There’s a word that has become popular in feminist circles these days: “mansplaining.” The word is a mashup of “man” and “explaining” and refers to men who condescendingly explain the facts of life to women. So, for example, if a man believes a woman doesn’t understand directions and slowly repeats those directions to a woman, he’s mansplaining and, therefore, guilty of cruelty and stupidity.
Well, feminists, it’s time to stop “feministsplaining” sex to men.
The #MeToo movement has been good for America. It’s good that women who have been sexually assaulted and abused are coming forward; it’s good that we’re finally having conversations about the nature of consent and the problems with a casual hookup culture that obfuscates sexual responsibility. But the #MeToo movement hasn’t stopped there. Men are now being pilloried for the sin of taking women too literally—of not reading women’s minds.
Take, for example, “Grace,” an anonymous woman who went on a rotten date with comedian Aziz Ansari. According to Grace, Ansari treated her abominably: He took her to dinner, gave her white wine instead of red, pushed her to come to his apartment and then engaged in a vigorous round of sexual activities to which she apparently consented. She eventually said no—and when she did, he stopped. Later, she suggested that Ansari hadn’t obeyed her “non-verbal cues”—nonverbal cues that reportedly included undressing and then voluntarily servicing Ansari.
In the aftermath, Grace felt used. So she texted Ansari, explaining to him that she felt terrible about the date. “I want to make sure you’re aware so maybe the next girl doesn’t have to cry on the ride home,” she said.
This is feministsplaining sex. Here’s the problem: The condescension isn’t earned. From Grace’s story, it seems she was less than clear in her nonverbal communications, but she wanted Ansari to read her mind—and that when he didn’t, she therefore had leeway to lecture him about his sins and, more broadly, those of all men.
It’s not just Grace. Rachel Thompson of Mashable explained: “The responses to the woman’s story are peppered with the word ‘should.’ She should have said no ... For many women, uttering an explicit ‘no’ is not as easy or straightforward as you might think.”
Well, as it turns out, reading minds is not quite as easy or straightforward as feminists might think. It was feminists who boiled down sexual relations to the issue of consent. Traditionalists always argued that physical intimacy and emotional intimacy ought to be linked. But they were accused of removing female agency with such linkage and condemned for “mansplaining.”
How about this: no feministsplaining and no mansplaining when it comes to sex? How about we instead focus on communication between men and women? How about sexual partners demand more from one another than physical release so they aren’t disappointed that they’re being treated as sex objects? A system prizing love and commitment doesn’t require nearly the amount of explanation as a system that dispenses with both.
What happens when a female union member in Chicago reports sexual harassment in the workplace? If she’s a member of the United Auto Workers, nothing.
Well, that’s not completely accurate.
She’ll get rebuked for tattling on a union brother. She’ll be bullied into tolerating the disgusting as normal. She’ll be belittled for being sickened by graphic images and demeaning comments. She’ll get brainwashed into believing that an attack isn’t harassment if it only happened once. And she’ll realize her cries to her union for protection are meaningless because of the inherent conflict of interest that exists when a union tries to represent both the victim and her attacker.
That’s my experience as an autoworker, UAW member and victim of sexual harassment.
I’ve worked at Ford’s stamping plant in Chicago Heights for five years. I began working as a production team member on the assembly side of the plant and I was literally harassed by lewd comments from Day One. Smacks on the bottom were a common occurrence. I was frequently groped by my male colleagues to the point that it prevented me from doing my job.
Such harassment was not an isolated experience; it was pervasive behavior afflicting every corner of the plant.
I called the harassment hotline several times, which yielded nothing. While media outlets have recently exposed Ford’s role in perpetuating a dangerous workplace culture, and rightly so, the UAW also played an important role by standing between me and the accountability I sought. I often complained to the UAW, which was supposed to represent my interests, only to hear crickets in return.
I am now a plaintiff with about 30 other employees in a lawsuit against Ford Motor Co., and these allegations are included in the lawsuit.
In my experience, the worst perpetrator of sexual harassment was actually a union representative. And it wasn’t just sexual harassment: As I allege in the lawsuit, I’ve been run off the road by this man, he’s slashed my tires, and he’s even come to my house to bother me. (I had to have my teenage son chase him away.)
Little did I know the UAW would protect him at all costs. The union has a conflict of interest. Because the perpetrator was also a union member, it has to represent me and represent my predator. I even had one UAW rep tell me: “You know, it’s not sexual harassment if they only do it one time. You shouldn’t report it.”
Then I asked myself: Why am I paying union dues when the UAW won’t even protect me from sexual harassment? And if Ford isn’t going to take appropriate action against my harassers, shouldn’t I be able to get help from my union? Shouldn’t my union stand up for me against Ford?
The union’s rhetoric was a slap in the face. But it only reaffirmed my desire to seek out other women who experienced similar types of harassment. And find them I did. I joined a lawsuit with other Chicago women to not only hold Ford accountable, but also to fight back against a union refusing to do its job. On Thursday, I’m scheduled to testify before a state legislative task force to describe our fight against harassment.
While we lost our battles in the workplace, dozens of us are now taking the fight to court, where we hope to finally hold company officials accountable for their wrongdoings. A victory will not only bring justice to Chicago, but it may even inspire a new generation of women to fight back against their tormentors.
But my other message to them is this: Don’t expect your union to have your back. #MeToo.
President Trump and the Republican leadership have made clear that they have no intention of repairing our chaotic immigration system. Why not? Because illegal immigration is a problem that bothers most Americans. Fix it and all these politicians have are tax cuts for the rich, environmental degradation, soaring deficits and the loss of health care.
As a campaigner, Trump learned that when audience passion flagged, he could demand a wall with Mexico and his folks would jump to their feet. The week that America went into convulsions over Trump’s racist vulgarities about certain immigrants is a week we’ll never get back again. But it did cancel right-wing displeasure over his seemingly constructive comments on immigration reform a few days earlier.
“Is Trump a racist?” the TV commentators kept asking. He said racially disgusting things as a candidate and again as president. Asking whether he’s a racist deep in his cheesecloth soul is a pointless exercise.
Trump shows all appearances of “not playing with a full deck,” despite a doctor’s report of good cognitive health. It really doesn’t matter much whether he is crazy or just acts crazy.
But with his promises to protect working people breaking like fine crystal dropped from Trump Tower’s 26th floor, his policy deck has become quite thin. Illegal immigration remains one of the few potent cards he has to play. Why take it out of play by solving the problem?
This thinking did not begin with Trump.
In 2013, the U.S. Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform in a bipartisan vote. It would have legalized the status of most undocumented immigrants while putting teeth in enforcement going forward.
There were enough supportive Democrats and Republicans to pass the reform in the House, as well, but then-Speaker John Boehner didn’t put it up for a vote. Passage would have made some hotheads in his Republican caucus unhappy.
Some foes of comprehensive reform pointed to the 1986 immigration deal as the reason they couldn’t support that one. Their reason was baloney.
True, the law enacted in 1986 gave amnesty to millions without stopping the flow of more undocumented workers. Its big flaw was letting employers accept documents that merely “looked good” as ID for hiring someone. An explosion of fake Social Security cards and other documents greatly weakened the ability to enforce the ban on employing those here illegally.
The 2013 legislation would have closed that loophole. It would have required companies to use E-Verify, a secure database, to determine every job applicant’s right to work in the United States. That would have made all the difference in hiring practices and the ability of government to enforce the law.
Had the reform passed in 2013, America would now be in its fifth year of mandatory E-Verify. Instead, we have a law that still lets even poorly counterfeited documents become tickets to employment. The numbers on illegal immigration, falling since the Obama administration, would probably be smaller still had the 2013 reform passed.
And those brought here illegally as children would be enjoying a secure life as Americans. But Trump and many Republicans apparently see value in periodically threatening to deport these innocents. They’re useful as a political plaything.
As for Democrats, they would make a big mistake in underestimating the public’s hunger for an orderly immigration program. Polls show that Americans want a program based on respect—for the immigrants themselves and for the laws designed to protect U.S. workers from unfair competition.
If Democrats make clear that they are on board with both kinds of respect, they’ll be fine. Trump is grasping his one powerful card with both hands. Democrats should not help him.
President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions seem hell-bent on reviving one of the worst policy failures in U.S. history, the disastrous “War on Drugs.”
As Americans increasingly embrace common-sense reforms—Vermont is in the process of becoming the ninth U.S. state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana—the administration wants to waste resources on policies that will worsen the opioid crisis and increase racial disparities.
Trump recently touted the need for tough drug policies, claiming that “very harsh” countries “have much less difficulty” with drugs. The opposite is true. In 2001, Portugal decriminalized possession of drugs, even heroin, so that essentially no one goes to jail for personal possession of small amounts of drugs. The result? Drug use went down, and drug-overdose deaths plunged by about 85 percent.
Portugal shows that when you treat drug abuse as a health problem, you can save lives.
Instead, Trump and Sessions want to double down on policies that have failed for decades. Sessions recently rescinded an Obama administration policy that gave states with legalized marijuana—either for medical reasons or for general adult use—considerable leeway to experiment without federal interference. That will allow federal prosecutors across the country to go after pot possession, distribution and cultivation even in states where it is legal.
It’s hard to imagine what there is to gain from this policy change. In Colorado, which pioneered full marijuana legalization, pot use by teens dropped sharply after the law took effect—perhaps in part because it lets law enforcement focus on preventing drug dealing to minors.
Any increase in marijuana prosecutions will take resources away from truly serious drug problems, like the opioid crisis that now kills tens of thousands of Americans each year. But it’s even worse than that.
Multiple studies have shown marijuana to have pain-relieving properties that may enable reduction in the use of narcotic painkillers. In a 2014 study published by the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers compared drug overdose deaths in states with and without legal access to medical marijuana.
“We found there was about a 25 percent lower rate of prescription painkiller overdose deaths on average after implementation of a medical marijuana law,” said lead author Dr. Marcus Bachhuber when the report was published.
One more point: The drug war that began more than a century ago is rooted in overt racism, fueled by hysterical stories about “Negro cocaine fiends” and claims that “under marijuana, Mexicans (become) very violent.” Decades later, President Richard Nixon declared a “War on Drugs” as a pretext to target blacks and antiwar protesters, an aide later admitted.
In practice, anti-drug enforcement has been massively uneven. When the ACLU crunched the numbers a few years ago, it found that, although official surveys consistently find that blacks and whites use marijuana and other drugs at similar rates, blacks are nearly four times as likely to be arrested on marijuana charges. The difference in imprisonment is even worse, with African Americans being nearly six times as likely to be imprisoned for drug offenses.
The good news is that Sessions’ recent move on marijuana triggered bipartisan pushback. If the public keeps up pressure on the politicians, sensible policies may yet prevail.
Orson Aguilar is president of The Greenlining Institute, a national nonprofit group working for racial and economic justice.