Of Babies and Bathwater

The recent stream of women standing up against sexual harassment and sexual criminal activity has once again brought to the fore the idea of heroes and perfection.  Something I said I was done talking about, but the subject I guess is just an intriguing one to me and thought I’d share a few more thoughts.  I’d like to extend this discussion beyond those accused of sexual harassment or other sex crimes in general, but to a discussion of flaws and the severity of those flaws.

I’ve been listening and reading discussions about where do we draw the line and forgive someone’s acts?  I’ve wrote a piece about Bill Cosby some time ago, and I think most people agree that given he is a serial rapist it’s hard to ever watch him again.  But some feel differently about Louis CK or Al Franken.  Now some might say this is because politics are playing a role, like in the case of Franken, or because you are just such a big fan of their comedy in the case Louis CK.  It’s hard to say that’s not the case, but I do think it’s more than that.

As I try to learn about human behavior there are two things that seem clear to me.  We are all morally inconsistent to varying degrees, and we all draw lines that cannot be crossed and those lines are different for different people.  As I’ve written before, I think we have this ability to elevate celebrities, leaders, and historical figures to unrealistic expectations of perfection.  With historical figures of course we might be applying today’s moral standards to those people and unfairly judge them, but I don’t always think that doesn’t have value.  We don’t have to judge, but I think there is value in looking at the flaws and inconsistencies in their thinking so that we can avoid those same pitfalls of character today.  Gandhi was someone I idolized, and still do to a certain extent, but more reading into his character has revealed his racism against black people, and his misogyny. Should I throw away Gandhi as someone who is a waste of my time to even try to appreciate now that I know?  I don’t think so, but I certainly see how he could have been more than he was, and can take those good parts, acknowledge (without judgment) the bad parts and move forward.

But what of those people who we find to be less than perfect today?  People who we deem should know better.  It’s a tricky business.  There might be an average moral perspective, and that perspective might even be backed by empirical data that shows it is a more moral behavior, but culture varies widely, and even when we see the overwhelming benefits of something like gender equality it seems very hard to get everybody on board.  If we investigate the most common set of moral values of people in a white evangelical community in the South, we’d find many differences between them and a community in Boulder, Colorado.  And the difference may even deviate greater as we go beyond the borders of our country.  What seems to be the prevailing moral view of our times is heavily biased by the culture we are currently in.  It could be we are in the minority.  And even if we are right about what is a more moral actions, and we are right to push those views on to society, it may be difficult for others to agree with our perspective.  Of course it’s also true that any one moral perspective is not all that we care about in this world.  We all have sets of moral values, and while it would be nice to think that anybody who is a feminist must automatically be also pro-environment, pro marriage equality, or against racism, the dots don’t always connect, nor do I think we should expect them to.  If we can have a head of the human genome project also be an evangelical Christian, I think that we should expect that any human is able to hold as true, two widely disparate views on how the universe works.

But where does that leave the rest of us.  It seems that it’s human nature to be constantly looking for people that we can look up to, that we can celebrate and that we can strive to be like.  It maybe isn’t surprising that we should do this.  Seeing something we value, embodied by another human being makes us feel like it’s possible for us to be that way to.  Such people can also make us care about things we didn’t before, or care about things in a deep way we never thought possible.  And when we find out their flaws there is a feeling of betrayal that feels personal even if we didn’t know them personally.  But I think that on a deeper level what we really worry about is what it says about us.  “This person I admired is not who I thought, so am I not who I thought as well?”  I certainly had these thoughts growing up with an alcoholic father.  My dad went from superhero to an extremely flawed individual, and I wondered how I might be flawed and how I would even recognize it?  And to be honest I still do sometimes.

I’ve tried to incorporate the best of my dad into who I am, because there is no changing the past.  I was born with dad I had, and there is no getting around that.  I can be a better dad myself going forward and that’s all I can do.  I’m not for burning people to the ground because of their flaws.  Even with Bill Cosby I can acknowledge the skill in which he told jokes and stories, and his passion for education and I can say that these are good things and are meaningful.  Maybe I can’t watch him anymore, but there was at least some goodness in him.  I feel similarly for Scott Orson Card who wrote an incredibly beautiful science fiction story and won a well-deserved Hugo award.  He is now a strong anti-gay activist in the Mormon community.  But the ideas and themes in his story are worth preserving and even celebrating.  I don’t want to turn those ideas to dust just because there is now a side of him I fundamentally disagree with.  When I think of heroes in my personal life right now, there are 3 ladies that are supervisors for the program I do volunteer work for helping neglected and abused children.  They work long hours, train volunteers, do fundraisers, and deeply care about the welfare of the most vulnerable members of our society.  What if I found out that one of them donated money to a pro-life organization, or was racist?  Does this invalidate all that they are?  Have they still not made the lives better for 100s if not 1000s of children?  At what point does the line get crossed?  Perhaps if I found out they have abuse their own children.  I in no way imagine that’s possible, but maybe given that we are walking paradoxes I should accept that such things are possible.

In the end maybe we all at least share some of the blame for the expectations we place on people, who can never be perfect.  Perhaps the reason I think about “heroes” so much is because with an alcoholic father these are questions I’ve been asking all my life.  What I’ve tried to do is to understand human behavior and accept the imperfections we all have.  I’ve also tried to place value on growth.  Knowing we all do things or have done things that are bad, what’s most important is that we accept responsibility, have true remorse and try to do better.  I think the exposure of these imperfections is helpful to all of us in this respect, and even when it is sometimes hard to hear (or read) I am thankful to see the cracks in perfection.  I actually prefer such a world, because it simply feels truer.  It feels like there is somewhere to go.  And it is a reminder to be humble, for we all have our cracks and flaws.  It’s easy to push the famous people and the historical figures away, because they really aren’t part of our everyday life, but that line we draw can become real hard to draw when it’s someone who is actually close to us.  So I think it’s always important to recognize that complexity, the dynamic nature, and the shades of gray in humans.  Maybe it’s significant that the devil was only made by being cast down to the very depths of hell.  Maybe we can make our stands and still find ways to love.

66 thoughts on “Of Babies and Bathwater

  1. Swarn, I was raised by an alcoholic pedophile. Brilliant man. Exposed me to the best things in my life, things I’d never have been exposed to if it was up to mom. Nature, beauty, culture, literature, music. Free thinking. Yet I could never get past the heinous parts – forgave him in a sense, knowing how wounded he was, left orphaned by his mother as an infant in the 20’s while she ran off with another man and his father put him in an orphanage because he couldn’t work and watch his son at the same time. Hard times. Got it. Life can be brutal, it surely can. But you know – here’s the thing. He never expressed contrition. To his dying day, he remarked to me – I was the only one of seven who spoke with brutal directness about the past – said he’d do it all again. I think there is something fundamentally wrong with these men. While I can see they are wounded and while I can envison them as babies and young boys, I cannot get past the actions of those empowered to protect families and/or entertain the masses and/or run a country (!!!) who use their power to satisfy some sick part of themselves. No, I cannot. Will not.

    As for Louis CK, I had never heard his comedy before. So a couple of months ago, I picked a show and we watched it. And although some things he said were sort of funny, he kept making jokes about rape. One young woman of color no less in the front of the audience looked horror-struck and a frame or two later, she was gone. Then he ended his show with another rape joke. Here is a man who obviously has no fucking clue what conflating sex and violence could do to a person. Louis CK is small potatoes compared to the pussy-grabbing jackass ‘we’ elected to the highest position in our country. Where is the justice?

    I do not expect perfection of anyone – I realize people are flawed. But this does Not excuse behavior that damages another or others for the rest of their lives. And it never will. I try every day to love humanity, but to be truthful, I spend most of my days alone. I know we were all made for the times we were born into, but jesus, after all the blood, sweat and tears we shed in the 60’s and 70’s – to willfully wipe out all that progess in a virtual heartbeat? We may really be living this, and these clowns are simply symptoms of all that’s out of balance on a planet in peril: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/16/books/review/the-sixth-extinction-by-elizabeth-kolbert.html

    And on that cheery note, I’ll leave you with my best wishes, as always. You’re one of the good ones, far as I can tell. Sadly, I’m not sure it will be enough. Aloha, Swarn. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Bela for your comments and sharing. I think I haven’t done a very good job of expressing myself here. I certainly not asking anybody for forgiveness. I’m simply sorting through in my head why it seems we often move from one extreme to another. From lauding someone to heroic perfection, while to the other side of dehumanizing them as evil monsters. And maybe some people are monster, but they are still human and the very least worth understanding. I just think there is a lot more middle ground, and I don’t right this to cite some sort of defense for the worst of us, but if we are drawing these lines maybe we should err on the side of a lighter shade of gray than a darker one whenever possible. It feels like we are just assuming that it’s always one or the other.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I think your words were clear enough, and a call to forgiveness is always a clarion call from the heart, so don’t apologize for that one. I think there are polarizers in this world and sometimes those polarities exist in the same individuals. In fact, I think they exist a LOT in the same individuals, especially if those people are trying to right the heinous wrongs they have committed. My dad was known for his generosity and charity by people who had no idea of what went on at home.

        As a depth psychologist, I can say that the archetypes are strong forces within us all, and all the stronger if they are unconscious (which in most, they are).

        Another thing occurs to me is that we don’t really ‘see’ shades of gray so much. These people appear rank and file and don’t stand out much in a culture where standing out or fading back seem imperative. Our country is young and perpetually adolescent, that way. As a final remark, I also think as planetary crises accelerate, human behavior seems more radically accelerated as well. Perhaps ultimately it is leading to Shadow integration on a mass scale (this is for optimists, to be fair) which needs to happen if humans are ever going to step into the next phase of evolution (hope I use that word correctly here).

        Anyhow Swarn, I’ll not hijack your comment thread. Peace, love, understanding are always what I seek, despite what may appear to the contrary. I’m a child of the Aquarian Age if I am anything. But to remain sane, I’ve got to don some radical filters, these days. Aloha.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. I don’t think it’s as much an issue of putting people on pedestals as it is trying to find predators within the safety of the herd. Roy Moore is a great example. He’s got the blind trust of people because he makes the right noises at the right times. In return, it’s given him license to go after children he finds attractive.

    You can apply this to the other cases. How many of these people abused what power they had to cover for their darker urges? Punishing them hasn’t really happened in many of the cases – they’re beyond the reach of the statutes of limitations – but removing their camouflage has happened. This is an absolute necessity to keep people safe.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thanks SB. I think in cases like Roy Moore or Harvey Weinstein, there is no question, I’m talking more about artists, actors, and in some cases politicians that we at least have been in the public eye long enough that we may have grown someone attached to them by their ability to speak and stand up for certain things we value. I don’t think Roy Moore falls into that category. But I still think that he have to be cognizant about the variation in moral values that are out there, and more over in any set of moral values there are some that are more important than others. Clearly this is the case in Roy Moore voters even if I would argue they are dead wrong to do so. But as I said, my post was more directed at those middle of the road sort of things. I mean I even just found out some disturbing things about Sir Isaac Newton, yet I cannot deny his genius and still appreciate it in many ways. I just feel like we are in an all or nothing type mentality right now i society, and have been for some years even before all these women standing up and speaking out occurred.

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      1. I live in Alabama; Roy Moore definitely falls into the category. Evangelicals love his ability to grandstand for the faith, just like some people enjoyed Bill Cosby’s body of work or Matt Lauer’s work as a news host. Certainly there are people who insist that one likable thing must forgive any failings.

        Women coming forward are starting to challenge that notion, despite the cries of people on the other extreme that it invalidates everything positive about that person. This process isn’t going to be perfect, but I think that it can yield beneficial results.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I guess I find nothing likable or remarkable about Roy Moore, but yes it is a matter of perspective. But then I draw the line and soliciting 14 year olds. There are many other reasons to dislike Roy Moore, buf if I actually thought he was doing good, and he confessed to what he had done, had remorse, and even was fighting for cause to protect minors from sex offenders, I might at least pause to think. Again this post wasn’t just about sex offenders, but by looking at a lot of values we care about, whether it’s racism, or whether it’s being pro-life, etc. What I more meant about Roy Moore, not falling into the same category is that he’s actually done criminal acts, which I think is different than grabbing someone’s butt. But maybe that’s not a reasonable line to cross. I can still find both acts wrong, but I certainly don’t apply the same proportion of outrage to both of them.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. It’s true…but it shouldn’t. I think that part of the reason is because there is so much denial. In the short term there might be more outrage, but perhaps in the long term people appreciate more someone taking responsibility for their actions. And should such behavior be infectious, I see a more honest society as a better one. I think growing pains there would be expected. I don’t know that we are headed i that direction though.

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  3. Good piece, Swarn, given the current difficulty of the subject matter. I don’t recognise this reification of others that you allude to, not once past adolescence, and tend to see the moral absolutes (in effect) enshrined in law as being somewhat arbitrary — even the Council of the European Union, with its love of rules, has avoided specifying a standardised Age of Consent for its member states. Though the Lanzarote Convention provides legal definitions for certain forms of child abuse, the Age of Consent ranges from 14 (Germany, Italy, Portugal and 13 other states) to 18 (Malta, Turkey and Vatican City). One must presume, therefore, that most German adults are technically pedophiles when viewed from Vatican City or Ankara. So, laws aren’t always much help (see the abject failure of the War on Drugs), and in part we must rely on the good nature of the others not to cause harm. How, though, are citizens expected to know what harm’s causes are? I think that’s innate in decent people, which I believe most of us are, and for those who are not, then law has shown it is largely ineffectual. Law does, though, set theoretical limits or tolerances on what is acceptable in any given state, and each nation or confederation of nation states must set laws, of course. Still, in their differing statutes we may see irregularities, which only goes to demonstrate the arbitrariness of (some) declared moral absolutes. I guess I’m really arguing for the goodness of people to win out, and yet, as you suggest, none of us are all good. The Augustinian injunction to judge the sin itself rather than the person as a whole seems to have relevance here — your point about Ghandi. I was saying to Esme only the other day that I’m amazed the floodgates haven’t yet opened on the pop music business, given what’s happening in the businesses of film, media and politics. If that happens we won’t be able to listen to anything other than Gregorian Chant and Cliff Richard. Actually, strike Cliff Richard.

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    1. Hariod, excellent points and comment Sir. What do say about modern Homo sapiens essentially descending from bipedal/quadrupedal primates and their known territorial and jealous predatorial-ish historical as well as present behavior? And btw, I’m asking about that connection, not about many popular well-known men (women?) today exhibiting identical behavior. 😉 😛 Hahaha!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Professor, I suppose I would say that morals, as is so with laws, are the creations of our species, not ontologically (objectively) existent, but conventions of conceptual thought alone. If we take my example of the Age of Consent in Germany and Italy (amongst others) being 14, then to my mind that is wildly off the mark, and I view any 14 year-old as most definitely being still a naive (if not necessarily innocent) child. Fact is, kids under 16 have sex with each other, and (I think) always have, yet to write into law that a mature adult (let’s say 25+) can, even by means of coercion, have sex with such a child, seems quite unacceptable, indeed abhorrent, to me and my own set of relative morals. [Yes, I’m a Moral Relativist, which is dreadfully unfashionable, I know.] But there we have it, and that’s Western Europe’s biggest and most powerful nation, one deemed progressive in the social sense too! But getting back to your point about our fellow apes, then one dreads to think what use they have at times put their bananas to. By the way, never leave a male gorilla in charge of a vacuum cleaner. 😮

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I too was in conversation with a friend recently and she said the same thing about music. She knows that the music industry has it’s more than questionable behavior, but still she can’t imagine not still enjoying good music.

      I agree with what you are saying about law. Laws certainly have value, but they are largely based on empirical data, data which is sometimes incomplete, or biased, and thus should always be subject to review as new information comes to light. And as you say, few people need incentives to obey laws, especially ones that minimize harm to others, that does seem to be innate for most people. Laws are also focused on what to do after something is done, rather than focused on prevention. The “why” is not as important as the “what”. I’ve always been one to focus more on the why, so we don’t have as many incidences of the ‘what” happening. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I think throwing babies out with bathwater should be a sport. How far can you throw a baby and its bathwater while holding the little plastic basin with both hands?

    …have you considered what the world would be like if people treated robbery as they treat rape?
    Are you sure your were robbed, Madam? Did you not actually *give* your bag to the thief? By carrying it like that on your shoulder, weren’t you sending the thief a message that you gave consent for him to take your bag? If you didn’t want someone to take your bag, why were you carrying your bag outside in the first place? We have evidence that you’ve given away several bags in the past, why should we believe that you didn’t give this man your bag this time around? Your bag wasn’t even that nice, why would he take your bag?
    Now replay that whole scenario with reporting someone hitting your car in a parking lot.
    Confusing? Not really. We’ve all been conditioned to excuse sexual harassment and assault.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I feel that too often today we read something and take the least charitable view of what the person is saying without asking for clarification. I do it far too often myself. And it feels like you have done the same here. In that vein though I would also be remiss if I then did not ask you for clarification. Your analogy is an excellent one, but I am curious as to what part of my post led you to believe that this needed to be explained to me. Did I say anywhere that sexual assault should be excused, or that someone making a claim about sexual assault should be believed?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I wasn’t making a personal accusation; rather, it’s criticism of the way debates relating to sexual assault are framed. I’m sure it’s unintended, but I see a fundamental problem with the baby and bathwater analogy when talking about harassment or rape, or anything in that zone.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Fair enough. Thank you for explaining what you meant. I think a lot of people would draw similar lines. But do you see sexual harassment as equivalent to rape. Let’s say someone artist you enjoy had committed sexual harassment in their past. Would you feel differently about their work as opposed to if they committed rape? For me the latter would make it more difficult. I absolutely can’t watch or listen to Bill Cosby anymore.

          Also since you used the theft analogy, what is somebody has stolen a lot of cars, was arrested, talked openly about what they did,, why, were remorseful for their life choices then. Do we let them go? What if they go on to promote children’s education and try to reduce the number of children that were in the same situation they were in. Is there life work meaningless because of a past crime? Is there a path for someone who sexually harassed men or women to be forgiven and gain acceptance? I am not trying to make equivalent these two offenses, or suggest any one of them is right, only wondering whether or not we can still put any value on good they might have put into the world before, or after such offenses.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. If I may, Swarn …

            Your point is well-made regarding remorse and correction. However, to me the question is can we apply such thinking in all situations? Can we “forgive and forget” every past transgression? (Of course, the religious think so. 😉 ).

            Further, how many that committed such acts are truly remorseful? Or are they simply playing the game in order to move on with their lives?

            I don’t know the answer — mostly because we’re all human and as such, unpredictable.

            However, as a woman, I will say this. ANY kind of sexual advancement that is made without either verbal or physical encouragement (not “enticement”) is WRONG. (I realize this wasn’t the direct theme of your post, but the conversation has leaned in that direction so, as a woman, I wanted to offer my two-cents.) As for whether the individual performed such acts is famous or infamous, whether it happened two years ago or twenty … it should NOT be overlooked and pushed under the rug. There are innumerable reasons why women keep silent about such acts and using “elapsed time” should NEVER be a “defense” for the perpetrator.

            OK. I’m off my soapbox. (Perhaps I should write a post about this myself. Hmmm.)

            Liked by 4 people

            1. Thank you Nan for your comment. The religious might think so, but I would say, that the religious, at least the most fundamentalist Christians are the least forgiving.

              Apparently this is just a hard conversation to have, because this post was really not about saying we should look the other way, or that sexual harassment or assault isn’t wrong. This post really is about remorse, correction, and about what seems to be an all or nothing attitude towards people. I agree these are the easier options and the compartmentalizing that Pink talks about seems less common, or at least right now, less tolerated.

              There is zero doubt in my mind that what anybody in the series of people called out are wrong. One of the incidences though that sparked this post was getting into an argument with a friend who felt that Ellen Degeneres was being some how supportive of her friend Matt Lauer’s behavior because she wasn’t talking about it publicly. I disagreed on first of all requiring celebrities to speak publicly about their personal feelings, but also that it’s simply not fair to judge Ellen’s views based on the fact that she hasn’t said anything. If her and Matt Lauer were close friends, she’s probably feeling pretty hurt and conflicted about it all. Maybe she finds it not so easy to talk about right now, and if she decides not to be public about it all, it means nothing…she’s still who she is, and I think she’s a good person and good advocate for important causes. It seems to me that we can see certain actions as wrong, but still find value in the human being. At least for some things. Serially drugging people and then raping them…well that’s a hard one to get past. The gray area in this post that I talked about isn’t about the rightness or wrongness of their actions, but that there is more variation in where we write somebody off, as opposed to saying alright here is somebody I am going to stick with, even if I don’t approve of what they have done, because there is value to them. So this line seems to be different for different people, and there are at least some situations where I find it hard to assert my line on other people.

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            2. Nan, I do wonder about rehabilitation. Experience tells me an offender will almost always offend again if they can get away with it. This is why I said in my original comment here that I think there is something fundamentally wrong with these people. Experience tells me that they will do all they can to fit back into society, partnership or family, perhaps (if that’s important, which it usually is), but if given the chance, they will offend again. Which leads me to believe more about leopards and spots than I’d like. I don’t doubt there are rare perpetrators who, due to their own (for lack of a better term) ‘spiritual awakening,’ turn a huge page and do not go back to the offensive behavior. And religion might provide a band-aid, but until their spirituality embraces an All as One sort of mentality, it falls apart in the face of the same Patriarchy that visited the Original Wound upon matriarchical societies. There is a fundamental element therein that colludes with violence against women and/or the vulnerable.

              My two cents’ worth 😉 Aloha.

              Liked by 3 people

            3. When you compare it to leopards and spots I can’t help but think you are referring to deviant behavior as solely a genetic condition. Maybe it is, but I don’t think we have any indication that this is the case. If I person who say commits rape at the age of 20 is always a rapist, then is any sort of change in who we are possible? I follow many deconverted fundamentalist Christians on here. Many who were indoctrinated as children in to a particular worldview. Despite strongly held beliefs about the universe they seem to have changed their mind. I guess it’s not clear to me that rehabilitation is a waste of time, and there many studies that show rehabilitation to be more successful at reform than jail. I accept that there are some people who are simply not fixable, at least without our current state of medical knowledge, but there has to be at least some people who can be reached and reasoned with. We know that we can train people to be more empathic and compassionate. If we are truly static creatures in this world I think it would be a much sadder one.

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            4. Swarn, you’re more on the science end while I’m more on the behavioral/cosmic end of things. In other words, yes, we can learn behavior modification – I’ve surely done this big-time over my life span, for example. And then there are ‘soul patterns’ or archetypal inheritances or karma or … Now I know this makes a scientist bristle, but it doesn’t mean these things are not valid. So if I’ve come to work out a theme of anger, say, I can learn to modify my response to conditions, but I still have this passionate reflex at my core. Another way to say this is look at yourself. When you are triggered by extreme stress, what is your fall-back pattern? We all have them. These are the spots I allude to, as so often I do speak in metaphor.

              I’m not saying we are static creatures, rather that stressors (no longer the mammoth and dinosaur, it’s now a buzzing of a text message, perhaps) snap us to a behavioral grid rather quickly, and learning different coping mechanisms can take a very long time, and that’s with a great degree of desire and willingness. I don’t think we can force others to adapt different behaviors because we want them to fit in society. I know there are chemicals that can alter people, but we can’t force them to take the drugs except in institutions, which I have a particular horror of (including jails).

              I don’t know what the answers are, but I do know what I’ve witnessed in my life. And that leads me to certain conclusions, though I’m always open to adjusting perspectives. Hope this clarifies. Thanks for taking the time to try and understand others as you do, Swarn. It’s an admirable trait, from where I sit. Aloha

              Liked by 1 person

            5. Thank you for the clarification Bela. I do think our personalities and behavior are difficult to change. It definitely doesn’t come easy. While we can’t ever force people to change, I would still say that the desire to change might depend a lot on what a person sees as the benefit to change. If I can never be seen as not a rapist, even if I don’t rape, what benefit is there to change if I’ll always be defined by one mistake? Obviously there is intrinsic value to being a person who doesn’t rape, but if we can never be forgiven or trusted, I would simply say that the probability of change goes down.

              If you’re interested in learning more about how changes in personality come about you might be interested in listening to a podcast episode of Invisibilia on NPR called “The Personality Myth”. You have to scroll down a bit. The episode aired on June 24th, 2016

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            6. Sorry! Forgot to link the podcast. As is often the case with these types of arguments some valid points are mixed in with just some unnecessary vilification which makes me less apt to take it seriously.

              I would agree that if we are going to tear down men for their inappropriate sexual behavior then I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have those same standards apply to Mariah Carey.

              I do think there is a case to be made about men not being believed when they are victims of domestic violence or perhaps even harassment. However when this argument is framed in devaluing the experience of what women have gone through I think this is where this person and others like him begin to lose my sympathy.

              I think you can see part of the reason why the person feels the way they do because they sort of give the game away with rejecting the idea of systemic oppression. The model isn’t flawed it’s just a different context. His analogy about terrorism is a poor one, because he’s the reason why we don’t take Muslim deaths at the hands of Christians seriously is because of systemic anti-Muslim prejudice, not because terrorism isn’t systemic oppression. In a way his analogy actually contradicts his argument about systemic oppression of women. More importantly what all such people like this lose sight of is that the systemic oppression of women does oppress men as well. And a lot of feminists get that. What I mean by this, if we say value some hyper-masculine version of man this defines both women and men in a certain way, and both suffer. The man holds the power to be sure in some respects, but his humanity is diminished. Want to be emotional? You can’t. Want to think football is stupid? You can;t. Hate cars? Too bad. Want to become a florist? You’re being a pussy. So men do suffer in at least some ways (not as many ways) from the systemic oppression against women. So once again, being feminist has advantages to both men and women, it even, in my opinion, builds more tolerance towards homosexuality. And, I would suggest that most of the “disbelieving” of men comes not from unsympathetic women (and sure there are some) but more likely from other men who maintain this hyper-masculine view of society.

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          2. I think there’s nothing wrong with compartmentalising. For example I think a film made by Woody Allen can get an Oscar while at the same time not inviting him to the ceremony. Sort of the reverse of the Christian sin/sinner theory 😀
            The man married his step-child, can we really gloss over that?

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I agree with you, and in no way am I suggesting they should be glossed over. I just don’t think this compartmentalizing happens very often. Very often it’s “How dare you enjoy Woody Allen movies…do you know what he’s done?”

              Liked by 1 person

            2. Sorry to have misunderstood you then, Pink, but when you said above “I see a fundamental problem with the baby and bathwater analogy when talking about harassment or rape, or anything in that zone.” I assumed you were being serious. It’s probably my muddled and moribund old mind, or maybe the large bourbon I’ve just had, or perhaps both! 🙂

              Liked by 3 people

            3. What I meant by that is that those roles/labels don’t properly represent most of these situations. In the case of a politician we’re talking about someone who’s making laws and influencing society. They’re both baby and bathwater. It’s very rare that clear distinctions can be made between person and action. Woody Allen was one of the few I could think of where that was nearly possible.

              Liked by 1 person

            4. So why is Woody Allen an exception? Is this just an exception because you personally enjoy his movies, or do you think the nature of what he’s done wrong is fundamentally different than let’s say Al Franken?

              Liked by 1 person

            5. Because a writer/director’s work can be separated from the individual. Actors, politicians, singers – or company directors, all carry their bad behaviour with them wherever they’re present, so there’s the risk of exposing people to more bad behaviour.

              Liked by 1 person

            6. What do you mean by “carry their bad behavior with them”. Kevin Spacey’s acting roles seem fairly separate from his behavior. Music seems pretty separate from behavior, and lyrics would seem to be in the same category as screenwriting.

              Moreover there are many out there who would outright disagree with you, and have been part of discussions where Woody Allen is scum and all his movies should be boycotted. The same would be true for Roman Polanski. But yet there are some who like Roman Polanski movies and therefore are able to compartmentalize for Polanski, but not for Allen. It just seems to me more people make exceptions when it comes to someone they really enjoy or rationalize the crimes down to not being quite as big a deal as a crime somebody else has committed.

              Liked by 1 person

            7. Kevin Spacey harassed his co-workers at the Old Vic and on the set of various productions, including House of Cards. That’s what I mean by the risk of continuing bad behaviour. If there’s a separate product, which can be consumed without the presence of the individual, then I don’t see there’s a reasonable objection. Objections should be limited to risk of harm, in my opinion.

              Liked by 1 person

            8. So it’s more the nature of the offense? Because Woody Allen isn’t going around marrying more step-daughters. But Kevin Spacey continues his. This doesn’t appear to be linked to a role as director or writer, because they also travel around with movie often don’t they? And Weinstein was a producer who certainly continued bad behavior.


            9. I don’t know a lot about woody allen’s crimes, so thank you…so I guess I still don’t understand why Woody Allen couldn’t continue to do this behavior any more than Kevin Spacey.


            10. He CAN continue! That’s why I said an Oscar would be okay, but inviting him to the ceremony would be bad. His writing can be good, honouring him seems bad. Product yes, person no. And if I were an actor, I’d probably object to his presence on a set too, especially if there were children around.

              Liked by 1 person

            11. So can’t Kevin Spacey win Oscars but not be invited to the awards? lol But I get your point a little bit…but it still seems like a bit of an arbitrary line you’ve drawn…whereas others would say anybody who committed those crimes should simply never work again. And I’m not saying that is right, or judging you, my point is simply that with many people we can make distinctions between their talents and their qualities and even appreciate those, while also categorically saying other actions that they have done are wrong.

              Liked by 1 person

            12. The same risk as risk as a writer or director I would think. Moreover many feel that part of the reason these men have been able to get away with what they’ve done is the power we give them. So supporting good writing from someone who gropes women might allow the behavior to continue would it not?


            13. Screenwriters interact with people. They might not do so on the set, but there are other writers, they interact perhaps with other crew, and at times they might interact with actors. It probably happens for a shorter amount of time in movies, but certainly happens a lot more in television. http://www.scriptmag.com/features/tv-writers-room-101-please-dont-feed-actors

              Well I’m not sure we’re getting anywhere here. I’m still not seeing a clear distinction, and there is nothing about the various types of art that necessitate more isolation than another. One could also argue that being on a set would often mean there are more witnesses to someone’s actions. Again I think it’s more about the power that the artist has, whether a musician/singer, writer, director, producer, actor.


            14. This post wasn’t about solutions, but rather about the complexity associated with any person. They have strengths and faults, and exploring how we navigate through these types of people despite what they have done. And if we are interested in correcting this behavior or making sure they don’t do this behavior again, should we simply banish them from our minds and reduce them to non-entities? Should we say, “Alright Spacey, we know what you’re about now, we think you are an amazing actor, but one more fuck up and you’re done!”? Should we never watch one of their movies, listen to their songs, knowing that any amount of money we give them allows them to maintain some level of power? And what of politicians? What if a politicians is actively trying to make good legislation, but got a little grabby? Is he not fit to do his job? Can we still find a way to say this “grabby” business won’t fly, but man you are really trying to hold other politicians accountable and passing meaningful legislation so we want you to keep doing that part and not other parts? And the reason why I made my discussion broad, is because there are a whole host of other behaviors that are also wrong, but which we also don’t seem to want to burn people to the ground in quite the same way. Isn’t a politicians who wants to give more money to the rich and less money to the poor more egregious than a politician who had a few incidents of grabbing a woman’s butt inappropriately but otherwise seems to actually be trying to make lives better for a lot of people?

              We all of course have different priorities when it comes to moral values, and different sets of moral values. This post was to explore whether or not our rage is proportional, whether or not there is room for a middle ground, whether or not our reactions are actually deterrents or whether or not we need to have some compassion for even the worst of us (regardless of the crime). I just think some of these questions are worth thinking about.

              Liked by 1 person

            15. I think it’s true to say that, by extension, even the otherwise respectable rapist and/or child molester is, malgé lui, a total arsehole. Just curious, but what is your objection to Woody Allen marrying his former step daughter?

              Liked by 2 people

  5. Perhaps if I found out they have abuse their own children. I in no way imagine that’s possible, but maybe given that we are [ALL] walking paradoxes I should accept that such things are possible.

    If you don’t mind me adding that quantitative part Swarn. 😉

    I feel sometimes I must remind myself (frequently?) that everyone basically sits on the toilet (or squats) the same way for the same reasons. Everyone! I heard a very famous celebrity NBA athlete say that while at the pinnacle of his career when asked Who can overtake you in all the record-breaking seasons he had and was having. It was a profound epiphany for me and yardstick in SO MANY areas of life and relationships, not just sports! And you know what? It applied to my two marriages followed by two divorces from them — deep down, WAY down, I did not truly know those women; and honestly they didn’t know themselves well either, or couldn’t articulate exactly and proactively what was going on in their heads, hearts, and libidos. Yet, they chose and ACTED on some catastrophic impulses brought about by natural human hormones that all men and women have and experience throughout their lives.

    Today, my posture and management of those “NATURAL” human hormonal interactions — that reside in most all humans — are wholesale different than they were in my teens, 20’s and 30’s. For the better in fact! Even though I experienced a lot of pain from betrayal, the biggest being treated and given NO OPINIONS, no opportunity or dignity to say ANYTHING or do anything in her/OUR “decision process,” I have learned perhaps the BEST WAY to preempt future occurences of human neglect/betrayal. Now my life and interactions with people are far and away much healthier, much more stress-free, open and fearlessly proactive with verbal communication followed by correlating behavior/actions! I could not be happier!

    Here is the part Swarn that applies here with your wonderful post. Now those women hold a special place in my heart despite their poor, horrible choices. But this is certainly a 2-way interaction street, yes!? And so with those women I have hurt or disappointed, I have owned up and made amends with them; at least those I could recontact. These levels of liberation cannot be matched for the simple fact that ALL HUMANS have the abilities to be “heroes” as well as villains throughout their lives of human interactions. I’ve simply chosen to embrace that fact no matter WHO the person might be, including my wife (to be?), girlfriends, dear friends, and aquaintences.

    This is a great post Swarn! 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Professor. In discussion about this post on Facebook I was talking about how I might be too easy of a forgiving person and wondering if this is some innate quality or something learned. Probably a bit of both. But I was reminded of my dad who didn’t talk to his older sister for over 30 years, all because of a grudge. A grudge because his sister after getting married came back to visit India and acted like she was better than everyone and that India was a dirty place compared to where she was living in Singapore. Certainly annoying, but it simply didn’t make sense to not talk for 30 years. Granted long distance communication was not as easy as it was today, but it still seemed way overblown. My dad can hold grudges like nobody’s business and I could never understand why. But then my dad has also never been overly accepting of his own faults.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I really enjoyed your post, Swarn. I think you’re asking the right questions. People are incredibly complex and have different levels of maturity and virtue in different areas of their lives and over time. I think through the discussion you’ve brought to light the difficulty in balancing redemption and retribution.

    I’d also like to add, despite his failings, your dad had (and has) many good qualities, most of which you’ve incorporated into your own person. One could argue that he passed on more than he had, which is no small thing. On a lighter note, a couple years ago while I was driving Evelyn to preschool, she was asking me to tell her about people in our family so I told her how your dad used to call me “ugly white kid”. She started laughing and saying “ugly white kid” over and over. I was sure I was going to get a call from the preschool, but fortunately I never did.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Chris. I appreciate it. And I didn’t mean to be real down on my dad…I guess when I talked about the journey from superhero to seriously flawed, I’m talking about the long journey that still goes on today. Long years of addiction have left even less remnants of that goodness that was passed on to me. It’s more just increased apathy, an increased lack of awareness or interest in how his actions impact others, and a lack of interest in a good portion of life. He pretty much just oscillates between drinking and laying on the couch and reading spy novels.


  7. I don’t think it matters who you are, a news caster, a celebrity, a president, a celebrity president, or an average Joe, if you/they have shown themselves to be sexual predators, everyone with any sense of a moral compass should drop them like a hot potato.

    I can’t watch Tom Cruise movies because he is such an idiot IRL. Cannot watch him for 2 damn seconds without wanting to have a cussing spasm. I have no desire to listen to Cosby’s jokes either for that matter. There are lines (and I am sure those lines are different for each of us) that once crossed, I’m freaking done.

    Anyone who does not have a R agenda to promote, or anyone with some measurable intelligence, should despise our president. Yet here we are.

    Roy Moore is a sexual predator that actually has a decent shot at being elected to the Senate? This one is just down the rabbit hole. La la land. Clearly the R party has no shame. Power, control, and bulldozing our country is all that matters to them.

    There is an age of reckoning trying to ascend from the status quo I think. I hope it thrives for decades to come. I hope it treats all who are deserving of it, as they should be. By my reasoning the R party should be done for some time to come after this all plays out. But that supposes people in this country have eyes that see, and are not merely sheep that follow. So, I’m not holding my breath on that topic.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks SD. I agree with you about the R party. I think part of my frustration at Franken going down, has less to do with seeing him being forced to resign, but that other bigger fish don’t have to pay the same penalty. One is about to be elected to the senate, the other is already our president. It’s bitter pill to swallow. Not to mention the greed, corruption, divisiveness, fear mongering….all actions and behaviors that cause real harm to people as well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well you do have a good point there Mr. Swarn. I can’t argue with that. 🙂

        Franken at least had the moral wherewithal to admit his guilt. That means something. But still no excuse for his sexual harassment.

        I have wondered for a moment or two if the D party offered Franken up as a “at least we can say we hold some moral high ground” sacrifice? In other words a political strategy. One thing for sure the R party wallows in Trumpism. Revolting, disgusting, slimy, and devious, They have become something that repulses me.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I think it’s most certainly the case that the Democratic party wanted to hold the moral high ground here. I can only hope that it leads to some sort of win in the longer arc of history. Right now it just feels like we’re all going to keep losing, and that the only thing motivating Roy Moore in Trump supporters is really that they want to see more people suffering, because I think a lot of them know they aren’t voting for people that will make their lives better, they seem to just want to make other people as miserable as they are. I don’t know…that’s just the way it feels. Morality at the very least does not seem like any sort of concern for them.


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