It has a name now. There have been so many male casualties of sexual misconduct charges in the past five weeks that people have given it names: 1) "The Me Too Movement" to cover all the women, famous and not, who have stepped forward to say "Me Too" thereby opening up their own experiences with sexual harrassment and abuse; and 2) more darkly and importantly "The Reckoning."
The latter is a suitably dire expression for American women, en masse, overturning generations of gender abuse.
The week began with a man many might have considered one of the least likely targets -- Charlie Rose, one of the more shamelessly intelligent voices of American High Media. After a Washington Post story detailed allegations from eight women (some of which he claims are inaccurate), Rose was fired by CBS News and bounced off PBS and Bloomberg.
If Rose's annihilation by the buzzsaw weren't enough to rock us, the reaction to it online certainly could. Among the many things that has been shocking to me about "The Reckoning" has been the tidal wave of schadenfreude that has followed it i.e. the tsunami of post facto pleasure in others' pain that becomes sickeningly evident, especially if those suffering have previously been identified in a superior way.
Above the head of everyone famous in America is a Sword of Damocles on which is written "Just who do you think you are anyway?"
I understand the deeply emotional reactions of women who are familiar with the sickening American male propensity for sexual abuse. I never dreamed six months ago that there was so much of it but now that we've all been schooled in such melancholy knowledge, I'm 100 percent behind the women who want every bit of truth about it revealed and none of it tolerated.
But I want truth carefully considered and preserved, too. Which is why I tried to separate out a couple of weird things about The Reckoning from every understandable emotional context.
A) Harvey Weinstein was right. It excuses absolutely nothing but when the epochal New York Times story ran and revealed the former Miramax Film mogul's abominable way of treating women, he put it into a statement trying to explain himself. It began thusly: "I came of age in the '60s and '70s when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different."
Say what? That's the way most of us decent males responded who were very much around and functioning at the time. It was especially galling to read that in Buffalo where Weinstein got his professional start in that era. Was he actually claiming this as the place where he learned to get away with such treatment of women? It seemed to be. Which I found nauseating.
But when you think about it I realized he was right in a way.
What has to be understood is what Harvey Weinstein and Corky Burger were DOING in the '60s and '70s. They were booking and promoting rock concerts and consorting with the performers. In other words, the world for them was a rock 'n' roll world where male sex roles were indeed being defined differently. The view from Harvey's office might have re-conceived the genders of the American species into two different ones: males and groupies.
What rock groups did with willing young groupies was so often a kind of experiment in sadism with women who merely wanted proximity to fame. Read Stephen Davis' Led Zeppelin book "Hammer of the Gods" for some of the more jaw-dropping revelations of vile excess. (I must confess that when Zeppelin was picked to be honored by Kennedy Center I found it both heartening and wee bit puzzling considering the band's legendary offstage proclivities.)
Harvey didn't specify but he did indeed "come of age" learning all the ways Zeppelin and other rockers treated young women. His school was the roughest and most misogynistic precinct of American show business. It excuses nothing. It DOES explain how long such vileness has existed and how much it has been taken for granted.
B) What has been oddest of all about all the tales of The Reckoning is the number of famous men who have gotten their jollies out of exhibitionism. Raincoat style displays are essential to the charges against Weinstein, Louis C.K. (who not only masturbated in front of unprepared women but talked about it -- read Marc Marton's book about his "WTF" podcast), Anthony Weiner, Brett Favre and, now, Charlie Rose.
What gives THERE? What we've known for the last 70 years in America is that feminists have decried American male tendencies to "objectify" women as objects of flesh and not much else, thereby leaving such matters as brains and soul out of everything.
The conventional wisdom about the subject was expressed long ago about a Hollywood whose values came to spread and corrupt everyone: "Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul." When it came to the subject of objectification and sexual abuse, no one ever knew more about those subjects in America than Marilyn Monroe. Her wisdom prevailed.
What we're seeing now from the Reckoning's Raincoat Brigade is a squadron of sexually maladjusted American men going around blurting at women "Objectify me! Please! Forget my soul! And my brain! I'll give you money and position if you'll just look at me approvingly."
How did men as powerful as Weinstein and Rose get so insecure that they needed to gain self-confidence by having young women affirm their sex organs? It seems to me like a blatant abuse of power that proves nothing more than a terror of impotence and inferiority. How and when did THAT become part and parcel of male power in America?
I wouldn't dispute the justice of The Reckoning for a second. But what if the subject goes even deeper than that -- that there is something hopelessly broken about sex in America? That what men and women need from sex and everything else has bifurcated into two separate and distinct camps that will make successful and fulfilling reproductive congress even more difficult than it is now?
How could the American male ego shatter so completely?
If there's any truth to that, how do we reckon with THAT?