The Weinstein scandal: the gift that keeps on giving.
I've seen quite a few folks sharing this hideous video today, of Howard Stern interviewing Emma Bunton back in 2005:
I admit, watching it makes me feel sick to my stomach. Creepy to the max, and very uncomfortable viewing. All-the-more uncomfortable for me, as in the past I've enjoyed a lot of Howard Stern's work; the guy's been an iconic pioneer for rock music, as well as freedom of speech for decades now.
As usual though, I shall endeavour to offer a side to the argument that most will be unwilling or too uncomfortable to explore, or even entertain.
One - and perhaps most importantly - Howard Stern is not Harvey Weinstein. He is not an alleged rapist, there are no reports of him sexually bullying women etc, and he has no criminal record. He is a comedian. (Whether he's any good or not, is not the point.)
Two - Howard Stern's entire act has been based on shock, and pure unbridled/unhinged filth and smut his entire career. He made his whole name for himself by saying seemingly unthinkable things, and challenging censorship at a time when we were pretty much all expected to be good Christian folk, and TV/radio entertainment was like living with the Mormons. A great deal of freedom of expression in the U.S is owed to Howard Stern, to this very day. He's also been a significant advocate of human rights, gay rights, and sexual equality.
If you know anything about the background of Howard Stern, or have seen the documentary-comedy about his life, Private Parts, you'll know the guy is a goofball who simply says anything that comes into his head, however depraved. The guy literally has no filter. He makes jokes that would turn the average person's stomach, that make those who do laugh feel guilty for laughing. He says equally creepy things to men or women, and the less prepared they are for it, the more he relishes it. He unquestionably goes too far sometimes. But on the same hand, that's exactly what put him on the map. This is a guy who had a female caller orgasm live on radio, who was banned by God knows how many radio stations.
Though I'd agree this interview is creepy and slimy in ways I hadn't honestly yet experienced, come on guys... anyone who agrees to get interviewed by Howard Stern must know what they're getting into?!? He's not David Dimbleby for God's sake. You wouldn't go on Celebrity Juice with Keith Lemon and expect not to be presented with filthy outrageous stuff, deliberately designed to make your jaw hit the deck. And if Bunton didn't know who Stern was, or what he was about, I hope she sacked her management team afterwards! The fact Stern said all of that live on-air to Emma Bunton as part of his show is hardly the same as a sexual predator saying those things to a woman in private, genuinely trying to cajole her. The exact and definitive thing about 'predators' is they keep their intentions and carnal desires hushed and/or disguised - they don't generally blurt them out over the airwaves. Hardly a great alibi if so, and I don't for a second think Bunton was under any threat.
The point is, yes... Howard Stern has said some gross stuff, and offended pretty much everyone in his time. And yes, these sorts of interviews are grossly inappropriate by today's standards, and no they're not acceptable any more. They send out the wrong message, and there needs to be a line somewhere. But Stern is not a sexual predator, he's a comedian. A very bad taste and smutty comedian, who's woken up today to find he's an outcast and villain for something he said twelve years ago.
Who's next for the chopping block? Keith Lemon? Mickey Flannagan? Frankie Boyle? Jim Jefferies? The latter two of which, apart from often making quite misogynistic jokes, are both highly principled men actively militant for equality and human rights - as much so as anyone you'd meet.
But that doesn't matter, a minor detail right?
Glutton For Punishment
I don't know why I always feel indebted to look at the flip-side of any argument, but I do. Even and especially in situations where individuals/groups are suddenly 'public enemy number one', or if they're uncomfortable topics: when it's generally far easier to simply grab yourself a pitchfork and start chanting with everyone else. Possibly because I've been on the other end of the pitchforks at various points.
In truth, a few chaps I've spoken to are beginning to get a smidgen worried about where this Weinstein scandal could potentially veer though. On one hand, it genuinely seems like it could be an amazing thing that will genuinely change the world around us - especially for women - for the better. In fact you can almost feel the changes taking place right now. Certain things are just not gonna wash any more, and rightly so. Misogynists beware! It's a real cause for celebration, save for the poor women who were affected and intimidated by the creep.
Here's the thing many of us are scared to say though... any decent man in this world will unequivocally stand for the safety, happiness and equality of women; but neither can we help the fact we were born with a schlong either. And sorry, there is already a slight atmosphere of 'all men are responsible, and/or did nothing to stop it', and that's just not fair.
For example, on Twitter recently I saw British actor Robert Lindsay (of 'My Family') came forward to say he'd spoken up about Weinstein's abuse of his colleague at the time, Molly Ringwald. The result was that Lindsay's film career never quite got off the ground; he became blacklisted:
When I confronted him little did I know the impact on my career— Robert Lindsay (@RobertLindsay) October 18, 2017
Having been cast in Shakespeare in Love he told the director NO Lindsay
And I believe him too. I'd actually wondered before now why he hadn't appeared in more films over the years. Lindsay is a fantastic actor: to be honest I was surprised he didn't pop up in the Harry Potter franchise. The truth tends to make sense when you hear it.
Moving swiftly past the huge number of slurs I've seen on social media, mostly coming from furious women lambasting any male who dares to even politely dispute them on any aspect of any issue as 'vile sexist pigs' etc, I've also noted a few more subtle digs too. For example, a mostly marvellous article in The Guardian recently by actor Arabella Weir:
I read the piece, and was in passionate agreement with every damned word Arabella said... until the very last paragraph. When she rather flippantly commented: "No man was ever going to expose Harvey Weinstein."
That is simply not true. I know it for a fact, because I would have tried, and I'm sure many other inadvertent penis-owners out there would have too. My first piece on this Weinstein scandal, I specifically wrote of an instance where I spoke up regarding what I considered sexual abuse occurring at my university, even though positively no-one else around me had the guts to at the time. I took on my own course leader, and got a shitty degree grade as a result. Had it been more serious, eg: an instance where young women (or men) were being genuinely violated, I would have spoken up even quicker.
Robert Lindsay tried too; and he was not alone.
If you analyse and pull words apart, certainly like I do, you cannot help but wonder exactly what Arabella is insinuating by that remark in The Guardian. It seemed a pretty broad (and pretty demeaning) brushstroke at best. Hopefully she simply intended to imply that women should empower themselves and not be afraid to speak up - a sentiment I'd agree with and support - but in which case, I'd argue her phrasing was rather poor.
And certainly, quite needlessly hostile to and dismissive of men who in most cases, agree with everything women are saying entirely, and only want to help.
Let's just not turn this into a witch-hunt, eh? (Or warlock-hunt is perhaps better.)
Because I tell you one thing dear reader, puritanism doesn't work. Prohibition of things that humans like to do/watch/listen to/consume etc, doesn't work. It forces them underground into the hands of genuinely unscrupulous people.
In the new world some folks out there would seemingly like us to soon live in (the Sylvester Stallone and Sandra Bullock movie Demolition Man springs to mind), where comedy is censored, anything objectionable or that could be construed to incite a negative 'copycat' reaction is not allowed, where strip clubs and porn are outlawed, computer games and films are all about fluffy kittens, and a man is too scared to say a woman is attractive or even reflect on the fact she is a female for fear he'll be dragged in front of a tribunal... well, I tell you what ladies... there will be a helluva lot far more repressed and angry men out there. That ain't gonna end well. At the same time, any woman who doesn't fit in this neatly prescribed little box, or want to adhere to these new puritan rules, will simply end up levelled with even more stigma...more supposed 'slut-shaming'. It'll be like we're all back at Catholic school.
Have we learned nothing?
It's definitely not coincidence that the era of sexual freedom and enlightenment, traditionally thought of as the 1960s, was also the time people started talking about perhaps not endlessly killing each other and seeking world peace.
Worth a mention perhaps.