting him,” he said, along with, “what he said was not illegal.”

Yes, but it was wrong. And for too long that wrongness has ruled Hollywood. Will it ever end?

 

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An Exodus of Editors

Within a few weeks time, Nancy Gibbs of Time (32 years at that magazine), Elle’s Robbie Myers (16 years), Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair, and Glamour’s Cindi Leive (17 years) announced they were leaving their posts. None of them seemed to have real plans, save Carter’s decision to live and drink wine in France for awhile.

They also share this: all of them are in the old-to-really-old age range, they all pulled down a $1MM or more (Carter at $2MM) and every single one of their magazines is tinier and less profitable than its ever been.

Keith Kelly (no spring chicken himself) piles on even more grim stats in his article, heralding the end of days for the “celebrity editor.”

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Meanwhile, back at Time Inc., we are undergoing a months-long McKinsey operations review and launching new revenue streams like PetHero, a program where for $20 a month, members can get, in addition to pet toys and products, discounts on health care for pets.

Which sounds to me like a final death knell for editors, those of us left.

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Men behaving badly

 

 

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Jennifer Weiner

In an opinion piece called “The Men Who Never Grow Up,” Jennifer Weiner observes that “Americans have a soft spot for our troublemakers and scamps,” excusing the bad behavior on the part of one particular “honest kid” with a dismissive “that’s politics”—even when that kid is 39 years old and his scampishness appears to have included colluding with the Russians to interfere with the presidential election.

“Women and nonwhite men don’t have it quite as easy,” Weiner writes, trenchantly: “If boys will be boys, then girls must be grown-ups, whose job it is to protect men from their worst impulses.” Or serve as post-indiscretion apologists: “like boys in the locker room,” appeased Melania Trump about her husband bragging about his pussy-grabbing prowess. Also implicated in that incident was Billy Bush, who excused his own poor judgment with “I was younger, less mature, and acted foolishly in playing along.” He was 33 at the time.

When Anderson Cooper pressed Melania, she stayed on point: “It’s kinda like two teenage boys — actually they should behave better, right?” she said.

Cooper: “He was 59.”

Compare all that with condemnation heaped upon female celebrities behaving badly. Lindsay Lohan, while not one of my very favorite people (except for her star turn in “The Parent Trap” 10 years ago, when she was adorbs), is a pariah. Confusing, yes, so here’s the bottom line: men who behave badly are forgiven, women are not and, salt to the wound, must clean up the messes made by males.

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Where the boys are

The debate about whether women should support women because they’re women has been simmering ever since Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy, polarizing feminists and/or strong women everywhere. In one camp is the venerable Madeleine Albright who just this weekend repeated this oft-offered opinion, at a Clinton rally in New Hampshire: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.” There was much applause.

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Now I know politicians and their supporters share their more extreme views when surrounded by their base. I give to you Sarah Palin waxing kooky on her beliefs at faith-based event when she was on McCain’s ticket. But that prompts me to ask: Am I compelled to support Palin and also Carly Fiorina and also Michele Bachmann because they are women?

Women fought hard for the right to vote. Women in public office still fight hard to get there. It’s no more right-minded to vote for a woman simply because she’s a woman than it is for a man to disregard that candidate simply because she’s a woman. Candidates earn our votes because they’re the best choice, regardless of gender—or race or age or faith, for that matter.

Also this weekend, Gloria Steinem stepped in and stepped in it, during a conversation with Bill Maher that started off in a smart and informed way. For instance, she had interesting things to say about why women get more progressive-thinking when they age—because they tend to lose thier power. (Interesting, not sure the theory holds entirely, but something to think about.)

But then she said a really, really stupid thing to explain why polls show young women prefer Bernie Sanders over Clinton two to one: …because that’s “where the boys are,” per Steinem.

Making things worse, she followed up with a non-apology on her Facebook page, blaming “talk show interruptus” for having “misspoke,” with words that are now being “misinterpreted as implying young women aren’t serious in their politics.”

She said what she said and in no way did an admittedly pushy and interrupting Maher force those words out of her. To date, her Facebook post has nearly 17,000 comments, mostly calling her out for the insult and then her equally insulting explanation for why she said it and what she meant.

When I was watching all this on Morning Joe, especially thrilled by Mica and Cokie arguing about what this all means, my husband stepped in with his opinion that “women get so bitchy when they turn on each other.” And that capped off a morning of dubious feminism, offhanded misogyny and just straight up are-you-trying-to-make-me-craziness.

All before 7 a.m.

 

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Invisible

Women of a certain age complain of becoming invisible to men. Literally, the men who would once turn their heads to watch us pass, rake their eyes across chests and bottoms, seem not to see us at all.

This morning’s was a different kind of disregard: photographer Bill Cunningham studiously not noticing me. I took his picture, he didn’t take mine. Is that fair?

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Fetch happen

I’m weary of women — smart women, the smartest women — branding what they hope will be cultural touchstones. Lean in. Bossy.

Trying too hard for a tipping point. Trying to make fetch happen.

Did they learn nothing from Mean Girls?

It's not going to happen

It’s not going to happen

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TLDR

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And now I can put a name to the habit of skimming through something that has enough buzz that I pretend I know something about it: faking cultural literacy. Bitcoins. Twitter. Lots of stuff having to do with content marketing, which is what I actually do in life. And now I also know plenty of people ingest a headline, get the gist of content, whatever it is, and simply stop reading: too long, didn’t read. I’ll keep this short, for that reason.

Looking for love, settling for crazy

Oh how I enjoyed Delia Ephron’s new book, whose title goes something like Mother, Sister, Wife, Dog. I had never read a word she has written. Judgmentally, I had categorized her under a word like schmaltz: funny the way Billy Crystal is with his mild observations about in laws and L.A. traffic. I knew she was associated with her sister’s work, also schmaltzy: When Harry Met Sally (there’s Billy again) and Sleepless in Seattle.

But her writing is so particular, so spare and lovely. She doesn’t do that thing that women writers do, putting themselves on a stage, mic in hand, offering up their feelings in suspiciously tidy packages. I say suspicious because if you’re talking about how you felt in the past — well, that’s just your story about it. Worst offenders here are those published in the Modern Love column, those “wise” and wry and wistful and worst of all whimsical musings about love gone wrong. With some kind of wrench thrown in, heavy-handedly: He was actually gay! She was in love with being in love with him, but not actually in love with him! Clunkity, clunk, clunk, clunk.

However, New York Times, if you’d like me to write one, I’d be more than happy.

More than happy, is what exactly?

Anyway, best line in the book is this one: looking for love, settling for crazy. It was about twenty-something women — like Lena Dunham’s Girls or Frances Ha — searching for another and others and themselves. But it applies to women at my age and any age, come to think of it.

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This is What 54 looks like

So I finally read the NY Times piece about the famous-for-being-old Gloria Steinem.

Two things from me:

  • While the title of the piece is “this is what 80 looks like” they don’t actually run a photo of Steinem, so we can see what she looks like. Why?
  • Things are better now. When she published her “what 40 looks like” it was perceived as brave, even scandalous. That would not be the case in 2014. What 40 looks like? Who cares?

And a couple her thoughts on her mortality:

Fifty was a shock, because it was the end of the center period of life. But once I got over that, 60 was great. Seventy was great. And I loved, I seriously loved aging. I found myself thinking things like: ‘I don’t want anything I don’t have.’ How great is that?” But, she added, “80 is about mortality, not aging. Or not just aging.”

It’s a challenge she’s actually wrestled with before. One of the interesting things about being Gloria Steinem is that so many of her casual musings are transcribed by reporters. It turns out that on her 70th birthday she told Time, “This one has the ring of mortality.” Obviously, she got over that and it’s very easy to imagine Gloria Steinem being interviewed at 90 and saying that turning 80 was stupendous, but now it’s time to get seriously serious.

So for anyone keeping score:

50 = a shock (can’t say I disagree)

60 = great

70 = also great or the ring of mortality (if we get to choose, I’m going to go with great)

80 = mortality

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This is what 54 looks like, not that anyone asked.