Her people thought she was both crazy and a liar

Rebecca Solnit again.

So Trump’s position is “I boast about sexually assaulting women, but when women confirm that is true, they are liars, because I was just lying all those times, and you must believe I am telling the truth, because whatever is convenient for me to say in this very moment weighs much more than what they say with witnesses, confirmation, etc., just as I weigh much more than the people I assault.”

I wrote about Bill Cosby and Donald Trump and the way women’s credibility is assaulted if they speak up about being assaulted, before the revelations about their crimes, because it’s the same old same old nearly every woman knows:
The story of Cassandra, the woman who told the truth but was not believed, is not nearly as embedded in our culture as that of the Boy Who Cried Wolf — that is, the boy who was believed the first few times he told the same lie. Perhaps it should be. The daughter of the king of Troy, Cassandra was cursed with the gift of accurate prophecies no one heeded; her people thought she was both crazy and a liar and, in some accounts, locked her up before Agamemnon turned her into a concubine who was casually slain along with him.

I have been thinking of Cassandra as we sail through the choppy waters of the gender wars, because credibility is such a foundational power in those wars and because women are so often accused of being categorically lacking in this department.

Like all those women confirming what he himself said, indeed boasted, of his own free will.

We are still in an era of battles over who will be granted the right to speak and the right to be believed, and pressure comes from both directions. From the “men’s rights” movement and a lot of popular misinformation comes the baseless notion that there is an epidemic of groundless accusations of sexual assault. The implication that women as a category are unreliable and that false rape charges are the real issue is used to silence individual women and to avoid discussing sexual violence, and to make out men as the principal victims. The framework is reminiscent of that attached to voter fraud, a crime so rare in the United States that it appears to have had no significant impact on election outcomes in a very long time. Nevertheless, claims by conservatives that such fraud is widespread have in recent years been used to disenfranchise the kinds of people — poor, non-white, students — likely to vote against them.

I’m not arguing here that women and children don’t lie. Men, women, and children lie, but the latter two are not disproportionately prone to doing so, and men — a category that includes used-car salesmen, Baron Münchhausen, and Richard Nixon — are not possessed of special veracity. I am arguing that we should be clear that this old framework of feminine mendacity and murky-mindedness is still routinely trotted out, and we should learn to recognize it for what it is.

A friend of mine who works in sexual-harassment prevention training at a major university reports that when she gave a presentation at the business school on her campus, one of the older male professors asked, “Why would we start an investigation based on only one woman’s report?” She has dozens of stories like this, and others about women — students, employees, professors, researchers — struggling to be believed, especially when they testify against high-status offenders.

This summer, antediluvian columnist George Will claimed that there is only a “supposed campus epidemic of rape,” and that when universities or feminists or liberals “make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.” Young women replied by creating the Twitter hashtag #survivorprivilege, posting remarks such as “I didn’t realize it was a privilege to live with PTSD, severe anxiety & depression” and “#ShouldIBeQuiet because when i spoke out everyone said it was a lie?” Will’s column hardly even constitutes a twist on the old idea that women are naturally unreliable, that there’s nothing to see in all these rape charges, and that we should just move along.

I think I begin to see the pattern.

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