Posts Tagged ‘entitlement’

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The Ubiquitous Mr. Turner

June 9, 2016

TW: Rape, Assault

Brock Turner seems to be everywhere. Can’t go on Facebook, or turn on the news, without seeing Fucking Brock Turner everywhere. For the first time in our nation’s history, a woman is a major-party candidate for the presidency. My feminist heart should be soaring this week – but Brock Turner. Fucking Brock Turner…  Hillary Clinton winning the presidency would be a hugely significant, but I know that we’ll see a spike in vile and hateful misogyny – and I can’t take it, I can’t take it getting worse because already I live in a country with Brock Fucking Turner. Every online outlet has written eloquently this week about rape culture and white privilege, about the laughable sentence the judge justified by saying, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him.” We’ve dissected his father’s Study in Tone-Deaf Patriarchy. By the time we read his friend’s similar letter to the Court, we were too numb to think much of the fact that the friend claimed this wasn’t REALLY rape, that he was just drunk and his “emotions” took over. I resisted chiming in, because what else is there to say? But I find I can’t put this down. It’s not just a miscarriage of justice. It’s not just about Brock Turner and this woman. It’s not just about campus rape. It’s not just about white privilege and victim blaming and laying bare the biases that warp every aspect of our lives. It’s not just about a woman’s violation and devastation being nothing worth mentioning, not when her assailant is a Champion Swimmer. I can’t add anything to that story, but I still feel I have to say something. This case, particularly the victim’s raw testimony, shook floods of memories loose in me, and I feel overwhelmed, incoherent with rage that this is my world, my daughters’ world.

wolf whistle

I haven’t heard the term in a while, but growing up, beautiful starlets were often described – POSITIVELY! – as “sex objects.” Farrah Fawcett? Sex object. Daisy Duke? Sex object. Objectification is taking a living, breathing human being and reducing her to parts, to objects. And we are told it’s a compliment. Her body is an object to stare at, grab, fondle, jack off to. It’s not a person, with dignity and a self, it’s just another thing the Brock Turners of the world feel entitled to. In the words of a particularly gross guy I used to know:  “Women are just life support for pussy.” We experience that attitude hundreds, thousands of times during our lives. It scares us, degrades us, angers us, terrifies us – and we can’t do anything to stop it. It’s minimized, glossed over, just as the gross violation of this woman’s body was completely ignored by a judge who HEARD her testimony – who sat in a room as she detailed her physical and emotional devastation – and concluded “I think [Brock Turner] will not be a danger to others.” The guy was CONVICTED OF FELONY SEXUAL ASSAULT, for shoving his fingers inside this woman’s unwilling, unresponsive body, but he’s not, you know, DANGEROUS – he’s just a rapist. Brock Turner’s stupid punchable face is on half the posts on my newsfeed, and I’m incandescent with rage, and I have to finally let it out.

Let me be clear: I have never been raped, and that is a huge distinction. I am not saying anything I’ve experienced is comparable, because nothing is. But the internet is marinating in this story, and suddenly, I can remember every hand inside my top in a crowd (it’s happened many times), every feel copped on public transportation (because obviously my body exists for strangers to touch), every time a car would slow down alongside me when I was walking to campus so the driver could say something crude and threatening (Christ, in St. Louis that happened every day). I have never been raped. But I’ve met Brock Turner a thousand times – at parties, on dance floors, in job interviews. Boys who look at me and see an object, men who somehow feel entitled to my body. I’ve met him as the partner I reported to in one of my first jobs as an attorney, whose eyes never – EVER – left my chest when I had to talk to him. I’ve met Brock Turner as a businessman behind me on the rush hour train, suddenly running his hand under my skirt, between my legs, knowing I’d never know which guy did it. As the guy whose name I never even knew, who stopped me on WKU’s campus when I was 17 to show me a photo album – a big, 2-inch thick photo album – of me. Photograph after photograph after photograph he’d taken of me over the course of the previous year, while I was completely unaware. Usually shot from a great distance with a monster lens, apparently; many cropped so my boyfriend wasn’t in them. God, that terrified me, especially when he said I should be flattered… I’ve met Brock Turner as every guy who sees me dancing and decides he gets to grind his erection against my ass until I elbow him off me and fight through the crowd to get away. As the skeevy guy in my building who broke into my apartment at 2 a.m. – thank God my dog woke me up and got me out safely… I’ll spare you all the “minor” stuff – you know, decades of being slut-shamed for what I wore (we didn’t have a word for it back then), catcalls, being followed, the pervasive fear when walking down a street at night alone. I’ve aged out of most of the harassment (because Brock Turner likes them younger) and thank God for that. But the memories persist – feeling helpless, degraded, scared, furious, impotent. Being seen as an object that some men felt entitled to handle, or fondle, or grope. They felt entitled to ME. Not me as a person – me, the object. But each encounter was brief, I was *ultimately* safe, so it’s no big deal, right? These guys wouldn’t ever be a danger to anyone; what harm is there in copping a feel? And every time, rage and shock and feeling like poison was flowing through my veins – and no recourse. I knew what the answers would be even if there had been any authority to appeal to.

  • “That guy had his hand inside my dress!” – Yeah, but look at what you’re wearing,
  • “That guy just rubbed his erection all over my ass!” – Yeah, but with the way you were dancing…
  • “That senior partner won’t stop staring at my chest” – Oh, he does that to every woman in the office, it doesn’t mean anything! (That is the response I got, hand to god).
  • “That guy won’t be back here; he was convicted of burglary this morning.” – What?!? For that thing when he was in your apartment?!? He didn’t even touch you!! (This was my landlord’s response to the 2 a.m. break-in. Thank goodness the law was more responsive on this one.)
  • “That guy fondled me on the train!” – Which one? How do you know it was him? Did you see him do it? I thought you said he was behind you. Well, he stopped, anyway.
  • “That guy has apparently been stalking me for a year taking photographs!” Wow, he must really think you’re pretty. Take it as a compliment!

The sense was always that there was no damage done. But I know that these encounters warped the way I deal with the world, despite my best attempts to be a strong woman with a non-stick soul. I know that those feelings of helplessness and rage, that toxic brew inside me at being treated as less-than human, hurt me. I’ve healed, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t damaged. And now that ubiquitous face – whether it’s the bloodshot, slack-jawed mugshot or the beaming country club yearbook photo – has brought all that poison back into my bloodstream this week. Fucking Brock Turner.

I’m just one woman, and all of us have different experiences – but every woman experiences a degree of this. This is the world we live in. This is the world I’m raising daughters in. My beautiful, brilliant daughters will face Brock Turner again and again, as I have, and he’ll never see them in their complicated awesomeness. He’ll see them as their various parts, and feel entitled to grope and paw and leer and grind against them, to follow them, shout at them, scare them, laugh off their anger and shock and outrage. I know this, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. Brock Turner is everywhere.

(But he doesn’t get his picture here. We’ve all seen him enough.)

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He Really Does Think He Built That (The Problem with Romney’s Money, part 1)

September 24, 2012

First things first: I don’t have a problem with wealthy people. I certainly don’t think being wealthy disqualifies a person from being a great leader; some of our most accomplished Presidents have come from money. The Kennedys were practically gilded, and yet they were compassionate leaders, concerned with the welfare of the whole nation. So why is Mitt Romney’s wealth so troubling? The problem is not that he is an enormously, astonishingly wealthy man – it’s the attitude he has towards his wealth, and the way it has shaped his world view. There are several different facets of this: entitlement, obliviousness, and a lack of empathy, bordering on scorn  – aka, “I built it,” “Let them eat cake,” and “These are people who think they’re entitled to health care, to food, to housing!”

I Built It! Mine! Mine! All Mine! I Owe the World NOTHING!

I’ve been meaning to write about Romney’s overwhelming sense of entitlement for a while now, and his remarks in the video leaked last week presented the perfect opportunity, but there was so much else there to address… News marches on. Romney was on 60 Minutes last night, saying more ridiculous, unforgivable things. Still, I really need to say my last word on the fundraiser video – I have to address the line that upset me more than all the rest. It’s a nothing line, in some ways, part of his introduction before he takes questions. It certainly hasn’t gotten the press that his infamous “47 percent” remark did:

By the way, both my dad and Ann’s dad did quite well in their life, but when they came to the end of their lives, and, and passed along inheritances to Ann and to me, we both decided to give it all away. So, I had inherited nothing. Everything that Ann and I have we earned the old-fashioned way, and that’s by hard work.

Full transcript at Mother Jones.

I don’t doubt that Romney gave away his inheritance from his father, let’s be clear. (Though it is incredibly charitable of me to trust anything he says, given his habit of lying about anything and everything.) By the time his father passed away in 1995, Mitt was already a multi-millionaire. What boggles my mind is that Mitt doesn’t see the privilege that has shaped every moment of his life. He takes full credit for his own success. In most people, this would just be obnoxious and narcissistic, but given that he’s running for president it becomes more troubling. By being blind to his own privilege, Romney is oblivious to the realities that constrain and obstruct the lives of the other 99 percent of the American people. I’m not begrudging Mitt Romney his wealth, just his inability to acknowledge that he was dealt a very good hand.

So what if he didn’t inherit huge sums of money? He grew up here:

He went to private prep school before attending Brigham Young University and then Harvard, and then embarked on his illustrious career bleeding other people’s businesses dry for huge personal profits. (If you haven’t read Matt Taibbi’s excellent article in Rolling Stone about Romney’s career at Bain, stop, drop everything, and read it now. Then share it with everyone you know who thinks Romney would be good for America because he understands business.) Did he work his ass off, in school and in business? Absolutely. Did the fact that his father was George Romney – wealthy automobile executive, former Governor of Michigan, serious contender for the Presidency – open doors for him every step of the way? Of course. To say nothing of all the doors that simply are open to handsome, rich white men in our society and are locked or even invisible to the rest of  us. To acknowledge only his own effort, and not the privilege he was born into, or luck along the way, is to pretend that everyone has the same opportunities.

This is important to understanding the Republican’s mentality this year. They designed their entire convention around intentionally misunderstanding Obama’s suggestion that they didn’t build their fortunes alone, as if existing in a society is an anathema to them. I suppose it is. Society requires sacrifice, shared goals, compromise, and a sense of responsibility for one another. The GOP prefers the radical Randian vision of extreme social Darwinism – the poor don’t deserve a hand up; they had the same chance as anyone. Look at Mitt Romney, after all. He didn’t have any help from his dad, but he worked hard, and now he’s a billionaire! Why can’t you do that, kids growing up in the projects? Why don’t you start an investment firm, single mother of three? Why aren’t you growing your stock portfolio, college graduate who pays a thousand dollars a month in student loan debt?

It’s slander. Slander against the millions of people who work day and night at crap jobs and still can’t cover their basic needs. Slander against immigrants – documented or undocumented – who work backbreaking days harvesting crops so that all of us can eat. Slander against their bright, articulate children who have no chance to go to college because they fear deportation for themselves or their parents. Slander against people who worked for forty years for a company just to see their 401K evaporate in a Wall Street shell game. Slander against every single person who didn’t have the keys to Wall Street handed to them as a birthright. But Mitt Romney really doesn’t see it that way.

“Oh, you were born with a silver spoon,” you know, “You never had to earn anything,” and so forth. And, and frankly, I was born with a silver spoon, which is the greatest gift you could have, which is to get born in America. I’ll tell ya, there is—95 percent of life is set up for you if you’re born in this country. 

Yes – yes, it is, but it isn’t set up the same for everyone. I don’t think Mitt Romney can accept that, anymore than his super-wealthy donors can. They peevishly need to believe they are entitled to have so much more than the rest of us by virtue of their hard work – even if their wealth came at the cost of thousands of jobs lost for other Americans (seriously, go read that Rolling Stone article). The “ruling class” used to have some sense of responsibility toward their community, some sense of true citizenship, that they’ve lost. They don’t want legacies anymore, they simply want more for themselves. They can’t even acknowledge the unevenness of the playing field, because that would challenge their sense of entitlement. No, they insist, THEY built that, and don’t you dare suggest they don’t deserve every blessed penny of it.

Romney/Ryan 2012: All the Noblesse, None of the Oblige.