“Cruel and Unusual Punishment” is the title of Lionel Shriver’s excellent essay in the February 2019 issue of Harper’s. He ponders how charges of sexual predation leveled at men, whose works are considered significant cultural contributions, are ending their careers.
Among those mentioned: Louis C.K. (new film withdrawn before scheduled American release, HBO series dropped), Bill Cosby (“sentenced not only to ten years [in prison] but to cultural near- oblivion”), Garrison Keillor (Minnesota Public Radio ended broadcasts of his Writer’s Almanac, and re-broadcast of The Best of A Prairie Home Companion), and painter Chuck Close (a major retrospective ‘indefinitely postponed’).
But what of the women who have suffered possibly years of career-impinging depression and anxiety due to men’s violations? How do we judge that the loss of their contributions would be any more or less than those of the accused?
In the 21st Century, we are fighting off (still) The Great Silence: women have suffered such predations for centuries. Their violations once were considered not a trampling of of rights but the loss of their value as a marriageable commodity.
It’s no news to most women that men of all levels of accomplishment have been culturally permitted a level of sexual entitlement. Most of us are fully aware that the tether holding men to respectful behavior toward women is indeed fragile and unpredictably loosened.
Being called out is not an aberration, but a signal that the pattern of male entitlement cannot stand. If their fame has not taught these men a modicum of restraint in the internet age, then shouldn’t they take a fall?
Eventually female predators alsowill end up with their heads on stakes outside the gates of our citadel of “too much information.” The work of re-balancing gender power takes no prisoners.