These cases of sexual harassment and assault. Of course it isn’t just politics. Academics sleep with their students. Priests sleep with the people they are supposed to be protecting. Theatre directors ‘father’ or fuck actresses.
Anywhere that power plays out, and I suppose that’s anywhere, men protect other men, whatever their sexuality. Often that, the protecting, is far from conscious – even when the behaviour is absolutely clear.
Misogyny discriminates against women, and men tend to stick together; even the ones who believe they are different. It isn’t only about who a man believes he is choosing to be. Ideology interpolates and you answer without knowing so. If you believe you are always transparent to yourself, think again.
There are exceptions, but if you believe you know an exception, look at his life and see what’s ever really changed.
I went to see the Giacometti show at the Tate yesterday and found all the fear of the world in most of the things he made. I recognised, in my own unease as I walked through the gallery, the soul-substance of TV and the Internet. The many special forms of fear that drive viewers or users: jealousy, envy, competitiveness, loneliness and misogyny, each with their awful textures, like kinds of intention I could almost separate into different painful, hateful senses of space, time, distance and intensity. I saw the actual forms of television sets and computers in his sculptures. There were also his tiny figures, framed so much like we are these days, in no broader context than a screen, and sometimes a very small screen. Not the Silver Screen but the greasy, smudged thing on a phone. I’m glad I didn’t go on my own.
Fortunately the first thing I read in the Observer this morning was Jarvis Cocker remembering an episode of the old Batman TV series where The Penguin runs for mayor of Gotham City. He points out how horribly similar the fat bird’s schtick is to the Presumptive Nominee’s. It was only when I glanced at The Observer’s sports section, and having tossed it onto the floor picked up the magazine, which I then also tossed onto the floor, that I wished I’d never bought the newspaper in the first place.
How can a campaign like Trump’s fail when as far away as this side of the Atlantic an allegedly thoughtful newspaper prints a sports section without a woman on its front page, and a magazine with just one woman on the cover: a Victoria’s Secret model?
Something’s happening all over again, and it’s happening all over. All of those column inches of ink spilled out in the liberal press over the last fifty years and was it ever a form of denial, a kind of word-wrap trying to contain a feast of unthinkable wishes? Boys still wanted to be Boys, and wanting girls.
Things have changed but in ways that seem to channel a past that couldn’t happen. Society was too structured, too policed. There was even a Wall, the Berlin Wall, like the one Trump says he’ll build now; and thank God it was smashed down – but now what?
Whatever now is has emerged … what are we going to do with it? Can we be honest and try to notice how little has changed? If I sit in a cinema watching ads before a film I feel as if I’m in a dream of the 1970s (I grew up in the 1970s; I didn’t imagine them, did I?). This morning I open a newspaper and see men playing with themselves in the sports section and a magazine selling itself on the strength of an attractive woman whose job is to sell lingerie. This is the past in a weaselly, half-hidden way. The Observer and Trump, they appeal in different ways to a lowest common denominator. We need a different kind of debate and I wonder where I’m going to look.
I could write a piece about female patterns, and possibly I will. But I’ve been struck this week by different forms of male power play I’ve noticed in heterosexual enclaves. I call them male because they were done by men … and I can’t often remember encountering women doing them. And they are heterosexual enclaves because even when the group was more diverse power seems to have been acted out according to a regressed law of male + female.
Three such patterns:
- Credit taking, as in: a couple of people are asked to do something. A man asks the other, a woman if she could start things off. He then finishes it and takes the credit.
- a man is known to be very devoted to his children. People like this, without knowing that the anguish he displays at work or wherever, the ‘I must remember a birthday card’ kind of thing (cue comment from colleagues, especially female ones to whom this might most often be directed: ‘how thoughtful / sweet / caring’) is an anxiety born out of his and his children’s relationship never really happening. Also possibly a subtle form of flirtation.
- Pulling it out of the bag. A last minute triumph that somehow obliterates the ill will and chaos that precedes it. In such cases always look closely for signs of addiction, anticipate various manifestations of infidelity, and expect the day that comes when nothing occurs apart from the dark sonic boom of a man imploding. If he has in some way been regarded as a star then all around him run the risk of being sucked into a black hole.