Abuse of Power Comes as No Surprise

Published September 7, 2018.

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 abuses of power perpetrated by prominent women in the #MeToo movement, professors -- even professors beloved by feminist theorists -- men who are staging their comebacks after a period of exile post-#MeToo, and yeah, even abuses of power by the "cool pope." [Theme Song] (2:05) Aminatou: Hey y'all, team CYG is working on a pretty exciting new project and we need your help. We want your stories about how you met your bestie. Ann: Aww! Aminatou: Did you post an ad on Craigslist? Did you find each other on an airplane? In the hospital? Were you archenemies in middle school? Did you break up and get back together? We want to hear all about it. Leave us a message with the story of your bestie meet cute at 714-681-CYGF. Even better, call us with your bestie and tell us your story together. Again that number is 714-681-CYGF. Please tell us your name and where you are and if it's okay for us to use this audio. We cannot wait to hear from you. A podcast for hungover besties everywhere. Ann: On the same couch everywhere. [Laughs] Aminatou: Whew, child. Ann: What happens when you have a Sunday that's playing like it's a Saturday? Aminatou: Right. We're recording on Labor Day. Ann: Ugh, out here in -- flouting all our beliefs about celebrating labor by not performing it if we can help it. Aminatou: I know. Shout-out to all the people who work hard out there. Ann: Shout-out to everyone else who worked on Labor Day too. Aminatou: Shout-out to unions. Ann: What if the whole episode is us just shouting things out because we have no capacity for anything else? Aminatou: Shout-out to the beach. Ann: Shout-out to considering putting on pants with a zipper and then declining to do that immediately. Aminatou: I know. My favorite part of the day is when you were like "I'm too moisturized to put on pants." [Laughs] Okay. What are we talking about today? Ann: I mean today we're talking about power. Aminatou: Okay. Ann: And the people who abuse it, or some of the many people who abuse it. Let's put it that way. Aminatou: Wow. Wow, wow, wow. Ann: And what happens when people who abuse power have also done some things you admire or created work that you like or professed feminists beliefs or seem like -- I'm air quoting here -- "not that bad?" What happens when those people abuse their power? (4:12) Aminatou: [Sighs] Well this is also great because it is a check-in into a lot of stories that we haven't talked about in the news but that privately we've been fuming about forever. Ann: Oh my god, the text thread has been blowing up but the episodes have not reflected this yet. Aminatou: Right, okay. Let's start in the ivory tower. Ann: Oh, okay. Aminatou: At NYU. Ann: And then we'll just descend the hill from there? Aminatou: We'll descend the hill from there. Ann: What's going on at NYU? Aminatou: You know on this podcast we have said that academia is just a pyramid scheme so . . . Ann: Ivory pyramid? Aminatou: Yeah, the ivory pyramid. It's just like, you know, people love academic intellectuals. Everybody should reexamine those beliefs. So at NYU there is kind of like a bonkers story happening, like unfolding right now about this woman Avital Ronell who is -- she's this deconstructionist professor at NYU. Ann: Theory superstar. Aminatou: Yes, she is like 1,000 percent super-prof. People come to NYU to study under her. So she teaches German and comparative lit and she's basically been accused by a graduate student who came to NYU to be an advisee under her about sexually harassing and assaulting him. And NYU has done this 11-month Title IX investigation and they've concluded that she is guilty of at least sexual harassment. And I believe they punished her with like a one-year suspension, no pay. This story is actually fascinating on many levels. One, there was an investigation and the investigation found that she did many bad things. (6:00) Ann: And it was a Title IX investigation to be clear. Aminatou: Yes. Ann: Which is how a lot of campus sexual assault and harassment cases -- that's sort of the framework under which the university decides it has an interest in protecting its students from that behavior because everybody has a right to learn without being harassed and abused. Like just establishing a little baseline here of what this investigation is about. Aminatou: Yes. And so many things have happened in the response to this which should come as no surprise. Abuse of power comes at no surprise. Ann: What? [Laughs] Aminatou: I don't know if you guys have seen -- have heard this on Tumblr before. But this story is really upsetting to me because it is happening in this moment when we are talking about abuse in every single scenario and people are being really obtuse about the fact that women can be abusive as well and women can be abusive to men. There are people who are gleefully looking back at me like "Look, this invalidates feminism and it invalidates #MeToo and XYZ." And it's like actually we're pretty clear that people in powerful positions can abuse their power so let's go through the backlash of this story, right? So one, people are mad at the graduate student who is a man because he put forward this Title IX investigation. People feel that he is using a mechanism that is often reserved for women in universities. Ann: Right, to preserve gender equality. Yeah. Aminatou: Which to me I was like this is so dumb. I can't even go here. The other thing about it is so you can read the 50 -- I think it's 56 pages, the claim, like the abuse claim. At a minimum it is all disgusting. It's pretty cut-and-dry in how this professor is abusive to her student no matter who the student is. (7:55) Ann: And to be clear this is like even if you only look at the things that there are actual receipts for, like not even on a level of which party you take at a word, which . . . Aminatou: Like what is an innuendo? Ann: Yes. Even if you just literally read the text of emails and text messages and hear basic facts, like for example she showed up on his doorstep and was like "Can I stay with you during this extreme weather event?" and then he says she went on to grope him and assault him and basically remain unwelcome in his home for days and days after. Even if you're like "Well, you know . . ." If you're one of these people who doesn't actually believe in abuse of power or is not interested in taking people at their word when they come forward about this, even then you can be like huh, maybe it's not a good idea for a graduate faculty adviser to sleep in the bed of one of her advisees. Aminatou: Right. There's no scenario in which that's okay. Ann: There's no scenario in which that is not a completely obtuse lack of understanding of what power is and what power dynamics are. Aminatou: Right. Who gets to ask that and who gets to receive that? Ann: Yes. Aminatou: So anyway you can go through and read the claim. The receipts are abhorrent. Ann: That's what I'm saying. Aminatou: They're just -- it's not okay. And obviously the professor denies all of it and she is very upset because, you know, it is her reputation is on the line. It's like you should've thought about that before you showed up at your graduate student's . . . Ann: You should've thought about that before you, yeah, texted your student calling him cuddly baby. Aminatou: Right. Or saying things like "I love you too" does not cut it darling. It's like well you should've thought about all of that before you were put on the summer jam screen. But the part of this scandal that has infuriated me the most if I'm honest, I feel deeply about this man because all of the ways that his story is being picked apart are the exact same ways that women who accuse men of being abusive get picked apart. Ann: Of course. (10:00) Aminatou: And the fact that this feminist professor can be manipulative about the way she's deploying her anger towards him is shocking. But the thing that makes me the most upset is the fact that all of these academics came out in support of her and have since -- now have had to walk back their stories. Ann: Some of them. Aminatou: Some of them. The minute that the New York Times wrote the superstar professor accused of harassment, and the story's actually great because it goes into detail on everything, like that story alone is damning where it was like, you know, if I wrote a story that was like "Superstar Podcaster Ann Friedman . . ." Ann: Wow. Aminatou: Listen. Ann: Careful how this is taken out of context. [Laughs] Aminatou: I know, but it's the kind of thing where I understand -- I truly understand what it is to be close to somebody who is accused of something or who is in this precarious position. But to these people it's like all you have to do is read the article. If you read the article the few receipts that are there does not make it good for your friend. It does not make it a tenable position for you to come out in explicit support of this person, right? So it's like you have this letter written by academics and friends of hers who essentially just say "This woman is an incredible professor! She has contributed so much to academia. Don't punish her. Also this young man is lying." Like that truly shocking. Ann: The letter also says, and I think this is also noteworthy, the letter says even though we've read zero parts of the complaint -- precisely zero aspects of the complaint -- this is our assessment. So the order of operations is this letter was sent to the people making decisions at NYU about this professor's career and whether or how to punish her for this totally inappropriate behavior with an advisee. And they did not even wait to look at the receipts such as there were some receipts. And also, so the list includes -- I think, you know, it's not just that these are her colleagues; these are colleagues who have made their names as in many cases feminist theorists. Aminatou: Yep, Judith Butler. Ann: Judith Butler. Your fave's fave Judith Butler is one of these people who has been incredibly foundational to the modern understanding of gender. It includes Chris Kraus whose work I like a lot, who I interviewed for this very podcast, like who has been formative in terms of the way women's relationships to power have been -- in the art world in particular have been written about. These are the names that are on this list. Aminatou: Right. (12:38) Ann: So yeah, it's not just like oh yeah, okay, this male musician from the '70s who I love has done a bad thing and I have to square my love of this outdated kind of racist, sexist music with things I know now. It's not even that. It's like people who have formed many of my beliefs and many of the beliefs of other feminist thinkers who I love, these kind of foundational people who have helped many of us understand gender and power are signing this letter that is in the best possible framing a misunderstanding of gender and power. In the worst possible framing -- I mean not worst, most accurate. Aminatou: Fake news. Fake news. Yes. Ann: The most accurate framing is just completely propping up power when the person accused is a close pal. Aminatou: [Sighs] Ann: It is so disappointing. Aminatou: It's disappointing too for like . . . it's also very dishonest for people who are in academia. The whole way that an advisor/advisee relationship works is you are supposed to properly feed the ego of the person who advises you. This is literally how careers are made and broken right? So it's like actually academia if you don't want this kind of abuse to happen you need a system in which one person is not subservient to somebody else for their career. It's like classic abuse of power. There's nothing to intellectualize here. It's like no, no, one person is responsible for making or breaking another person's career. It 100% will inform how the person who is the advisee responds to the adviser. Ann: Right. (14:20) Aminatou: So when they're deconstructing this man's story and they're like "How could this have gone on for so long?" Yeah, because you're getting a PhD. That's why it's going on for so long. Ann: It's a long process. Yeah. Aminatou: Yeah, it's like why didn't you tell somebody? Well because this entire system tells me that this is the person who will make my career. Ann: You're confirming right now with this letter the choice not to tell anyone actually. Yeah. Aminatou: It's like hmm, this is what's going on here. We're in this post-Harvey Weinstein world where everybody talks about Harvey as the monster all the time. It's like well, abuse doesn't happen without abusers so he's not the only person in the ecosystem. And also truly with power anybody can be a monster. That's the whole point of this. Ann: Okay. Aminatou: And it's not like a gender . . . you know, I'm like yes, women can be bad. I'm not shocked to hear that. Power is the problem. Ann: Yeah, and I also -- so that's like, you know, the perfect transition to talking about one of the other things that's been happening in parallel with this in the news. Less in the kind of academia corner and more in the Hollywood corner. Aminatou: Down the hill we said. [Laughs] Ann: Down the hill. Sorry, not corners, down the hill. The water is flowing off the ivory pyramid and through the Hollywood Hills shall we say where Asia Argento who is one of the people who came forward to say that she was raped by Harvey Weinstein, so it has also come to light in the past month that she has paid a lot of money to a young man who says that she sexually assaulted him in a hotel room when he was 17 and she was 37. (15:55) Aminatou: Ann, this is another one of these where you can read all in the public domain, like text messages. There are images that you can see. You can see it. At best the receipts are very bad. I am not the person who makes the determination of, I don't know -- like that's the job of the law to figure out what the punishment is for these people. It's the job of the law to give contours about how we talk about it. But if we're going to be really honest the receipts that are there are very bad. And it is incredibly bad. It is also very hypocritical. Ann: Whew, okay, how about a little break? Aminatou: Whew child, need a break. [Laughs] Here's a break for some sponsors. [Music and Ads] (19:28) Aminatou: One of the things that is talked about a lot in this moment is how NDAs and settlements really keep the truth from coming out. Ann: Yes. Which is a whole part of why we did not hear about Harvey Weinstein in this massive public way but only in a private, whispered way for decades. Aminatou: Decades. Ann: Yes. Aminatou: Because there are legal reasons people do not speak. Ann: Sure. There's a system to support power and keep people who challenge power silent. Yes. Aminatou: 100%. So to have a woman who is very public about the very real harm that has happened to her, like I don't want to minimize that in any way. The things that happened to her at the hands of Harvey Weinstein are awful, no doubt. Ann: Yes, absolutely. Aminatou: But to have her replicate that in its own -- you know, to pay out a settlement to someone, not let them speak, there's not another way to say it. To be very dishonest in her own abuses of power? It's dishonest and it's damaging, right? In the sense where she is somebody who is central to the #MeToo movement and I'm like you are not about to destroy 20 years of Tarana Burke's work because you cannot be an honest broker of the truth. Ann: Which is a great segue because I just want to actually read -- Tarana Burke posted a series of tweets after this news came out that I think really just say it so beautifully. I'm going to read from the #MeToo founder Tarana Burke's tweets right now. It's a whole thread that we'll link to. She says "I've said repeatedly the #MeToo movement is for all of us including these brave young men who are now coming forward. It will continue to be jarring when we hear the names of some of our faves connected to sexual violence unless we shift from talking about individuals and begin to talk about power. Sexual violence is about power and privilege. That doesn't change is the perpetrator is your favorite actress, activist, or professor of any gender and we won't shift the culture unless we get serious about shifting these false narratives. My hope is that as more folks come forward, particularly men, that we prepare ourselves for some hard conversations about power and humanity and privilege and harm." She says "A shift can happen. This movement is making space for possibility but it can only happen after we crack open the whole can of words and get comfortable with the uncomfortable reality that there is no one way to be a perpetrator and there is no model survivor. We are imperfectly human and we all have to be accountable for our individual behavior." (22:00) Aminatou: I love that. Ann: I really like -- I thought about this a lot as a lot of the . . . basically as a lot of the coverage that is using this as an opportunity to skew the #MeToo movement as a whole, I know that each of us has had dozens of conversations with people like "Has it gone too far now?" Like literally every news item that comes out. And every time I see a headline that's basically like "#MeToo movement leader accused of assault," I'm like it is true that Asia Argento is a prominent person associated with this movement. It is also true that if anyone can be called a leader of this movement in the sense of has been doing this work on a movement level for a long time that person is Tarana Burke. Like if I click that story and see Tarana Burke's name maybe I feel differently. Aminatou: Yeah, 100%. Ann: But truly, truly -- anyway, so that is why I'm just like I want to continue to pull this back to her perspective on this which is it is bigger than any one perpetrator. It's bigger than any one story about how this happens. Aminatou: I know. And you know, to go back to my favorite hobby horse read a fucking book at all times I have been having a lot of conversations with especially younger women who are very jarred by the conversation in media. You know, like the simplistic way that the media has been putting it is like feminists are just hypocrites; women are bad also but feminists will always hide their badness because women are sweet and innocent. Ann: Or they invented that it was about gender, or made up that power and gender are linked. Aminatou: Exactly. And this makes me angry on so many levels too because I'm like if you're -- Barry Weiss actually wrote a New York Times op-ed about this that is all like oh, women are bad people too, did you know? And I was like . . . Ann: Your least fave's least fave? (23:58) Aminatou: Yeah, but at the same time I'm just like I don't know how to tell you this. If you had literally taken one . . . like women studies was invented to literally show that women are kind of like men. There was a whole thing. It's like women are full people too. Women can be murderers. Women can -- you know, that's the whole point of women studies if you want to be very dumb about it. So to have this moment where people just refuse to believe that any kind of abuse of power and harassment, it can come from anywhere and your gender informs how you suffer all of these things but power is what is at the root of abuse. It's like if one person did not have power over somebody we would not be having these conversations over and over and over. Ann: Or at minimum it would not be allowed to flourish for the length of time. You know, some of these questions about why is this graduate student just now coming forward, right? Aminatou: Right. Ann: The answer lies in power. Like who has the power here at every turn? I mean look, the people who are disingenuous critics of #MeToo, I don't care. I get it. They're going to use this to discredit an overall movement that is about addressing power and showing solidarity with survivors, right? Those people are like whatever. But it's people who truly in a large body of their work and by their actions as well and personal beliefs seem to actually care about dismantling and interrogating some of these systems, when those people are not coming to the conclusion this is about power in a widespread way. This conversation also reminded me of a lot of the kind of early-mid phase of #MeToo when it was like anonymous lists are coming out and a lot of people were having to make real-time decisions about what do I do about this person who I know on a personal level who has always seemed great to me on a personal level? Someone who is less powerful than that person is saying not-so-great things about them. Aminatou: Yeah. (26:05) Ann: And I think that part of what's so hard about this and part of why I love that Tarana Burke statement, it's because it requires interrogating your own relationship to power. Usually when I feel like something like this is invisible to me it's because I have a lot of power. You know, power is a real insulator. Aminatou: Yeah. Ann: So being able to sort of say like yeah, wow, this list of professors who are all powerful in the same ways as the accused professor don't seem to see it, hmm, I wonder why that is? Aminatou: Right. And also they seem to be wanting to change the subject all the time, right? They're like it's not about power; it's an attack on feminism and the letters and the arts. It's an attack on singling out a queer woman. It's singling out an individual thinker. Like there's just all of these ways that we . . . Ann: No queer people or original thinkers have ever been accused of assault ever, never committed assault ever. Yeah. Aminatou: Right. And it's actually like very . . . like if they were, I don't know, if they were more honest about it. This is actually very insulting to the very thing they're trying to build. Ann: It's like why are you invalidating your own work? Yeah. Aminatou: Why do you invalidate your own work? Why do you create unsafe environments for people who want to do the kind of work that you do? I don't know. It sounds very simplistic but I've also been thinking so much about bullying and how at the heart of a lot of these stories is there is always an undercurrent of bullying. And it's like that is always the red flag in everything. If somebody can bully someone in any setting, at work, at home, the minute that you start uncovering that you are going to find uglier things than you thought you were looking for. Ann: I mean put Melania Trump on the horn. [Laughs] (27:50) Aminatou: I know! Like are you shocked that this professor who is a bully, you know . . . I'm just like no, connect the dots. Are you surprised that somebody like Asia Argento who basically bullied this young man into silence also has her own shit going on behind the scenes? No. Some of this stuff is like it's just so out there and we refuse to talk about it and we refuse to see it. And I think that you're right, it's like even if you look at the receipts of any of these and you're like "This person is innocent but here are the things in the public domain that they have said or they have done," it is not acceptable. On its own it is not acceptable. Ann: Right. Aminatou: And it's just really . . . it gives me a little bit of hope as we power on to dismantling systems of abuse. This is like what we're up against, right? It's not that you're up against like a Harvey Weinstein type monster. It's like no, no, this shit is everywhere. It is everywhere and everybody is trying to hold on to the minimum of power that they have instead of examining the ways in which it is damaging to everybody and to everything including movements that claim to be about empowering survivors. Ann: Oh yeah, completely. And this is something I think a lot about especially this week as you see Louis C.K. returning to start doing stand-up sets again. Aminatou: There is a good joke in there about how he just parachuted into an audience who didn't know they were going to see him. I was like my man, consent on every level. Ann: I know. Aminatou: Not an understood situation. Ann: No, completely. And I think your point is really well-taken though because I did this conversation with the writer Thomas Page McBee this weekend and he was saying one of the most toxic ideas about masculinity is that there's good men and there's bad men. And I would argue that it's not just masculinity. Like the idea that when it comes to issues of gender and power you're either good or you're bad. And it is really easy. And I feel like we do this too, sometimes in jokey ways and sometimes in more serious ways. It's so easy to fall into the trap of like okay, someone has now crossed over into bad territory once we learn a thing. Aminatou: Yeah. (30:05) Ann: Or, you know, when you look at things like Asia Argento essentially sending all this money to this young man who has accused her of assault, trying to keep this quiet and stay on the "good" side of things as opposed to being on the "bad" side of things. Like what would this world look like if that NYU professor had been like "You know what? I did send all these super fucking creepy text messages calling my advisee a cuddly baby and I did do all this stuff that I now see was an abuse of power and was super, super fucked up. I'm so sorry for all of that. I'm going to be examining my role in systems of power and here's what I'm going to be doing institutionally should I keep my job to ensure that like this culture changes. I'm like what would that even look like? Can you even imagine that? Aminatou: No, I can't. I fully cannot imagine but I'm like sounds like the keys of freedom to me. You're right, it's like it's not a continuum of good to bad people even though you know I feel some people are very bad and I'm like we've been knew you were bad so it's fine. Ann: I mean it's true. Some people just show you their bad repeatedly. Aminatou: Some people just show you their bad repeatedly and you're just waiting for the receipts to match up. But it's not lost on me why it's important for women to have power. It feels like a form of protection. These are also all of the tools that you can then use those same tools to oppress other people. Ann: Of course. Aminatou: And so, you know, we're not hypocrites here but it is like . . . it is very hard to constantly be examining your own role in the ecosystem, right? Ann: Right. Aminatou: Especially if you feel like you are marginalized say than like -- you know, if you already feel oppressed by somebody it's really easy not to look at the ways that you're complicit in a different system of oppression because you understand that power. But I think for women and for women who call themselves feminists especially it's like yeah, no shit Sherlock. Like this should not -- it should not come as a surprise. (32:08) Ann: Yeah, and you know, it is interesting. I mean thinking about things like Louis C.K., I watched this of course spiraling out of control conversation on Twitter happen where there was a man, also a comedian, who was like "Shouldn't there be any kind of redemption narrative for men accused of abuse of power?" Aminatou: Yes, Michael Ian Black. Ugh. Ann: Right, that's who it was. Thank you. And you know what? What's funny about that to me is on its face that tweet kind of seems to support what we're talking about which is no one is categorically good or bad when it comes to how they're using their power. Very few people fit 100% cleanly into either category. And so on its face asking that question like hey, shouldn't there be some kind of way to continue to engage with the world if you have been accused of something terrible and done terrible things, right? Aminatou: Yeah. Ann: Yeah. Like the answer is yes there should but also it's not even let the punishment fit the crime; it's let the reckoning fit the crime. Aminatou: Right. Ann: Like you can't just, as you say, non-consensually parachute into an open mic night and . . . Aminatou: And be like "People are clapping for me again!" Ann: Yeah, and be like okay, I guess I was away long enough. That doesn't cut it. Like what are you doing? I actually don't think that even the Louis C.K.s of the world should hide under a rock and be banished forever. I think that -- I'm like if you want to be part of polite and not-so-polite public society again you have to on a similar level to the harm that you caused reckon with that publicly. You have to figure out how you'll structurally be a positive force for change so that doesn't happen again and you can't just be out here to save your own career. And I'm like the standard has to be as high as the bar was low for you before. (33:55) Aminatou: I know. But this is actually one of the biggest frustrations I always have about whenever comedian bros or bros adjacent to industries that have been shaken recently are always like . . . Ann: The earthquake, holding onto the building? Yeah. Aminatou: Yeah. And they're always like "Yeah, when does redemption come?" or whatever. And it's like uh, I don't know how to tell you this. All of that is work. Ann: Yes, that's what I'm saying. Aminatou: They never want to do the work. Is the answer can abusers rejoin society one day? I guess we're going to find out if they do the work but if they don't do the work of it we're never going to find out. Ann: I know where my money is on that bet. Aminatou: You know what I mean? It's like I know that. And also this feeling of I hate it that the conversation always goes to a level of empathy and sympathy. Ann: You mean himpathy? Aminatou: And himpathy. Thank you. There's actually a word for this, thanks Kate Manne. You know, like a level of himpathy for abusers and nobody ever talks about the abused. I'm like nobody is going through and saying hey, those five women whose careers Louis C.K. ruined, are they ever going to be able to do a comedy night again and show their face in public? Actual lives were ruined, you know what I mean? Ann: Yeah. Aminatou: In like a real way. Careers were derailed. Lives were ruined. People were made to feel shitty and still they get like zero percent of the public empathy that's out there. And, you know, it's like Louis C.K., Matt Lauer, that one at CBS, Lurch. They're all . . . Ann: That one at insert name of major network or film studio here. Aminatou: Yeah. I'm like these guys are all sitting at home swimming in their doubloons. You know, let's be real. Ann: Scrooge McDucking, yeah. Aminatou: Yeah, I was like early retirement with your helicopter? Ann: Yes. Aminatou: And so when I think about people being like "Oh, Louis C.K. can finally go back to work," I was like Louis C.K. has been having a great time. He is literally sitting on his millions at home and he has derailed careers as best -- like the nicest way to say that -- and you just can't come back into polite society without addressing the thing that you have done. It's like it should be as uncomfortable for you as you made it uncomfortable for other people. But the thing we're also learning is it turns out fine for these guys, so having a little bit of discomfort probably should work for them. (36:12) Ann: Yeah. It's true. And I also just like -- that is why, I don't know, going back to that, the ways in which acknowledging that no one is perfectly good or bad gets used as like a cover in permission for exactly what you said. For like, you know, these men to be able to continue their careers after a brief doubloon-swimming hiatus. Aminatou: Must be nice. Ann: Yeah, and then right, I mean if I were in charge here and was like okay, I hold the keys to police society, in order to pass back through and get back in the public eye you need to be able to not just tell me you're sorry for the lives and careers you ruined, you have to be able to say "And here's what I have actively done to remedy it." And not done like sat and talked to my therapist about it but done in the sense of like okay, receipts, in the same way there were receipts for your shitty behavior. I would like receipts for your reparative behavior. Aminatou: Right. Because if we're honest none of these guys who've been accused of anything have even done the shady PR advice of give money to a homeless shelter or give money to, you know, a domestic violence organization or whatever. They have not even done that. Ann: I know. Aminatou: They have done -- I was like truly there has been no attempt to even performatively pretend that you're sorry or share in the wealth. And I'm sure that privately they're racked with a lot of different stuff. Ann: Some of them maybe. Aminatou: Yeah, some of them maybe. But I'm like that shit's for your family. If you've disappointed your family that's your problem. Ann: Right. (37:50) Aminatou: But if you have caused harm in the real world that we all live in you also have to deal with that, you know? And it's like a lot of people . . . I think so much about the NYU student, the grad student, because in every way that . . . that binary is so stark to me. It's like in every way people are talking about his professor's reputation and how she's being harmed or whatever and I'm like this person will probably have a hard time ever being in academia at all. His career is being derailed in front of his own eyes. Ann: I mean his face and names are New York Times headlines. Aminatou: Yeah. It's just, you know -- or it's thinking about the young man who is so like . . . the ways that people have pathologized his own sexuality, the young man that Asia Argento paid off, and reading the text message exchanges between them and his statement. And just being like wow, if you remove gender from all of this and you just read these statements of people whose real lives have been hurt and there's no recourse for them except suing people because that's the best that we have and then we shit on them for using the recourses, the very few avenues they have to be restorative. Ann: Right, or like Title IX. The avenue for this type of complaint in a university environment is Title IX. Yeah. Aminatou: Yeah, we don't have anything better than that. Ann: Exactly. Aminatou: We don't have anything better than saying "Hi, you've hurt me and I'm going to sue you for a million dollars." And for women not to understand that because that happens to us so frequently and to see it perpetrated against these young men is really . . . it makes me very sad. Ann: Yeah. Aminatou: I'm like I'm over it. I'm over abuse of power. Yeah. It's not about gender, people. It's about power. Welcome. Ann: Yeah. Aminatou: Also read a fucking book about women's studies. Ann: You don't have to read a fucking book. Actually just read one sentence in a Jenny Holzer art piece. Aminatou: [Laughs] (39:45) Ann: You don't even have to read a whole book in this case. It's just like you know what? Go to your, you know, art Instagram account of choice and read three lines. Aminatou: We've been talking about this forever and by we I mean society. Ann: Yeah. Aminatou: So yeah. But also stop making us complicit in all your bullshit. Ann: Well, I mean, you know there's that "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." It's like no one can make you complicit without your consent, you know? Aminatou: It's true. It's so true and it's just -- but, you know, it's like the work never ends right? It's like everybody is just like "Ugh, #MeToo is happening. People are getting out the paint." And it's like nothing is actually happening. Finally we're saying the quiet thing out loud but things are not shifting in a way that feel like they will be lasting. Ann: Yes. Aminatou: Unless we do this over and over and over and over and over again. Your girl's tired. Ann: Oh my god. Can I hit you with one last news item that fits within this overall thread? Aminatou: Ugh, tell me. Which one of these divas are we going to talk about today? Ann: Something I never get tired of which is calling out the Pope for the fucking scammer that he is. Aminatou: Ann, you know how much we hate this fucking pope. Ann: We hate the -- and let it be said that years ago, we will find the episode in the archive, years ago when he was saying some like, let's be real, some nice things about queer people and he was like "I'm just going to take my foot off the gas a little bit on the whole forced pregnancy thing." Essentially he got all this praise. "It's the nice pope! We love this pope." Aminatou: Cool pope. It's because he tweets. [Laughs] Ann: Cool pope, right? Anyway, you might remember that we had a conversation where we were like yeah, but actually survivors of sexual abuse by priests and other members of the clergy have a pretty clear plan of what they want to see the pope implement. Since this widespread issue within the Catholic church has come to light that groups of survivors . . . Aminatou: And keeps coming to light. (41:45) Ann: Oh, shit has been coming to light, right? Aminatou: Oof. Ann: They have a list of like "Hello, pope? Person in charge of this, person deemed infallible by our church doctrine." Aminatou: Jesus CEO, step up. Ann: Exactly. We have this list of things that we want you to do that are about policy, that are about addressing this abuse of power within the church. And hey, why don't you just have a look at it? And guess what? Nice pope did zero things on that list. Aminatou: Zero things, but he's out here tweeting about climate change. Ann: Oh my god, I can't even. It burns me up. [Laughter] And yeah, and so now more and more headlines about, again, widespread abuse and widespread coverups of it including some charges that implicate nice pope himself in some of these coverups. And I'm just like that's right, we have been out here. It's like it's not what you say. I mean look, I think it's nice if you want to say gay people are not going to hell. That's a nice thing to say. It's nice to make people of all identities feel welcome in your church. Aminatou: I know, but we're like abolish hell, okay? That's what I'm trying to get you to do here. [Laughs] Ann: Wow, tall order. Tall order. Abolish hell as an agenda item is in purgatory as it were. As it were. Aminatou: Abolish hell. Ann: But yeah, but you know, and so now he's like look, this guy is trying to get -- this guy, this cardinal, is out to get me. That's the only reason that I'm being implicated right now. And I am like GIF of a giraffe eating popcorn watching this unfold, I love it so much. I'm like yes, tear each other apart from the inside because you're all covering this up. Aminatou: Talk about the starkest abuse of power. Like God, man that God says is in charge of everybody else, and you're all supposed to suck up to him? Of course this is a recipe for disaster. I don't know how we teach the children to be skeptical of people in positions of power because if you think about it the way that we're all raised is to revere people. Ann: Right, defer to power. Yeah. (43:42) Aminatou: Right, it's like you always defer to power. And I'm like mm-mmm, power is a scam, celebrity is a scam, fame is a scam, religion is a scam. You need to keep some critical glass bottle goggle situation on your face because these people are . . . this it not working out. It is not working out. Ann: Well you know why? Well it's because like right, the cognitive dissonance for children of always question power and also you have to listen to some people who are adults is a hard circle to square. And guess what? That's also hard as an adult. Aminatou: It never goes away. Ann: It's like yeah, it is perpetually hard to be like I have to live in this society and I defer to and want to acquire for myself power and at the same time I can recognize that it is -- that is where abuse comes into play because you can go unchecked. Aminatou: Yeah. How can one man have all that power? [Laughs] Ann: Well, about one canceled fave to another canceled fave . . . Aminatou: I know, peace out. Anyway hope everybody's having a good weekend. Ann: Great. Aminatou: Hope you question some power and also reclaim some of your own power and also examine your power. Ann: Yes, put it in context. I was joking earlier that the line should be lack of context comes as no surprise. Aminatou: [Laughs] Ann: But it's true. Like sometimes you need context to understand what even power is and how it's functioning so yeah. Aminatou: And don't bully people. Ann: Don't bully people and survivors of all genders we love you. Aminatou: I know. We love you. Thank you for telling your stories. Ugh. Ann: See you in front of the Jenny Holzer art piece. [Laughter] See you at the museum. Aminatou: See you at the museum. Bye boo-boo. You can find us many places on the Internet, on our website callyourgirlfriend.com, you can download the show anywhere you listen to your faves, or on Apple Podcasts where we would love it if you left us a review. You can email us at callyrgf@gmail.com. We're on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at @callyrgf. You can even leave us a short and sweet voicemail at 714-681-2943. That's 714-681-CYGF. Our theme song is by Robyn. Original music is composed by Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs. Our logos are by Kenesha Sneed. Our associate producer is Destry Maria Sibley. This podcast is produced by Gina Delvac.