No, Mr. President.
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (Part 2)
Jordana Grolnick told Deadspin that she was working on a production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” in Maine in August 2016, near the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, when Bush came backstage during intermission and grabbed her as they posed for a picture.
“He reached his right hand around to my behind, and as we smiled for the photo he asked the group, ‘Do you want to know who my favorite magician is?’ As I felt his hand dig into my flesh, he said, ‘David Cop-a-Feel!’ ” Grolnick said.
The other ladies in the picture laughed uncomfortably while Barbara Bush made a remark like ‘He’s going to get himself put into jail!” Grolnick said. Grolnick, who posted a photo of the moment on her Instagram account, according to Deadspin, said she had been warned by other actors not to stand next to Bush.
When reading this I felt as I did about Affleck and the others I wrote about last week,
“Again and again — men who seem genuinely thoughtful, caring, intelligent, talented, egalitarian and socially aware all with one HUGE moral and ethical blindspot: women…sex.”
And, what struck me as I continued to read the article was how one of the actresses in the story, Heather Lind, articulated the same feeling so authentically and beautifully. After seeing President Obama and former president Bush shaking hands at a Hurricane fundraiser, she said:
“I found it disturbing because I recognize the respect ex-presidents are given for having served,” Lind said. “And I feel pride and reverence toward many of the men in the photo.”
Pride, reverence, and respect for having served — for a guy that, at the end of the day, grabbed her ass.
That, in a nutshell, is the conflict we face — as women, as a society. The struggle to reconcile “the good” with “the bad and the ugly”.
I wonder if that’s how Barbara feels. She seems to see the groping as a character flaw that she should roll her eyes at, because, maybe, accepting this flaw is part of loving the whole?But, she has also made herself complicit in violence by sexually objectifying another woman (i.e., “that is the kind of woman who will get grabbed”) and normalizing the behavior of violating physical integrity (i.e., “it happens”.)
So if people are letting things go in the moment, then what is inspiring them to come out when they do? I had a conversation with a friend last Friday night about the Weinstein chronicles and he said, “my question is….why now?”. I replied, “because Weinstein isn’t important anymore.”
And that’s it isn’t it — when the once powerful are at their height almost no one dares to speak out. For many, I would like to think most, it is because of fear. Fear that their career will be affected, fear that they will become the victim of further violence. This goes for the survivors, as well as direct and indirect abettors and witnesses. When the powerful no longer have the same influence, when they are less likely to be able to pull strings, then it’s easier to be honest. When someone else comes forward and survives the aftermath, then it’s easier to find the courage to do the same.
For better or worse, some women have accepted as truth that this is all part of the game and have made the active choice to use powerful men to advance themselves. They aren’t unaware that the same person who abused them could be hurting others, but they do not come forward when it counts because they do not want to jeopardize their own success. I empathize with the difficulty of that situation. But if we do not judge a woman for protecting abusers and assailants, than can we judge a man for the same thing (e.g., Damon’s protection of Affleck, Tarintino’s protection of Weinstein)?
For others, I know the hesitation to speak out or to cause a raucus often does come from a deep internal conflict — how can the “leader of the free world” who raises money for survivors of natural disasters be a “bad” guy? But if a violated woman feels conflicted about the act when it happens, then how can we expect others won’t be conflicted when they hear about it?
When I wrote about Affleck and the Weinstein chronicles last week I thought a lot about the likes of Clinton and JFK — and I chose not to talk about them for a reason. While there is no doubt that they cheated on their wives, that is about a monogamous institution and our belief in it. Infedility, however disrespectful to their wives, is different than unconsensually using someone. I had heard in passing about sexual misconduct allegations — but none that were ever pursued, verified, and put out in detail in the press. So I dug into it.
What is startling is that while multiple women have come forward later in life with sexual assault allegations (outside of the dozens more that give verifiable accounts of consensual affairs) they are almost all confused about what happened. It’s as if at one moment what happened seemed degrading and yet at another moment felt empowering. Three women came forward about unconsensual sexual interactions with former President Clinton. One, a former campaign volunteer, continued to support him and his campaign after the alleged rape occurred. Under oath said she had never been raped, but then went on to say on air that she had. Did she think Clinton was a good guy? Did she think if she did what he asked she’d get a position on the Hill?
In 2003, Mimi Alford came out about an 18 month affair she had with President Kennedy. The woman, now a grandmother, published an autobiography in which she remembers he asked her to inhale a sex drug, and to perform sex acts on an aide while he watched. He never kissed her, never let her call him by his first name, and never acknowledged her with Jackie around. Yet, she continued to have a sexual and, in her mind, romantic relationship for 1.5 years. Why? She states,
“The fact that I was being desired by the most famous and powerful man in America only amplified my feelings to the point where resistance was out of the question.”
I wonder how Jackie rationalized JFK’s behavior. I am sure there was an element of “accepting the bad for all the good”. But, it probably required a little objectification of the women he slept with too (e.g, “he doesn’t love her, he just uses her”). Sounds like Barbara, and maybe, like Hillary.
Last week I wrote,
There is a deep insecurity, thirst for power and entitlement to instant gratification that we continue to promote and condone.
We repeatedly refuse to stare it in the eye.
But this time, I’m speaking squarely to the women out there.
I get that it sucks to see a man everyone looks up to, that you look up to, as a predator. But we know that’s a thing now. So snap out of it.
You have to believe that you deserve to be respected no matter what.
You need to believe that no other women deserves to be disrespected just because of her sex or gender — period.
You need to know that being the sexual desire of a seemingly good or powerful man doesn’t reflect your value in any way.
You need to learn the difference between flattery, seduction and kindness.
You need to be brave enough to say to the most powerful man in America, loudly, clearly, and publicly — “NO. You don’t have a right to do that no matter who you are. Get help. And never do that to anyone else again.”
It will never be your fault if someone assaults you. It is malicious, let alone criminal, to take advantage of someones physical, mental or emotional vulnerability that way. But, every time you don’t stand up for yourself, or you put your self-respect on the line for career advancement, or you stay in a toxic interaction because you like feeling desired, know that there will be someone else — just like you.
“Now that the #metoo movement has brought this all to light, I think I should have been a little more alarmed to be touched so inappropriately by a man who was once the leader of the free world. He knows the power he has, and the reverence he deserves, even while sitting perhaps somewhat senile in a wheelchair. What I’ve come to realize is that if we tolerate these small comments and grazes from men on the street or former presidents, they might assume that it’s ok with us, and they may take it as permission to do who-knows-what else. I realize that making light of the situation was the wrong move. It wasn’t ok for him to do that to me.”
-Jordana Grolnick (inspired to come forward after fellow actress Heather Lind put up an Instagram post about her experience with former President G. H. W. Bush)