July 19, 2019

Notes on Cancel Culture

“The fall of 2017 dumps you roundly in the wrong. You catch yourself musing aloud to a friend, regarding Louis C.K.’s admission of masturbating in front of a large minority of his industry, about whether his having asked the women’s permission first shouldn’t count for something. Under her hard, silent look, you are forced to concede that ideally no workday should require a person to opt out of seeing someone’s erection. You resent the obligation to recategorize so much of what had once been just life as minor sexual assault. You envy a microgeneration that has apparently grown up anticipating respectful treatment as though it were some sort of norm. At the same time, you don’t exactly admire the mental acrobatics by which you have, you realize, allowed an experience in your own past to go unnamed when it really does have only one accurate name. That incident involved a man you loved and kept sleeping with intermittently for years afterward, who still blithely chitchats back and forth with you about this and that, including, now, all these unfortunate cases in the news—you still don’t use the name with him, or bring up the episode in question at all. You wonder, if it had taken place at work, whether you’d have felt obliged to do something about it.

It can feel as though the public discussion around #MeToo has been designed as a training program for denial, with self-reflection rarely encouraged on any side of the issue. The appearance of perfection—which is to say, hiding and disavowal—seems to be your main aim. You can speak honestly in private groups, but in public you must operate more like your institutions and politicians—the first concern is liability. Give no ground. When you hear tales of men offering women jobs at magazines they don’t even work for in exchange for sex, you first assume that no one could be gullible enough to take such an offer seriously, then wonder why you’re gullible enough to think they wouldn’t. Can you really expect newcomers to these professions, seeing how small and intimately networked they appear, to believe they operate on merit? Obviously not. And yet you know that most of their grindingly dull exploitations and discriminations, the uneven distributions of advantage, involve no sex at all.

Still, in discourse, sex continually upstages its ism. You receive an agonized email from a former colleague about whether he should have intervened on the night a notorious and more senior man invited you to an industry party alone. You consider replying with a list of all the deeply unerotic ways in which that job, where no one ever made a pass at you, drained and demoralized you—the derisory pay you were expected to be grateful for, the obligation to exploit those paid still less, the fuzzy boundary between professional and social expectations. Instead, you write back at fulsome length to reassure him that he did nothing wrong.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"The likely successor to British Prime Minister Theresa May, Boris Johnson, has plans to subsume the government department overseeing development aid into the foreign office, effectively eliminating it. That will destroy a post-Brexit United..."

"Gerard Baker, editor-at-large at the Wall Street Journal (no reflexively anti-Trump publication) recently wrote a piece decrying Donald Trump and his foreign policy as a fount of erratic unpredictability. This essay will give the counter view...."

"On Wednesday, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar announced that she will be visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories in the coming weeks. Omar will be accompanied by Rep. Rashida Tlaib. The two freshman congresswomen have become a focal point of..."

"Netflix may have lost US subscribers for the first time since it began making its own shows, but that didn't stop the streaming giant from dropping new figures about how many people are sucked into its Adam Sandler vortex. (Spoiler: More than..."

"A few years ago, Amy Balliett, CEO of a Seattle-based design and marketing firm, noticed that as the work week slogged on, her employees’ energy and productivity wilted. “That would slump to such an extent that the same task on Monday would..."

"Over the last few days the #faceappchallenge has taken over social media. This “challenge” involves downloading a selfie-editing tool called FaceApp and using one of its filters to digitally age your face. You then post the photo of your wizened..."

"Although there are plenty of irrational aspects to life in modern America, few rival the odd fixation on lawns. Fertilizing, mowing, watering — these are all-American activities that, on their face, seem reasonable enough. But to spend hundreds..."

"Can a book change the way we think? I don’t mean that in the sense of a reader’s opinion or ideology shifting—of course the right literary work can do that. But can a book rewire the brain itself, literally changing the way one particular mind..."

"It’s our job to let kids know we see and hear them, but we’re not necessarily going to solve siblings’ conflicts for them (or else they never get the practice). When squabbles start, imagine you’re a sportscaster and describe what you see in..."

"Magali Trejo-Martinez, a 22-year-old living in Salem, Oregon, recently went on a date that was rather uninspiring. “I had dinner, had a couple margaritas, and then went home,” is how she recapped the evening. This outcome wasn’t entirely..."

"The first lunar landing was many things — a D-Day-like feat of planning and logistics, a testament to the power of man's will, an ostensible propaganda coup for NATO. It was also, I think, one of the most misunderstood events in the history of..."

"THE FIRST TIME Bernie Sanders ran for president, he didn’t talk much about being Jewish. In fact, he didn’t talk much about himself at all. His 2016 primary campaign, like his whole political career, was relentlessly focused on one topic: income..."