This is a guest post by Emily L. Hauser. Emily is a freelance writer and social activist. Her writing has recently appeared in TheAtlantic.com and The Hairpin, and she had a blast guest-posting here at Feministe during the summer. She blogs at http://emilylhauserinmyhead.wordpress.com/ and can be followed on Twitter.
A very quick thought:
Herman Cain was never a serious contender for the Republican nomination. He is, in more ways than I have time to enumerate right now, a clown, and he has never been more than a shiny object by which we the people have been duly distracted.
As such, it is my humble opinion that Herman Cain’s candidacy (such as…) has done actual, objective damage to the American political system and those invested in that system (just as we have been damaged by Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry, though considerably less than we were damaged by Ralph Nader), because all he has served to do is distract us and suck up wildly expensive time and resources.
With the revelation of what is turning into quite a slew of accusations of sexual harassment and/or assault (“Hey, baby, you’re lookin’ gooood tonight!” [or some such] being the former; grabbing a woman’s inner thigh and pulling her head toward his crotch [the actual accusation that Sharon Bialek has leveled] being the latter) we have an opportunity to wrest some objective good out of this mountain of stupid.
Every woman I know can tell a story of harassment or assault. Every single one.
For some, this has meant being yelled at on the street; for others, horrifying tales of violence and rape. It’s a huge range between the two, and I do not mean to conflate all the various kinds of harassment and assault, but merely want to say: Sexual threat or violence, or fear of same, is a constant in the lives of all women and girls. Full stop.
So here’s what we can do: We can take this Side Show Bob act that Herman Cain has been putting on for a few months, and turn it to our advantage. We can start talking.
We need to talk, and talk, and talk — we need to tell the truth and tell our stories and face the ugliness that always comes out when we tell our truth, but keep telling it anyway.
We, men and women both, need to face the fact of men using sexual innuendo, threats, and violence as a weapon against women on a regular, daily basis. Herman Cain (if he is in fact guilty of the acts of which he is accused) is far from the first, he is not currently the only, and he will not be the last man to treat other human beings as tools by which he has the right to express his power.
Moreover, if we are more honest and open about how often grown men do this sort of thing to grown women — we may be able to be more honest and open about how often grown men do this to female children (whether paying for it and calling the rape “underage prostitution,” or not), more honest and open about how often grown men do this to male children (whether in the Catholic Church, the Penn State locker rooms, or elsewhere), and more honest and open about how often grown men do this to each other (whether in prison, at frat parties, or anywhere else).
I am very, very clear on the fact that not all men are sexual predators, and I know that some women are.
But it’s mostly men — by a hell of a longshot — and far more men do this sort of thing than we admit. Indeed, I would submit that far more men do this sort of thing than are even aware of it themselves (if she was too drunk to say no? It was rape. As but one example).
So let’s take the awful, ridiculous, embarrassing moment in American political history that is Herman Cain, and turn it into something good: Let’s take the opportunity to be honest about the daily, lived reality of sexual harassment and assault.
Then, perhaps, Herman Cain will have actually managed to do some good for the American people. In spite of himself.