We­in­stein is not an aber­ra­tion

The Labradorian - - EDITORIAL - Thom Barker

I grew up watch­ing the sit­com M*A*S*H. It is one of my favourite shows. I still watch it from time to time, as much for nos­tal­gia as any­thing, but I also find it an­thro­po­log­i­cally fas­ci­nat­ing.

Here is a show about the 1950s made in the 1970s. The premise is a mo­bile army sur­gi­cal hospi­tal in Korea, but it is pri­mar­ily about doctors—most of whom are mar­ried—chas­ing nurses.

The sur­geons’ over­tures and ac­tions are of­ten in­ap­pro­pri­ate from a 2010s per­spec­tive. In one episode, the nurses are leav­ing be­cause of an im­pend­ing air raid. When head nurse, Ma­jor Mar­garet “Hot Lips” Houli­han salutes Cap­tain Benjamin Franklin “Hawk­eye” Pierce, he grabs her, bends her over and kisses her hard and long on the lips.

This ex­plicit de­pic­tion of sex­ual as­sault is ap­palling in the cur­rent con­text, but was per­fectly ac­cept­able for net­work tele­vi­sion just 40 years ago. The at­ti­tudes have not gone away. I saw a bumper sticker just the other day that said: “It’s a Jeep. If I wanted a hum­mer, I’d ask your sis­ter.”

I am not shocked by that or the re­ports cur­rently com­ing out of Hol­ly­wood re­gard­ing al­leged se­rial sex­ual ha­rasser Har­vey We­in­stein. Nor should any­one else be. When a dis­gust­ing misog­y­nist and racist—a con­fessed p***y-grab­ber, no less—can be pres­i­dent of the United States in 2017, it is naïve at best, and more com­monly disin­gen­u­ous, to be shocked by such at­ti­tudes and con­duct.

In fact, who among we men of a cer­tain vin­tage, de­spite be­ing taught (with a nudge and a wink) to re­spect women, can truly say we have never done, said or thought in­ap­pro­pri­ate things. There is a bi­o­log­i­cal com­po­nent to sex drive, of course, but our at­ti­tudes about it and sub­se­quent be­hav­iours are learned.

We­in­stein has cat­e­gor­i­cally de­nied re­tal­i­at­ing against women who re­buffed him and claims any sex­ual ac­tiv­ity with those who did not was con­sen­sual. If the al­le­ga­tions are true, there is a chance he did not re­al­ize he was do­ing any­thing wrong.

In the case of Brit Mar­ling, the lat­est woman to al­lege mis­con­duct by We­in­stein, she said she went to his ho­tel suite, where he rubbed her shoul­ders and propo­si­tioned her with the sug­ges­tion of show­er­ing to­gether be­fore she got up and left. If it had been just a reg­u­lar guy she had met, and she had walked out un­mo­lested, per­haps there would have been no wrong­do­ing.

With a man like We­in­stein, how­ever, there is a power dy­namic that skews the con­sent is­sue. Can an as­pir­ing fe­male ac­tor and writer re­ally say no to a man like him with­out at the very least the per­cep­tion of po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and/or fi­nan­cial con­se­quences?

I’ve been at this op-ed writ­ing game long enough to know I will likely be slammed for con­don­ing or ex­cus­ing We­in­stein’s con­duct even though I am merely try­ing to put it into some kind of con­text. There is a ten­dency these days to try to shut down rather than con­sider un­pop­u­lar ideas.

For the record, I be­lieve the al­leged be­hav­iour was cat­e­gor­i­cally wrong, but it is not aber­rant. In fact, it is all too com­mon. This is the world in which we live and if we want it to change, we have to be able to dis­cuss it openly. Other­wise, what we learn is not to change our at­ti­tudes and be­hav­iour, but to keep our mouths shut.

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