On This Day for Women, Look at Yourself

Today is celebrated as International Women’s Day.

I really wanted to pull out of myself something relevant and meaningful connected to one sit-com star’s notorious public meltdown, because I believe our collective reaction to him is telling.  The bad news is it’s not telling about him — he’s pretty clearly an open and shut case.  It’s telling about the rest of us.

He’s hilarious.  He’s sad.  He’s an addict.  He needs help.  He needs understanding.  Wow, wouldn’t it be cool to live that guy’s life?  He’s like, he’s like, he’s like a rock star from Mars!

Actually, no.  He’s a drug addict.  He may be depressed.  He’s a man with an extensive history of violence towards women.  He shows not one shred of respect for anyone, not even himself.  And we have made him the god he believes himself to be.

Anna Holmes does an excellent job in her op-ed from March 3, 2011, The Disposable Woman – NYTimes.com, of holding up the mirror to our co-conspiracy with the warlock against women.  Who has said he’s not funny?  Who has said to the women who find themselves on the wrong end of a gun or a knife in his presence that they are deserving of compassion, of understanding, of help?

As Jennifer Pozner points out in her recent book “Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty-Pleasure TV,” misogyny is embedded within the DNA of the reality genre. One of the very first millennial shows, in fact, “Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire,” was notable in that it auctioned off what producers called the “biggest prize of all”: a supposedly wealthy B-movie writer named Rick Rockwell — who was later revealed to have had a restraining order filed against him by a woman he’d threatened to kill. According to Ms. Pozner, the reaction of one of the producers of “Multimillionaire” was, “Great! More publicity!”

On reality television, gratuitous violence and explicit sexuality are not only entertainment but a means to an end. These enthusiastically documented humiliations are positioned as necessities in the service of some final prize or larger benefit — a marriage proposal, a modeling contract, $1 million. But they also make assault and abasement seem commonplace, acceptable behavior, tolerated by women and encouraged in men.

What are we watching on television?  Who are we paying to reinforce these ideas?  When did it become entertaining for good people to watch others cry, and hurt, and be embarrassed, and degraded?  Perhaps as long as we’ve bought into the idea that certain classes of women are disposable garbage.

The warlock is crafty, that is hard to deny.  He has an attraction, probably not accidental, to women who are unsympathetic and who some consider not quite fully human.  He likes marginal actresses and models, prostitutes and porn stars.  He gathers up women who possess a fragile sense of self and then proceeds to play nice until the next bender.  Then, if we are to believe one of his ex-wives, it’s literally off with her head.  Get involved with this guy?  You get what you deserve.  Plus, he’s hilarious.  If you can honestly say you haven’t colluded in this in any way, you’re a better person than I.

On International Women’s Day, I’m looking at myself and doing the hard work of addressing how much I play into all this.  It’s more than I care to admit.

“You’re entitled to behave however the hell you like as long as you don’t scare the horses and the children,” Mr. Morgan said at one point. Scaring women, it seems, was just fine.

During the interview, a series of images played on a continuous loop. One of them was a defiant and confident-looking Charlie Sheen, in a mug shot taken after his 2009 domestic violence arrest.

Image credit: Deviant Art

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