The All Star Team of Progressive Male Hypocrites: The Conservationist, The Unionist, The Journalist, The Politician
No, I shouldn’t be shocked by your hypocrisy, your lack of self-awareness. I’m such a naive, silly woman for assuming you, the good guys of the labor, justice, and environmental movements would take responsibility for your own acts of harassment and sexism.
To the progressive men re-tweeting, re-posting, re-signaling your support for the #MeToo movement: you’re peacocks strutting brightly colored feathers fallen from other birds. Feel that tightening in your gut? It’s called guilt, and good news, it means you’re not a sociopath. Women like Ijeoma Oluo and Lindy West suggest ways you can take personal responsibility and make amends by dropping the plumage and showing a little vulnerable underbelly, taking responsibility for your wrongs.
Don’t see how your stretching, thinning strings of power are used to net women in our place? Still don’t think this applies to you? I’ll do the hard work for you, once again, and poke you in the place you protect more vigilantly than your own bungholes. Here’s your first ever All Star Team of Progressive Male Hypocrites featuring The Conservationist, The Journalist, The Unionist, and The Politician.
You. The one auto-posting Occupy Democrats and The Hill 10 times a day. Yeah you, who recently chortled about Joe Barton: “ If I sent a picture of my junk electronically to someone (which I never have), I am sure I would remember who I sent it to.”
So you must remember telling a biologist at our prominent D.C. environmental group she would not be working on a coveted, high profile project because she “had the wrong plumbing” for that location. Outside, holding coffees close to keep our hearts from freezing over, she wondered in which place was her plumbing the right fit? She went back inside and pled her case, pointing out that she had a higher education than anyone — including you — on the team, but your mustache turned up a little as you assigned a less experienced man to lead the project.
We weren’t surprised when management failed to intervene on the biologist’s behalf. Earlier that year I cringed with self-doubt when you and others called me a “troublemaker” for reporting a senior staffer for harassing me (“I saw you on dating site, I know it was you, admit it, you’re not really gay”), and a college intern he took to the building roof to pressure for a kiss. While management did the right thing in firing the harasser, the smell of resentment against the troublemaker lingered in the hallways for months afterward.
Check your outrage. The >>>> point to thee.
Yes, it’s awful that women who clean hotel rooms face widespread, unrelenting harassment from customers. Speaking of hotels, do you remember what you said when I dropped you off at yours two years ago? I’d set up an intense briefing and interview schedule for you, even driving you hundreds of miles so you could work in the car on the phone. It’s part of the job - clients pay me to magically generate positive national coverage from you. I have 25 years of policy and legal experience but sure, I’ll get that coffee for you. And the right sized spoon. A good national write up is worth a little humiliation.
But how far did you think I’d go? As I dropped you off at the hotel driveway, you didn’t move to leave. You looked at me and with an inquiring lilt said “It’s a good thing you’re gay, otherwise my wife would be jealous that such a beautiful woman is here with me at my hotel and might come inside.” You reached in for a hug and I tensed up, laughed loudly and said goodnight, wishing for a BatMobile eject button, but knowing that sending you flying through the rain would jeopardize the client’s article, and my contract.
The next day, you tried again while interviewing a well-regarded, petite, policy expert. At an afternoon cafe meeting you ordered a full bottle of wine and after a few glasses said you’d like to throw her over your shoulder and take her back to your hotel, a few blocks away. She laughed you off, but left quickly, knowing that you held power over her future — a quote in a national paper being good for fundraising, career and so forth, especially for too-often disregarded women of color.
You crow a union is the best way for women to achieve workplace pay and power equality. And you’re right. But gosh almighty it’s tough to get on board the union train when frontline movement leaders treat women colleagues with such disregard and blatant sexualization.
I’m talking everyday harassment like the self-identified Socialist, who used the safety of one on one phone calls to scream at me and other female campaigners. I’m talking every damn day harassment, like the organizer who threatened to bend me over his knee for a spanking, and the leader who commented on my fuckability before I even sat down at the table with a dozen other men. This happens almost every day in the wild west of labor unions, and if we’re quick to the draw, we can sling fast retorts like “You’re too fat to bend over that far,” and “You’ll never know because I’m gay.” The better the quip, the more likely you’ll laugh, slap the table, say hey, girl, you’re alright, and let us go on with our work. The banter survival skill is passed on like too tight jeans from woman to woman, the almost flirty side step that works until we’re just too worn out to think of any comeback other than the blinkless, silent stare of assent.
What the fuck are you thinking when you act like that? I’ll tell you what I am thinking — if you treat me, a white middle-aged professional with such open contempt, how do you treat less privileged women, those low wage workers — especially the women of color — who rely on you to negotiate their rights for them? What do you say to them when no one else is in the room?
Look at you, a top Congressional Democrat retweeting #MeToo in support of women who won’t be “silenced by powerful men.”
Do you remember putting your large hand on top of my small one at that round table meeting? You kept your hand there, my right hand stuck to the table under your left one until the meeting was done. How long did you keep my hand, and thus my mouth, still? Sure you look like someone’s quirky grandfather, but I knew what you were doing. You were getting off on both holding my hand and silencing me, stopping me from asking another question about a health care bill. I tried once to pull my hand back, but you pushed down with surprising force. So I sat there, muted, horrified, humiliated in front of my male lobbying peers whose hands and mouths moved unencumbered.
And you, the famous liberal congressman, who called the 27-year old me into closed, empty chambers after I testified about a pending bill. Do you remember pulling me close and kissing my mouth? I remember the smell of your beard, the realization that dozens of hours of hard work were at risk. I pulled away, stuttered something about wanting your support for the bill and left out a walnut side door. You never did sign on and I blamed myself for months, dreading explaining the failure during my annual review.
I told a former boss this story, and one about a powerful Republican Senator pulling his Caddy over and offering a ride of one block to a pretty policy staffer on our team. A chance for one-on-one time with a key Senator? No male lobbyist would turn down the chance, but my colleague refused, having heard stories about how handsy he could get. “Oh that’s horrible,” my former boss said. But when I mentioned the daily sexual pressure from legislative staff he said “well that was just flirting between equals.”
He may not understand the power dynamic, but male legislative staffers know full well that female advocates often work harder for less pay, so we will tolerate much more. We’re not at the men’s room meetings, don’t have the fraternity history, so we always agree to drinks out after the hearing, always take the late night phone calls, but always bring a male intern to meetings with the deputy director for the representative from Michigan, because bringing another woman just begs for a droll threesome invitation.
This month hundreds of women lobbyists, legislators, lawyers, staffers, and more are demanding change in state capitols in Washington, Oregon, California and more. You repost and applaud the sign on letters, but we’re rolling our eyes over our numbing wine (toasting Kristi Coulter) because we all remember when you patted a woman colleague on the head and called her cute.
Every new story is kindling for the feminist fire, restoked by you and your retweets, your reposts, your public regurgitation and >>> pointing, without any reckoning for your personal part in this dismal failure of the progressive movement. Until that happens, congratulations, you’re on the All Star Team of Progressive Male Hypocrites.
Next up: The Philanthropist, The Consultant, The Wonk, and The Organizer.