It’s as if men and women have different pain scales

Lili Loofbourow has a scorching analysis of the whole “never mind the women what about the poor men” phenomenon at Slate. I saw it via about 14 people at Facebook and they nearly all quoted a different passage, which shows how good it is.

The “locker room” once invoked to normalize Trump’s language (every man talks this way behind closed doors!) has expanded into a locked American bedroom with a woman trapped inside. It’s all in good fun, defenders declare. Horseplay.

Kids having fun!

This group has opted instead to defend male impunity for sexual assault and frame a woman’s story of coping with years of trauma as a true crisis … for men. A White House lawyer was quoted saying, “If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried.” Similar things were voiced by Ari Fleischer and Joe Walsh. Per this dark vision of the future, any consequence for committing assault—even being unable to move from one lifetime appointment to another lifetime appointment—is the beginning of the end of a just society.

Meanwhile in another part of the forest Ian Buruma has left the NYRB. Steps forward, steps back, all crosshatching each other.

“Boys will be boys” is a nostrum with the designated purpose of chalking male malfeasance up to innocent high spirits. It’s a saying that meant to exonerate, but here’s the funny thing: It only works on the agreed-upon assumption that boys do shitty things, the gravity of which we’re supposed to ignore or dismiss. The message isn’t that the boys don’t know that the things they do are bad; it’s rather that the rest of us should forgive, understand, and love them anyway, without their needing to ask for it.

Is it any surprise that an incentive structure like this one breeds entitled indifference to girls and women in the coddled party, and in the system that coddles them? Is it any surprise that men would panic at the realization that the system that they could depend on to look the other way is fast eroding?

It is a bit, yes, because the unfairness and asymmetry of the whole thing seems so obvious.

We knew this would happen, she writes, but we didn’t know it would be this explicit.

I never thought I would see a group that has spent years laughing at the very idea of anything like “rape culture” suddenly not just admitting that it exists but arguing that it should—nothing should be done about it; male malfeasance is an unstoppable cocktail of culture and biology. The subtext—stripped of all chivalric pretense thanks to the recent panic—is that victims don’t matter. They’re invisible because they’re unimportant, and women’s pain is irrelevant.

This was brought to our notice of course by the little (yet so noisy) spate of abusive men taking to the quality mags to whine about having been rebuked for abusing women.

What they share—besides a history of inflicting their sexual attentions on the less powerful because they felt like it—is an itch to be famous once again. They want their timeouts to be over. They have suffered, they believe, and they wish us to know it. This should be laughable: Anyone who assaulted or harassed someone and escaped without a record should be thanking their lucky stars. Their minimal privation mostly consists of being economically comfortable and doing without attention for 10 or 11 months. But it’s not laughable! They mean it. They grew up in a world that taught them they “get to” do the things they did. They feel, accordingly, that they have been unjustly penalized. They believe they’re suffering greatly.

They believe their suffering matters, and women’s does not. Not even a little.

It’s almost funny. Almost. Imagine Harper’s and the NYRB running angst-fests by people who violently attack strangers on the street in order to steal their wallets – angst fests about how sad it is for the violent attackers, with nary a word about the smashed noses and broken teeth of the people they attacked. Wouldn’t happen, but when it’s specifically women…that changes everything.

It’s as if men and women have different pain scales emotionally as well as physically. Of course men believe they suffer more, and many women—having spent their lives accustomed to men’s feelings mattering more than everyone else’s—will agree with them. Most of us have been socialized to sympathize with men, the troubled geniuses, the heroes and antiheroes.

Women don’t get to be the troubled geniuses, the heroes and antiheroes; women are the boring empty trivial people who serve the troubled geniuses. Women are flat, like paper dolls.

It’s useful to have naked misogyny out in the open. It is now clear, and no exaggeration at all, that a significant percentage of men—most of them Republicans—believe that a guy’s right to a few minutes of “action” justifies causing people who happen to be women physical pain, lifelong trauma, or any combination of the two. They’ve decided—at a moment when they could easily have accepted Kavanaugh’s denial—that something larger was at stake: namely, the right to do as they please, freely, regardless of who gets hurt. Rather than deny male malfeasance, they’ll defend it.

It’s useful I guess but it’s also hard to bear. I know all this stuff but seeing men happily saying it the way Tom Nichols did over and over and over on Sunday is profoundly grating.

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