If there’s one thing our culture still — depressingly — abides, it’s sexually inappropriate behavior by prominent white guys.
The Jeffrey Toobin scandal, with its pleas for sympathy from, among others, Brian Stelter at CNN, Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic and Kevin D. Williamson at The National Review, makes one thing resoundingly clear: Men such as these, who surely identify as erudite, sophisticated truth-tellers to power and on the right side of women’s issues, have learned nothing from #MeToo.
Or worse, they don’t really care.
Or even worse, they think women have become too hysterical, too reflexively offended, a little too loud, a little too angry, a little too powerful.
How else to explain why Toobin — brilliant legal mind, contributor at The New Yorker and CNN, best-selling author, a 60-year-old Harvard alum who boasts of his longtime friendship with Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan — decided to masturbate during a Zoom meeting, with the New Yorker’s best-known writers, during the day?
“I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera,” Toobin said, before invoking the refrain of our new cultural archetype, The Otherwise Respectable Sexual Deviant: “I apologize to my wife, family, friends and coworkers.”
How else to explain why New Yorker editor David Remnick announced a suspension followed by an internal investigation? And oh, to be a fly on that wall, time-lining the emergence of Toobin’s penis from his underwear, how it came to be resting in his hand, how said hand began manipulating his member, the Zoom footage a regular Zapruder film, the august New Yorker parsing the traumas of those assaulted by Toobin’s O-face?
In a great column for The Week back in 2017, Lili Loofbourow wrote about “the myth of the male bumbler,” asking us to reconcile the notion that men who have risen to the top of their hyper-competitive fields, be it politics or journalism or entertainment, somehow don’t know they’ve been sexually inappropriate, deviant or assaultive. She cited Woody Allen’s astonishment at having married his stepdaughter — Whoops! No idea how that happened — and self-identified feminist Louis C.K., who proclaimed he had no idea that locking women in his hotel rooms over decades, then forcing them to watch him masturbate, was wrong.
“Now I’m aware of the extent of the impact of my actions,” he wrote.
Let’s consider the fallout had this been a prominent white conservative. He’d have been toast by cocktail hour, woketivists on fire. And a woman who did such a thing — well, there would be no doubt of her intent, would there? Both cases would be considered acts of clear-cut sexual harassment and deviance, committed by a toxic and dangerous colleague.
So why the double standard?
Toobin’s loathsome treatment of women is on the record: The longtime mistress, daughter of a friend and colleague no less, who he got pregnant and then tried to bribe into an abortion (it gets worse, Google it); the prominent woman who claimed Toobin followed her back to her hotel room, saying “You know you want it,” then leaving her several disgusting voicemails.
But no, in Toobin’s case we need an internal investigation. We need Jeffrey Toobin’s self-important musings on CNN so badly — more than Chris Cuomo’s, even — that we should let this sticky little situation slide.
The October 5 edition of the New Yorker ran its most poignant cover in recent memory: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s signature white collar against a black backdrop, in mourning and remembrance.
Here’s hoping the magazine lives up to her standards.
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