Soviet Rhetoric

“Enough is enough,” proclaimed Senator Kirsten Gillibrand at a December 6 press conference. “I think when we start having to talk about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping, you are having the wrong conversation. You need to draw a line in the sand and say: None of it is OK. None of it is acceptable.”

Wow. When a person who holds public office says things like these, it’s very disturbing. This is extraordinarily offensive and manipulative. Gillibrand suggests that anybody who does see a difference between assault and harassment considers them to be acceptable. Who voted for this wannabe Komsomol leader?

Soviet-like rhetoric is colonizing the public discourse in this country at a scary speed. All of this sounds so painfully familiar.

6 thoughts on “Soviet Rhetoric”

  1. Well, let’s break it down:

    She is saying sexual harassment isn’t acceptable.


    She says unwanted groping isn’t acceptable. It is also illegal.

    Same with sexual assault.

    So your objection is, exactly what?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Society just doesn’t want anyone to be analytical or discerning.
    It just wants all of us to be blindly accepting of any narrative it decides to throw at us, rhetoric, mantras and all.
    Apples, oranges and bananas are “all the same” simply because they’re fruits.


    1. Society is all of us. There is no society beyond us. Which means we want things to be this way. Now the question is why. My answer is that it’s a fight for resources that are growing scarce, namely, good white-collar jobs. If people have a better analysis, I’d love to hear it.


  3. “Gillibrand suggests that anybody who does see a difference between assault and harassment considers them to be acceptable.” I don’t think this is what she is saying: she is saying that it is the “wrong conversation.” Obviously, in a court of law, there are very specific definitions of the different levels of assault, and what generates which punishment – and those definitions are necessary there. Judges and juries have to identify what acts fall into which category, and I can’t imagine she has any problem with that. Nor, I suspect, does she mean that in our social lives we should treat a teenager who does awkward inappropriate groping the same way we treat a grown man who commits sexual assault.

    I think she’s saying that in some circles people are obsessed with parsing what exactly (for example) the president’s comment about “grabbing” meant – “it’s just a man being a man” vs. “gross but not criminal” vs. “sexual harrassment” (if of an employee or a reporter or something) vs. “molesting” vs. “sexual assault.” Rather than going through every public case trying to decide exactly how to categorize these things, let’s focus on getting the message out clearly to girls and young women that none of this is okay. Because – however much whining the conservative media does about it, or however it feels to people who only pay attention to a small subset of elite universities – not all of them have gotten that message.


    1. The problem is that none of these cases are going to the courts. Judges and juries never get to identify facts and mete out punishments. Instead, we have the court of public opinion. As a result, people’s careers and reputations are being destroyed because of “hot pink post-its.” I know at least half a dozen cases like that in my own profession. And I think it’s beyond irresponsible to tell people that the differences between an awkward comment or an unwanted pass at an office party and assault are unimportant.

      Also, as somebody who has experienced vicious and very traumatic sexual harassment for years and years as a child, it is painful to hear that the difference between what I experienced and the discomfort – that I’m sure is very real – of the pink post-it person are somehow equal.


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