Episode 115: Tip of the Creep Iceberg
Published October 20, 2017.
Aminatou: Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend.
Ann: A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere.
Aminatou: I'm Aminatou Sow.
Ann: And I'm Ann Friedman. On this week's agenda, Harvey Weinstein and other men behaving really, really badly, California recognizes a third gender, Barbados designates Rihanna Drive, and we answer a question about the N word in song lyrics.
Aminatou: Salut, Ann Friedman.
Ann: Oh my god, coming in hot from Europe.
Aminatou: Oh my god, coming in hot from Brussels, Belgium, literally sitting on my dad's bed which is so weird. I don't think I've been in my dad's bedroom in a decade so it's like very weird.
Ann: Are you doing the . . . whenever I am home I regress to a version of myself that I was before I moved out of my parents' house. Are you doing okay?
Aminatou: Not me. I have matured 20 years in fact and it's very strange being home. Like on many levels. Like it's strange being home at my dad's house. Also, yeah, my mom doesn't live here so that's weird. But yeah, but also Belgium is a deeply weird country so I'm taking all of that in and it is . . . like I don't know how to handle it.
Ann: Hit me with a weird Belgian example. Like what is weird about it?
Aminatou: So in Belgium they speak French also, right? It's like French and Flemish and I think German is the other language. Like every street sign is everything. But even the version of French that they speak here, they just have very different expressions and mannerisms and colloquialisms and both of my siblings talk like them. And so when I hear them count in something weird, or instead of saying -- or whatever weirdo version of "Thank you" that they say, it still jolts me. Other than that, what else? It's like it's very green which is nice. That has been nice. Just like walking in the forest every day has been great. But then there's also just like weird shit, like everybody here leaves their key inside the door like when you get home.
Ann: Wait, what?
Aminatou: Yes. I was like do you people not watch Law and Order? This is not . . . this is not how you do things. But it's like it makes sense, right? It's like if you leave the key inside the door nobody can open it on the other side and I was like this is creepy. But it's just like I keep walking around and seeing keys in doors and wanting to yank all of them out.
Ann: Although it probably helps with not misplacing your keys.
Aminatou: Oh, 100%. Yeah, that's what somebody said. They were like "How do you know where your keys are?" And I was like you're right, that's literally the thing I look for every day. [Laughs] So thanks. You know, but also the other thing is Brussels is exactly like D.C. in a lot of ways because it's the capital of the European Union so there's a ton of people here who are just like, you know, young people who work at the EU, all of this weird government-type jobs and super-transient people.
Ann: Right. NGO people probably.
Aminatou: So that's something that -- yeah, that's deeply comforting on some level. And it's also that. I'm like oh, it's not as glamorous as anywhere else. It literally is the Washington, D.C. of Europe.
Ann: [Laughs] Well, I am very happy to have you back in America imminently.
Aminatou: Ugh, me too. I just . . . I'm ready. I'm ready to be home. No shade to my family. This has been a great trip but I'm ready to be home.
Ann: Wow, no shade to the family. [Laughs]
Aminatou: No shade to the family. I'm just ready to sleep in my own bed, you know what I'm saying?
Ann: I hear you. I hear you. And have working Internet, right? [Laughs]
Aminatou: Yeah, and have working Internet. Also let's be real, right before I came to see them I was with you in L.A. so it's just been like . . . like I'm ready to be in Brooklyn and sleep in my own bed for a while.
Ann: Well you're not going straight to Brooklyn because we have some CYG shows in the Midwest. [Laughs] Including one in Minneapolis that is not sold out yet so if you are in Minnesota or in reasonable driving distance to Minnesota and want to come see us live, that's Saturday, October 21st at The Woman's Club. We will be there. Tickets are at callyourgirlfriend.com/events.
Aminatou: So well-named.
Ann: The Woman's Club?
Ann: Though it's weirdly singular. It's not The Women's Club. It's The Woman's Club.
Aminatou: Yeah, it's The Woman's Club which is why I like it.
Ann: It's one woman's club that she's decided to open up. [Laughs]
Aminatou: The singular fabulous woman. Her club.
Aminatou: Now I feel like I need to look into the history of that place.
Ann: Yeah. We'll do that. I mean I'm always a little bit scared of figuring out who people -- or what places are named for, you know?
Aminatou: I know. Or like what kind of weirdo discrimination they had until very recently.
Ann: Oh, exactly.
Aminatou: I feel like that's always the thing that you should look out for.
Ann: Totally. Something called The Club of any kind.
Aminatou: Yeah. The Club of any kind definitely let women in yesterday and definitely let black people in this morning. Like that's always how that works. Talk to me.
Ann: So obviously you've missed lots of headlines about men doing horrible things.
Aminatou: Let me tell you that the TV here is on a loop about Harvey Weinstein so that has been really surprising to me how much European news has covered that. Back-to-back, wall-to-wall coverage.
Ann: Is it put in the context of similar stories or allegations locally? Or is it just like oh, this is a Hollywood problem? How are they contextualizing it?
Aminatou: No, so I think that it's . . . it's like a little bit of both which is what has been really surprising. So definitely there has been the "Can you believe what the fuck is going on in America?" People are having a really hard time here processing the fact that Harvey Weinstein is getting kicked out of the Academy -- the Oscars, whatever that thing is called -- and Donald Trump is president for like the exact same kind of behavior.
Ann: Which is a reasonable thing to think.
Aminatou: Yeah. Like European people are very reasonable. They're just like "Are you kidding me? What is the difference here?" So I've been hearing a lot of that. The other thing that's been interesting is that on French TV at least the president was interviewed. The French president was interviewed yesterday and they asked him about Harvey Weinstein. It's crazy. I was like you're supposed to be defending your record on ten million other things. The fact that this reporter is asking about this is wild.
Ann: And what was the question? Like do you think it's bad? Because I mean . . .
Aminatou: Yeah, it was like what he thinks about it, then he's been honored by the French Legion, the French Foreign Legion. And so the president was like "Well, actually, we're looking into rescinding his award and taking it back from him because he has behaved in a dishonorable way." And then also he answered the question largely around what kind of legislation France is going to do. And I was like oh, this is what happens when you have a real president, you know? He was really outraged and he was really disgusted. Not on some like . . . sometimes politicians pretend that they're like outraged about things and they're definitely harassing their secretaries. That's like everybody in Congress. But yeah, he was like this is not okay. Whatever. Then in France this week there has been all of this talk about how they're definitely going to criminalize street harassment which, you know, is a complicated kind of thing. But I was like oh, a city -- a country that's going to do something about street harassment? Thank you. And also they started talking about sexual harassment at work and the stronger laws they're going to enact for it.
So it was . . . I don't know, it was just one of those days where you watch. You're like oh, this is how other people live. And it's not to say that like in Belgium and in France there is no sexual harassment or whatever. In fact it's rampant.
Ann: Wait, what? What? There's harassment?
Aminatou: Yes, in fact it is rampant. But people are actually talking about policy solutions that you can have towards that and also how you can have men step up, you know, and be the ones that lead in these areas since they're the ones that are the number one perpetrators. That has been weird to watch.
Aminatou: Here is how other people live. On French social media there was a really good hashtag this whole week that was basically call out your abuser, you know? And it was really interesting to read that versus -- the way that it was framed versus I know in a lot of English-speaking social media that hashtag #metoo, or the me too stories, which are also very heartening and are women sharing all the ways that they have endured this kind of abuse. But there was something about the American response to it that both made me depressed and just made me feel like you know, I've been a feminist for a long time now. I'm old enough that I remember Take Back the Night, you know, and all of these things. There's so many . . . I get so frustrated when people say that sharing our stories is the way that things are going to change. I was actually like no, if anything the only news stories that I've heard recently because of social media are my friend's moms and their aunts which is really sad. And I was like okay, so I guess we're going generationally.
But women have been sharing these stories for a long time. So if you don't know that the women in your life endure all sorts of harassment and unacceptable behavior then maybe you are the problem.
Ann: Yeah. And there's also something too about the #metoo hashtag, and this is with 100% respect to the women and people who are using it, that it's almost like it's an educational tool for men and for people who haven't thought about this a lot about how rampant it is. It is not like him too as like a calling out or like a name-and-shame.
And I think one of the things that has -- I don't know, that I've been thinking about a lot related to this is the differences between giving more visibility to this issue as a way for survivors and for women and for people who are targets of this behavior to support each other versus a kind of like accountability, how do we make sure that this behavior doesn't continue at all, and remove men from power who perpetrate it? Which to me feel like two very related but separate efforts and a lot of the different things that have sprung up in the wake of this reporting on Harvey Weinstein which as of this recording it's been ten days since Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey reported in The New York Times about decades of harassment and abuse by Harvey Weinstein. And I think it was like a day or two later that Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker had a lot more detail. So, you know, in that span it's been one bajillion articles commenting on this. I feel like there's a lot of conflation between the idea of how are we supporting people who have already had these experiences and who have been targeted by terrible men versus how are we challenging this problem or holding men accountable? Do you know what I'm saying? Like there's kind of like two simultaneous, related things happening.
Aminatou: No, I hear you, and I will say I'm very supported in the men -- The Men (TM) -- because for example since I have been here I've been invited to no less than three sorts of meetings of women who want to talk about this kind of stuff. And I wonder are the men having meetings? Are they talking to each other? Are they challenging each other? Are they stepping up?
It's so frustrating to see all sorts of leadership around this always be woman-supported. And to be honest too part of the reason this is hard is because for a lot of us talking about this stuff re-traumatizes us all over again.
Aminatou: I've been pretty open about my own sexual abuse and most days I'm fine. Like I'm on the Oprah level of I watch Oprah, I have dealt with this, I go to therapy. And there are the days where you literally cannot get out of bed and it just . . . and you never know how each incident, like you will respond to it, you know?
Aminatou: And this is one of those things where I'm like I'm sorry, we go through this every couple of years. Like a couple of years ago it was women in music calling out people in their industry.
Ann: Oh, that was last year. That wasn't even a couple of years ago. Yeah.
Aminatou: Recently -- yeah. Then just like women in comedy or whatever. And I'm just . . . I am just at a personal point where I am really frustrated around the fact that we always pretend that whatever momentum we have now is going to keep going forever, or we pretend that it's like a new thing. Like oh, women are finally speaking up and they're going on the record about pigs like Harvey Weinstein. It's like no, no, women have been doing this for a long time. I think that it's interesting that in this instance actually something happened. And to be clear it's like something happened to one person. Harvey Weinstein will not work in Hollywood anymore. There are hundreds if not thousands more like him out there. Thinking about the fact that those guys are safe at work and they will turn around and do the same behavior to somebody else tomorrow really makes me sick to my stomach.
Ann: Yeah. And I mean I don't know. I think there is maybe, in a very long-game sort of sense, a cumulative positive to there being a new singular man every six months who is being punished for decades of unchecked abuse and harassment. I think that . . . I believe in the super long-game, like yes. But you're also right about the short-term which is honestly like I am not a survivor and I am struggling to read the news. It took me forever to get through the New Yorker article with a lot of the really painful details. I mean are men experiencing the same thing? Are they like . . . do they feel no obligation to check into this? Are they . . .
Aminatou: No, I'll tell you that I've had dudes in my life that I love that I'm friends with who are like "Is it really like this?" And I was like do you not remember us having this exact same conversation last time a high-profile person was in the news for something like this? What are you talking about?
Aminatou: And there is no . . . there's like no mechanism to hold people's memory accountable to the fact that this is -- it is ongoing.
Ann: [Sighs] Yeah. I know. I mean and I don't know . . . I don't know. I mean I've been thinking a lot about the ways in which women talking privately and naming the names of dangerous men in private networks, how to not take men by the hand and be like "You have to care too," but the men who are say in my personal network. I was doing a little inventory of have I spoken to men I know professionally about other men I know to be shitty, I know to be harassers, or I know to be creeps?
You know, I really . . . I mean part of it too is I couldn't come up with a lot of instances where I had been open with men who I trust, who I know privately for example about some of this stuff. You know, which is not to say men are off the hook. But I think I have also been thinking about okay, people who I would expect to do the right thing, is it really invisible to them? I don't know. I don't know the answer.
Aminatou: Yeah. I mean I feel like I've been having a lot of these conversations lately with men in my life and it's really hard. Like it's really hard and it is really painful. And I think also the thing probably that I've realized is the most painful is once you go through this kind of trauma, of course you never want to revisit it again, but the simple truth is it will keep affecting you in ways that you don't want to deal with. And having to have these hard conversations is one of them; having to tell your story over and over again is one of them. I have found, at least for me, people are really conflicted about how people should report what happened to them. Like should they say something? Do they say it on their own time? Is it okay if they never speak up? Whatever.
And that's another shitty thing about patriarchy and men who are bad is that now it becomes your problem as a woman who like . . . you know, it's like you didn't ask for it and now it's literally your problem. And so I think for me at least where I have landed on is I have found that speaking up is like net-positive better for everyone. It does not mean that it has made things better for me. In fact sometimes it has made things really shitty. But I think that we have such a culture of just like silence and shame and that anything that we can do to chip away at that, it will always make it better down the line.
Like reading the New York Times follow-up, seeing Harvey Weinstein and what he had done to Gwyneth Paltrow and Mira Sorvino, these people are Hollywood royalty, you know what I mean? And the fact that he felt so casually and free that he could do that to them is because he knew that nobody would say anything.
Aminatou: And that is something that I think about all the time. And so I think for me one place that I'm trying to really put my efforts into is how do we create a culture where people feel that they can speak up? And it's not pleasant, it will never be pleasant, and in fact it's not safe sometimes and it's fucking awful. There's no other way to put it. But these people have to be talked about.
Ann: Right. And I think what's hard . . .
Aminatou: And yeah, I don't know how to . . . it's like I don't know how to balance those two things, and it's really terrible advice to give survivors is to say "Share your story a lot, all the time, because trust me it will not feel good." But also if they're . . . part of the reason why the New York Times reporting happened and the New Yorker story happened is because these stories were out there, they were reportable, and people were able to connect the dots. And so that is something that is deeply important, but we don't live in a world where we make it easy for people to disclose.
Ann: Yeah, and I've been thinking about this a lot too as it relates to this particular story. Like not all stories like this, but this particular story began not as a survivor saying something publicly on her own social media platform or whatever but this started with two very deeply-reported articles. And I've been thinking about in the hard calculus you point to, which is wanting very much to make these stories public but at the same time wanting to protect as much as possible the people who have been hurt by these terrible men.
There is something to be said about old-fashioned reporting which is to say you don't need to trust the entire public sphere; you need to trust one reporter and say you can take this story. If you can verify it with three other women then you can use it. And that's how -- I mean this doesn't apply to every single case, but being able to show the systemic nature of it, which let's be real, those of us who have witnessed behavior like this understand that it's almost always systemic. It's like if you hear about someone -- a man doing something like this once, you are not shocked when you hear the second story and you're less shocked when you hear the third story.
And so, you know, there is something about old-fashioned methods, being able to say like "Okay, you have to trust The New York Times," or "You have to trust these two women reporting for The New York Times. You don't need to trust everyone in public." And, you know, I think that's why a lot of survivors also go the legal route. You have to trust one lawyer. You don't have to trust the entire public sphere.
And so I've been thinking about ways . . . like there have obviously been many calls by news organizations to be like "Hey, if you want to report something, come forward." But I think that's like almost too general. Like I don't have theories on the right way in, but there is something when I look at why did the story come out? It's because there was a group that basically went public together as the story was published.
Aminatou: Yeah, right? Power in numbers. But, you know, even thinking about what you said, think about the entire backstory and how both of those stories happened, right? And how there are people who have been trying to report this Harvey Weinstein stuff for over a decade who were completely shut down by the same news organizations that ended up breaking the news later on. When I think about how systemic the problem is and thinking about the machine of publicists and of even journalists who were too cowardly to pursue this story or people higher up in media who shut it down, it's kind of a small miracle that it came out. But, you know, it's like once you hear those details it only makes it harder to convince people that it's worth it to tell your story.
There were women in both of the big stories that came out who had told their stories previously only to be either disbelieved or maligned in the press. Like this stuff is hard. It's really hard. The other thing I've been thinking about a lot is how do you go after the enablers? Because there are so many people who are complicit in this kind of behavior and atmosphere to the point that it's sick. Like reading in the New Yorker story specifically about just assistants who thought they were acting -- like my boss is using me as a honeypot.
Ann: Ugh, God.
Aminatou: If you know that and you still think that your job is worth keeping you are a despicable human being.
Aminatou: Like you are part of the problem. I couldn't believe that. People were like "Well, I really want to make it in Hollywood, but also I definitely brought somebody in a compromising position and I know exactly what my boss is going to do to them." I'm like are you fucking kidding me?
Ann: Ugh, yeah.
Aminatou: Like you should want to not work in Hollywood. That's literally like you put somebody else in harm's way because whatever fucked up career move you thought you were going to accomplish is good. Like I can't believe that -- well, I can believe it, but it makes me so sick. The Harvey Weinsteins of the world do not operate alone.
Ann: Oh, completely.
Aminatou: There's an entire machine that props them up.
[Music and ads]
Ann: I think this is actually a bigger issue about like . . . I think about the women in my life who have been like "Oh, don't publicly identify as a feminist because that's not going to do your career any favors," which is something that someone definitely -- an older woman definitely said to me in one of my first jobs. And it's this idea of like okay, just go along with it so you can get ahead individually or you'll be okay individually. And the idea of some kind of group solidarity being completely absent from how you operate is like -- you know, the lie of capitalism is strong. This is just one example of all the ways in which women are incentivized to basically sell each other out.
Aminatou: I know. It's just so . . . like yeah, this is so disheartening. It's so disheartening.
Ann: One thing that I have been noticing -- one thing that's kind of interesting about us talking about this not immediately after the news broke is the women who have defended or been apologetic of Harvey Weinstein are one-by-one walking back.
Aminatou: Donna Karen?
Ann: Donna Karen but also Lisa Bloom.
Aminatou: I'm throwing away my favorite robe because of Donna Karen. I was like listen, you were questionably talented at best and now I don't need to own any of your stuff. Lisa Bloom, huge disgrace.
Ann: Oh my God, Donna Karen. DKNY makes the only hosiery that is affordably priced and comes in size tall. Talk about breaking my heart.
Aminatou: You're about to go without hosiery this year.
Ann: My crotch is going to be so saggy in my tights this year when I'm wearing non-DKNY. Yeah.
Aminatou: These ladies are so crazy. That Lisa Bloom stuff has been so fascinating to me because, one, she's legitimately feuding in public with her mom which is amazing.
Ann: I know.
Aminatou: But also her reasoning -- like I just . . . I can't believe. So for the people who do not know, Lisa Bloom is a lawyer and the daughter of . . .
Ann: Gloria Allred.
Aminatou: Best lawyer in the universe.
Ann: [Laughs] Crusading feminist lawyer Gloria Allred.
Aminatou: Yeah, crusading feminist lawyer. And Lisa Bloom? I can't believe that she did this. One, she sold her Trayvon Martin book to the Weinstein Company for development. So that's the quid pro quo there.
Ann: Eyeball emoji. Yeah.
Aminatou: Right? Eyeball emoji. And then she ended up being an advisor to Harvey Weinstein. Her mom, rightfully so, in public drew a hard line where she was like "I do not represent men who have been accused of sexual harassment." You can't say that you are protecting women and then turn around and do this kind of stuff. Also how she tried to defend him on TV, she's like "He's an old dinosaur learning new ways. Blah, blah, blah." I was like this is -- the women who he has harassed, likely some of them would want to be your clients and now nobody can trust you because you're just a craven, craven lady.
Ann: Yeah. Also can we talk about that like it was a different time defense? The idea? Oh my God.
Aminatou: First of all it was never good. People say this all the time and it drives me crazy. Red flags, when people use libertine, gentlemen, like whatever. And I was like no, trust me, the ladies in the '70s and the fucking '50s and '30s, none of them enjoyed it when you did this to them. It's just that now we have a more precise vocabulary for this kind of behavior.
Ann: Totally. Yeah. That idea too of it used to be fine. It's like no, no, there were just different people controlling the narrative. It wasn't like this was fine for everyone.
Aminatou: [Sighs] I think about this a lot, specifically about the '70s and how everybody is like "Oh, you know, it was super relaxed and free love and all of this stuff." And I'm like no, way to coopt social movements to do bad to everyone.
Ann: Yeah. Way to be like we've made a lot of progress and that's why some people are still bad, to turn that against the same people that those movements are working for. Yeah.
Aminatou: Oh my god.
Ann: But yeah, so the complicit women, Lisa Bloom no longer advising Harvey Weinstein. Donna Karen is like "My remarks were taken out of context. Never mind."
Aminatou: No, her remarks were very clear.
Ann: I know. I know.
Aminatou: Lindsey Lohan, but Lindsey Lohan I cannot get mad at because I'm just like we lost you a long time ago.
Ann: Yeah. I mean that's a little . . .
Aminatou: Like you don't know what you're doing. The other thing I think that is so fascinating to me about this moment, and part of the reason -- which sucks, the reason he got caught and he's on his way out -- is because he was on his way out in general. Like he just didn't have the same cachet that he used to have.
Ann: Oh my God. I'm pumping my fist in the air because thank you for saying this. It's like it's exactly the same case with American Apparel where Dov Charney would not have been ousted for his shitty behavior if the share price had not already been decreasing. Like this is not something that happens to men at the very top of their game.
Aminatou: Yeah. I rewatched this week -- like five different times last week -- the Anne Hathaway/Matt Lauer interview where he asked about her vagina. And I think about it so much in the context of how fucked up it was at the time and how everybody just like -- you know, it's like there was a little bit of outrage but we let it slide. It's like ten years from now that clip will be part of a montage of things that takes him down. And I'm happy to say that on the record, because this stuff is always . . . it's so crazy to me that there are patterns of sexism that you can see and there are dots that you can connect. But it's only if the person is on the way out career-wise or they're on the outs in their industry that people call them out on it. Otherwise they get to be the king of Hollywood or the king of daytime TV and it's really fucking stupid and unfair.
Ann: Yeah. I had several friends suggest to me that this is just Bob Weinstein wanting Harvey out of the company and that's the only reason it came out.
Aminatou: That was a Page 6 article and I 100% believe it because both of Bob Weinstein's quotes to the media have been insane. Where, you know, it's like true, if your sibling is guilty of bad behavior for sure it is a complicated thing. But it looks -- like the maneuvering is incredible. But for all of Harvey Weinstein being kicked out of Hollywood, Roman Polanski, still a member of the Academy.
Ann: Oh, it was a different time when he was raping teen girls. It was a different time.
Aminatou: Bill Cosby. Also Woody Allen's not a member of the Academy but he gets to make movies all he wants. And did you see the crazy quote he gave the paper?
Ann: Yes. Oh my god, I was actually just looking for it when you said this. Hang on, let me find it. Did you also see the Kate Winslet headline that was like "Kate Winslet Condemns Harvey Weinstein" and then subhead "Stars in Woody Allen Movie." [Laughs]
Aminatou: That's right. When your subhead thinks you're full of shit, for sure.
Ann: You have to laugh sometimes because it's just so bleak.
Aminatou: Yeah. It's like I think about her. It's like who else is doing . . . like yeah, it was like Cate Blanchett or somebody like that. I should look it up to be precise because I don't want to accuse anybody. Like same behavior. I was like listen, you can't root out Harvey Weinstein and not root out the rest of these creeps because they're everywhere and it's all on a continuum.
Ann: Yeah. Okay, the Woody Allen quote, he says that Weinstein's downfall was "Sad for everybody involved." And then he also "Warned about a witch hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere, where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself."
Aminatou: Oh my god. Oh my god.
Ann: "That's not right either." Ahh! I can't even.
Aminatou: I know. I know. I know. Also I'm like sir, please learn what witch hunt really is because it does not apply to you guys. It's the fact that the root cause behavior doesn't get addressed. Even Harvey Weinstein is at some fancy rehab for sex addiction and it's like sir, sex addiction is not the problem that you have. Ugh.
Ann: Yeah. I also -- so I talked to friend-of-the-podcast Irin Carmon who was writing about spectrum of allegations from this is sexual harassment or this is creepy all the way to this is rape and abuse. She was kind of doing that let me . . . like do you want to respond to that argument that people like Oliver Stone and Woody Allen make which is oh, winking -- don't conflate winking at someone with rape. And this is something that a lot of like "Oh, I'm a sensible, reasonably observer" people are saying about this, right? Like "Oh, we shouldn't rush to conflate all of this behavior." Which is true.
But then when I think about this I'm like okay, where there is smoke there is not always fire. But also if there is a bunch of smoke in your office, you are not just hanging out in there; you are running. And, you know, part of me is like I really fail to think of an example where I'm like oh, yeah, I picked up on creep vibes from someone and no one else shared that experience. I don't know. I guess what I'm trying to say is people can tell the difference between actual flirting when there is not an abuse of power versus like harassment. That is something that the lived experience of it is pretty telling, like you can feel what is happening to you. It's not that confusing on the inside.
Aminatou: True. I'm going to come down really hard here though and say you should fucking not flirt with your coworkers because here is the problem. It's that these guys are saying like oh, you're just winking at someone or whatever. And I was like none of these things exist in a vacuum. Like are you kidding me? The fear that you can have from just one sort of display of affection that you can have at the office, or whatever in life, and how it manifests, it's really hypocritical of them to say that. Like "Oh, I'm just winking," or "That guy just taps girls on their butts," or whatever. It's like no, all of this behavior is unacceptable. Rape is rape but it doesn't mean that the rest of it is not wrong.
Ann: Right. And that's what I mean about the smoke and fire thing. It's like yeah, smoke is not okay either.
Aminatou: I know. But I also, I think also about Anthony Weiner for example who went from being a garden-variety sexter to sexting a teen and now is going to jail for it.
Aminatou: And that all happened under our noses, you know? For a long time it was like eh, this guy, he's a problem. And then like here's the problem.
Ann: Well, you know . . .
Aminatou: I think looking at this behavior to me on a spectrum is super important because there was also this whole response online this week about people who are like well, you know, some men are just like . . . they're just like regular bad guys. Then there are, just like you're saying, there are the rapists. And it's like actually those regular bad guys can be a rapist for one, but two, we shouldn't be subjected to any kind of bad behavior from them.
Aminatou: Everything from whatever, from the winking to the stalking. Like everything just escalates all the time. If you thought the guy that was street harassing you, that that's all he was after, and you knew that for a fact, you would probably be less annoyed by him. The reason that it terrifies us and it fucks up your entire day is because you're afraid of what they will do next.
Ann: Right. It's the tip of the creep iceberg. Yeah.
Aminatou: Ugh, tip of the creep. I love it.
Ann: I mean -- but it's true.
Aminatou: Sorry, I'm just ranting.
Ann: No, I mean . . .
Aminatou: I'm just like -- I'm so angry, Ann. I'm so angry.
Ann: I am too. And the way that like -- I'm air quoting here -- "reasonable people" are making this a conversation, it's like do we really want to shut down flirting in the office as opposed to how do we protect people?
Aminatou: Yes, shut down flirting in the office! It's wrong.
Ann: No, no, listen, I am not disagreeing with you but I'm just saying it's this amazing triple axel of patriarchy to be like . . .
Aminatou: Yeah, ugh.
Ann: To be like no, no, let's make this about men's right to flirt at work as opposed to about women's right to feel safe doing their jobs and existing in the world. Cool flip.
Aminatou: I mean, ugh, it's just like thinking about also all the ways where victim blaming happens, right? Where it's like well, why are people in Hollywood going to people's hotel rooms? And I'm like I don't know how to tell you this, a hotel room is a place of work. Fuck you guys. Anywhere you are that you think there is a professional connection that will happen ends up being a place of work. This is why we need stronger work connections, one. This is my pitch for unions for everyone. But also, you know, I keep thinking back about Trump and the whole pussygate tape and how he literally got away by saying that's locker room talk.
Ann: I know.
Aminatou: And it's like I was outraged then but I am like incensed even more now. That is not an okay way to talk.
Aminatou: Like even if that's what you were just guilty of, that is fucked up and for that alone you shouldn't be president. But it just so happens that it's actually not true. It's like oh, we have a serial abuser as president also. It's like some days I forget, and this week I am reminded of that and I don't know how to process that information.
Ann: Yeah. I don't know how to process it either. I am just really struggling with a systemic way forward, and maybe there is someone who has it that's not like office anti-harassment training, you know? I don't know.
Aminatou: Yeah. Or like more women in leadership.
Aminatou: You know, those things are not going to work. But sorry to sound like a broken record and very sad but nothing will change until men change their behavior. Instead of looking at how women's behavior can change things, everything from protecting yourself to being assertive or whatever, is when we start looking at the ways that men can change things. Because clearly to me that's the key to the entire puzzle. I don't know how we move forward if 50% of the population does not acknowledge the fact that they are largely responsible for this problem and they are the ones that need to change.
Ann: Yeah. I mean I have nothing to add to that. Like 100% men be better. And also when I see hashtags like #metoo I'm like I 100% support everyone who is chiming in and being brave about their stories. But I also -- I feel like him, too is the better . . . it's like you, too, yes, in that you've experienced this. But it's like him, too, like these are all the people in your field. There is a part of me that is like cumulatively there is an effect to men meeting some consequences. And I think the rewards are increasing the more you can show how widespread this really is as opposed to pointing to men as if they are singular monsters. Like Harvey Weinstein, a singular monster.
Ann: Like no, no, no, Harvey Weinstein exhibiting behavior that literally thousands of men exhibit unchecked.
Aminatou: Ugh, seriously. You know, but shout out to men who have been stepping up and sharing their stories like Terry Crews and James Van Der Beek.
Aminatou: That was like really heartening to hear. Terry Crews, like forever one of my favorite feminists.
Ann: Oh my God, Terry Crews is the best.
Aminatou: His book is really good.
Ann: Yeah, and he . . . I think we just said it as if everyone knew, but he published a series of tweets about being groped at an industry event and how and why he didn't feel he could be public about that before now too. So yeah.
Ann: It's not just women.
Ann: But you know what is the point of commonality is all the perpetrators thus far have tended to be men. That's the point of commonality.
Aminatou: Ugh, yeah, no, it's crazy. You know, and the Terry Crews example too was such a . . . the way that he shared his story was such an illuminating point into how race and gender intersect in that way and how he felt like he couldn't do anything because he didn't want to be the angry black man at the fancy Hollywood party. And that was like -- I was so shocked and saddened by that, you know? But thinking about even this whole . . . this problem, the systematicness of this problem and how it intersects with all these different places is what also makes it so hard to talk about.
Ann: Right, absolutely. And it's why I don't fault women of color who don't feel like they're able to be public about some of this stuff, especially because we know what happens in terms of the public abuse that they are then subjected to when they speak their truth out loud.
Ann: So I don't know.
Aminatou: What a shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty week, but also some people are amazing and some people are working to change things. That makes me okay.
Ann: Right. And I just want to say a big "We love you" to anyone who has been on the receiving end of this sort of vile behavior. Obviously CYG is Team You.
Aminatou: Seriously. We are Team You. Take care of yourself. We're in this for the long haul.
Aminatou: [Sighs] So take care of yourself, yeah.
Ann: And we don't forget. [Laughs]
Aminatou: We do not forget. We're going to take every one of these fucking pigs down like one-by-one. Don't you worry.
Ann: Right, yeah. Like Clarence Thomas, Terry Richardson, Dov Charney, Jian Ghomeshi. Like I remember all of your names, yeah.
Aminatou: Oh my God, Thomas. Yeah. It's like women are finally speaking about harassment. It's like do you know Anita Hill? Like please.
Ann: Yeah, I know.
Ann: Can I hit you with some posi news so we can end on a note?
Aminatou: Oh my God, tell me all the posi news. What's going on?
Ann: Okay. Since you've been gone, Kelly Clarkson voice, California . . . [Laughs] The state of California has officially recognized a "third gender" -- this is what the headlines are calling it.
Aminatou: Yes, queen!
Ann: But basically -- I know, on legal documents now in California residents can identify as male, female, or non-binary and the bill goes into effect in 2019.
Aminatou: That's awesome.
Ann: Yeah. Shout out to Governor Jerry Brown for signing that legislation and I love the idea that this is now an identity that can be reflected on your actual documents. Like you can fly on an airplane just being your non-binary self hopefully in the not-too-distant future.
Aminatou: That's amazing. Go California.
Ann: I love it.
Aminatou: Go California.
Ann: Second piece of good news, in Barbados there's going to be a street called Rihanna Drive.
Aminatou: [Laughs] Rihanna.
Aminatou: Oh my God, what a . . . you know, that young lady. What a year. What a year she's had.
Ann: I know. Just -- you know, I think about that a lot. I think we've talked about this before, about seeing the number of buildings and streets and public things that are named for frankly horrible people, and if not horrible people, a very demographically-predictable set of people. And I'm like yes.
Aminatou: It's like very bad people and Martin Luther King. [Laughs] That's usually how street names work.
Ann: Right, yeah.
Aminatou: They're like what's the worst neighborhood in your town? We're going to put Martin Luther King Drive right there.
Ann: 100%. So shout out to Rihanna Drive. May there be Rihanna Drives in every city in the future.
Aminatou: Oh my God, what a world. That's the best.
Ann: I know. Do you want to end on this listener question? Do you want to just like . . .
Aminatou: Yes, tell me. Tell me.
Ann: Okay. Related to Rihanna we got a listener question that I also wanted to read you because I think we have something to add to this, to this person's dilemma. So a listener writes "The other day I was playing music on shuffle from my iTunes library and a song came on that has explicit lyrics, Needed Me by Rihanna. I like the song and sang along but suddenly felt guilty because the song uses the N word. The more I thought about it the more I wondered what you two would have to say about the subject. What are your thoughts on artists using the N word in music? Is it something you feel conflicted about?" Etc., etc.
Aminatou: Well, here are my thoughts about the N word. I will forever laugh you out of town and find you very suspicious if you're a white person who thinks that nobody can use the N word under any circumstances. You're only responsible for your own people. And it is true white people are not allowed to use it under any circumstances. I don't get offended if they do but I'm just like you should know that consequences will come to you and you should be prepared to deal with it.
Ann: Yeah. To be fair I believe this listener is a woman of color who's not a black woman, so just a little bit of context, but not white. But anyway, go on. Yeah.
Aminatou: Perfect. Perfect. But that's usually the context that we discuss the N word in, like people are really conflicted. I use the N word very sparingly because it's not my truth. I think that like I did not grow up with an African-American experience and so it's highly disingenuous and inauthentic to use it but it doesn't bother me when other people use it. In songs, I don't know, I never make the mistake of almost singing it; I feel like you can censor it. But friend of the podcast and deep IRL friend Mercedes Kraus in college brought this amazing tip into our lives.
Ann: Oh, this has really saved me in so many situations I can't even . . . I'm so excited to share this on the podcast.
Aminatou: It's the best. Literally it's the only way I could listen to jams with college friends. Mercedes replaces the N word with the word Neighbor when she sings and it works for everything.
Ann: It works in every song.
Aminatou: Neighbors in Paris.
Ann: Neighbor, Naw. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Neighbor, Naw, Beyonc. Like talk to those neighbors. It always works. It's totally fine. I'm like down. I'm down for evangelizing neighbors to everybody. Thank you Mercedes for bringing that into our lives.
Ann: Ugh, Neighbors on Rihanna Drive, forever and ever. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Y'all are crazy. Y'all are crazy.
Ann: Pro tips. Yeah. Glad we could do that.
Aminatou: I like it. This was this week's edition of Life Hacks.
Ann: [Laughs] I mean this is some news you could use. I'm a little bit sad it's buried at the end of the podcast given it's the only thing we had a solution for.
Aminatou: Here's the problem is I am generally down for neighbors with my friends but you know that people will just start using it and what they really mean is the very despicable word that is on the other side of that. So you can't trust everybody.
Ann: It's true. It's true. I think that I . . .
Aminatou: It's why we can't have nice things.
Ann: You're right. And it's also probably worth clarifying that I don't use that term outside of singing along to music. Like I'm not like look at these neighbors over here. Like no, no, no, no. It's only like I'm singing along to Needed Me by Rihanna and I need a replacement word so I can keep singing along.
Aminatou: Oh yeah.
Ann: Like that is literally the exclusive context in which the neighbor hack works.
Aminatou: Yeah. Literally in music. It does not work in other spoken word versions of your life.
Ann: Like don't -- yeah, don't greet a group of people. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Don't greet . . . listen, I live for when people use the N word though and they think they're being really provocative and then violence happens. I'm always like listen, these are the consequences. You can do whatever you want but you cannot control how people react to it.
Ann: Yeah. So lyrics only.
Aminatou: It's crazy. But yes, lyrics only. Lyrics only. Neighbor, naw. Thanks Beyonc.
Ann: Ugh. Awesome. Okay. Well, see you in America soon.
Aminatou: I know. I'm going to go eat a waffle and probably I'm going to eat French fries also and I'm going to deal with my rejected California state tax return.
Ann: Oh my god, I can't . . .
Aminatou: And eat my feelings. You're the best.
Ann: Ugh. You're in a good place to eat your feelings. I support you.
Aminatou: I know. I know. I'm going to eat on my dad's bed, be a really bad kid today. It's going to be amazing.
Ann: You can find us many places on the Internet including on our website callyourgirlfriend.com. You can download this podcast anywhere you listen to your favs or on Apple Podcasts where we love reviews. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We're also on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at callyrgf. You can leave us a short and sweet voicemail -- yes, we always listen to these -- at 714-681-2943. That's 714-681-CYGF. Our theme song is by Robyn. We have original music composed by Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs. Our logos are by Kenny Shesnede, and this podcast is produced by Gina Delvac.
Aminatou: Bye, boo-boo! See you in our shared hotel very soon!
Ann: Yes! See you on the Internet too.