Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Outrage of the Year 2017

Now for our third yearly award. This is for the Outrage of the Year for 2017.

The Outrage category is different from the Clown Award in that it's meant to involve something that was spread over the year, something on-going, where the Clown Award could be for a one-off. Which also means it's more about an issue than a person or persons.

By way of illustration, the 2015 Outrage of the Year was the Trayvon Martin case; for 2016 it was the Democratic Party presidential campaign (both primary and general).

There were a few themes that ran through my posts during the year that I considered for the dishonor of Outrage of the Year. (The links are examples.)

One was what I called the "unleashing of militarism as national policy," including essentially making the War Department the director of policy in Afghanistan and the US enabling of war crimes in Yemen, combined with news about our wars becoming pack-of-the-paper stories and the virtual disappearance of those wars and of military spending in general from the concerns of the Left.

Another was how a number of states and the federal government responded to protests by variously pushing legislation specifically intended to make it harder to protest and trying to prevent media from covering such protests.

There was the disparaging of the "other" marked by continuing opposition to the rights of LGBTQ people and even the human dignity of immigrants.

All of these are outrageous and outrages. But ultimately, I chose a topic that I brushed against, discussed briefly, a number of times but only addressed directly and at length late in the year.

So the Outrage of the Year 2017 is the scourge of sexism and the sexual discrimination and violence to which it gives birth.

And oh, the examples were everywhere. I already mentioned "Time" magazine's jackassery on the topic. There was plenty more where that came from, such as the guy who to the delight of his friends, got filmed humping the "Fearless Girl" statue on Wall Street - because crude, boorish, simulated sexual violence is always good for a laugh.

Worse was Captain Peter Rose of the New York City police, who was not concerned about a sharp increase in reported rapes in his precinct in 2016 because many of the attackers were acquainted with the victims, and "only two were true stranger rapes." Because, y'know, a woman who knows her rapist isn't really raped.

And in a dark part of the universe there exists an entire online community of men dedicated to "stealthing," the practice of sneaking off a condom during sex without your partner knowing because it's the "right" of a man to "spread his seed" regardless of the desires of, or potential consequences to, your partner.

Meanwhile, good old economic sex discrimination rolled on.

According to the US Census Bureau, women make up more than 47% of the workforce. They make up at least a third of physicians, a third of surgeons, a third of lawyers, and a third of judges. Women also represent 55% of all college students.

But at the same time, American women still earn less than men do, a difference that persists across all levels of education to the point where a woman with an advanced degree can expect to be paid less than a man with a bachelor's.

The point here is that while it was sexual harassment and violence that got most of the attention this past year, they are not, at the end of it all, the real problem. Sexism is.

Sexism, the underlying assumptions about women that society has long held and still does hold, assumptions that breed a sense of privilege and power, even if unconsciously, in men, is the problem, is the root of the poisonous plant of sexual harassment and assault, is the foundation of workplace discrimination, is the cause.

Sexism is why women remain underrepresented at every level in corporate America, why women don't advance in business despite earning more college degrees than men for thirty years and counting, why women still get paid only 83% of what men do.

And sexism and the corrupting influence of power it feeds is why women have been forced to pretend to ignore the smirks and sneers, to abide the grabs and gropes, to fear the silent street and the empty elevator.

In realities ranging from stifled dreams and blunted careers to harassment and brutal assault we have the chills, the throbbing aches, the raging fevers; in sexism we have the disease, one we all - men even more than women - have a moral duty to eradicate.

Sexism: Outrage of the Year 2017.

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