Time Magazine made it official. The “person of the year” is a group of people: “The silence breakers.” The #MeToo movement creators and the women who went public with complaints of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace were given the recognition for a cultural movement that has led to action in just about every industry.
Hours after this announcement, another woman came forward to say that Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) tried to kiss her in 2006. “It’s my right as an entertainer,” Franken reportedly told the woman, who was then a congressional aide when Franken, then a comedian, had a radio show. Once standing behind him, some fellow Democrats are now calling on the two-term senator to step down.
As Time notes, the women on its cover are “the voices that launched a movement” — a movement that Hillary Clinton told me during an interview on the “Cape Up” podcast “that we have to make sure becomes conventional wisdom, is accepted and causes changes in behavior.” More to the point, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee said, “There is a big cultural bias that we have to confront and get over, and that men have to understand that that’s just not going to cut it any longer.” The transcript of what Clinton had to say on this subject is below.
Capehart: Well, let’s talk about two things that you go into great detail in the book, the difference between sexism and misogyny. Let’s deal with sexism first, which you write, “Sexism is all the big and little ways that society draws a box around women and says, you stay in there.”
Clinton: Right. It is so common. Some of what I just said about likeability is part of that. And so many people don’t even notice it, but they are imposing expectations on little girls and teenagers. There are still very real differences between what’s expected of boys and girls and how they are treated even in school. And it’s not meant maliciously. It is a part of the social fabric, where we almost have to constantly be pointing it out, shining a spotlight, so that these comments or this behavior can be noticed and modified or repudiated, remedied even. Misogyny is different. Misogyny really is a hatred. It’s not just an expectation about women’s roles and the place they belong in society or how they’re supposed to dress, and behave, and all of the markers of likability and prettiness that go with being a girl or a woman. This is a hatred. This is a demeaning of women.
It’s a mistreatment of women across the board, and I used the example of how, if somebody is flirting with you in a bar, and they’re trying to come on to you, and all of a sudden you say, “Hey, wait a minute, I’m not interested, back off.” And then they turn on you, and they start swearing at you and calling you foul names. There’s something deep about that. It’s not just being rejected by one woman in a bar. It’s how you view women. And we see too much of that. We see comments by people that are really dismissive of the role of being a woman or the attitude that somehow your looks are all that matter, or being a wife and mother is all that matters. It’s a very systemic denigrating of women.
Capehart: You had a really great line in your book where you said, “Something I wish every man across America understood is how much fear accompanies women throughout our lives.” And that gets to the example you just used in the bar. But that line speaks to all aspects of a woman’s life.
Clinton: Yes, I just saw a news story about a woman on the subway, here in New York. And a man sat down next to her, and it’s called man spreading, where basically just tried to take over her whole space, spreading out and relegating her to a smaller and smaller corner of the subway seat. And the woman said, “Excuse me, could you give me a little more room here?” And the man hauled off and hit her in the mouth, busted her lip. And there was a man on the subway who saw this and grabbed this guy. Basically said, “What are you doing?” And he was incoherent. He really had no explanation other than this woman had contradicted him, stood up to him. And I see a lot of that. I read about a lot of it. It certainly is prevalent in every part of the world, where the whole ecosystem, if you will, of where women fit in and where women should or shouldn’t go. And so when I wrote that, basically I was saying, I know what it’s like to hold my keys in my hand with the sharp points out while I’m trying to get to a car.
I know what it’s like to be at a party as a young woman and see guys getting drunker and drunker and more and more belligerent, and feel like I gotta get out of there, because I’m afraid of what might happen. So even though, as I write in the book, very few terrible things ever happened to me, I give two examples. I know what that feels like. I remember when I was a law professor at the University of Arkansas, and there had been a series of attacks on women. And I and a couple of the other professors went from dorm to dorm, talking to young women about being careful, traveling in groups, not going out alone. Well, we have those conversations all the time, and that is true today as it was all those years ago.
Capehart: One of the things we’re all talking about today is: You name the profession, there are now men who stand accused, who have lost their jobs, where women are coming forward and taking the power in their own hands to stand up to what’s happened to them. Now, I’d love to get your thoughts on what’s happening.
Clinton: I think what’s happening is a moment that we have to make sure becomes conventional wisdom, is accepted and causes changes in behavior. There is nothing new to these stories. They go back to the beginning of time, I suppose, but what is new is that women feel empowered and courageous enough to step forward with these stories. And it does take a lot of courage because very often in the past, it wasn’t even an option. And today, still, although there’s a more receptive audience, it’s not all that clear that there won’t be some form of disadvantage imposed upon those women who have spoken out. I think part of it is a new generation of women who have grown up with social media, have grown up with sharing their own experiences and who have had a lot of support from friends and family and now feel more comfortable speaking out. But it’s not something that we should stand by and applaud. It’s something we should say, “Okay, are we really gonna change behavior? And are men going to see themselves as others see them?” Because it’s very common for a man who is accused or confronted to say, “Oh, I thought it was mutual. I thought that she was with me on this.”
And you understand why somebody might believe that if you watch movies, and if you see how men often are very aggressive toward women who love it. The whole romance novel industry is about women being grabbed and thrown on a horse and ridden off into the distance. So there is a big cultural bias that we have to confront and get over, and that men have to understand that that’s just not going to cut it any longer. And I hope that it will be really more permanent than just a blurb on the news and another story.
Capehart: Does it help what you’re saying that it is now, one of the professions, it’s politics and it’s gotten very political, and there are lot of names in this hopper, whether it’s Franken or Moore, or Trump or Clinton, or who — you name it. Does that make it harder or easier to not have it be a blip? Just a cultural moment instead of a cultural change?
Clinton: Well, I think it’s important to notice it’s also in the media. It’s in corporate America. We’ve had a number of stories come out in both those areas of our economy and society. So I don’t think it’s — if you’re a high-profile person, whether you’re Bill O’Reilly [chuckle] in the media or a politician, it’s going to be a story. And it’s important that there be a recognition that this happens everywhere. Because right now, Jonathan, we’re still dealing with women who have some sense of empowerment. Think about all the women working the overnight shift in factories, or late-night in restaurants, or cocktail lounges, or just minding their own business in their own neighborhood. And those women don’t have household names. And that’s what we’re seeing with Roy Moore. These are not famous women. These are women who basically have said, “Hey, this is unacceptable. I wasn’t able to talk about it a long time ago, but now others are coming forward. I’m willing to do that.” The same with the large number of women accusing Trump of sexual assault and his own confession to it on the “Hollywood Access” tape.
Clinton: So there has to be a recognition that this cuts across all lines and all kinds of workplaces and all kinds of community settings, and therefore we have to work toward that cultural shift and empower the waitress on the late-night shift or the cocktail waitress or the nurse or whoever it might be. I still can’t get over the image of that law enforcement official going into a hospital and manhandling a nurse who would not let him take blood from an unconscious patient. Would he have done that to a male doctor? I don’t think so. But he felt perfectly free to literally drag her out of the hospital when she was not only doing what was professionally appropriate, but she had called and confirmed that with her supervisor. So the way women are treated has to be looked at in every part of our life.
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