This should not happen more than once
April 6, 2021 9:06 AM   Subscribe

 
Probably a good chance this gets deleted with a reason of Existing Thread Sort Of Covers It. But bringing wider attention to this piece is a good thing, because it is so relevant to all kinds of missing-stair systemic brokenness in the world--it could slot equally as well into all sorts of others because its larger point is tragically, unjustly, far far far from Gaetz-specific.
The moments when people make up their secret minds about what is normal and what is acceptable are never big. They are always in private, when no one can see that you have failed the test, when all you were doing was trying to avoid any discomfort, be cool, play along. But there is a price. The price is that the Matt Gaetzes out there will leave the interaction thinking they have understood the world correctly. That what they are doing is working. That this is how the world is. But it is the accumulation of these little assents that make the world this way.
posted by Drastic at 9:20 AM on April 6 [82 favorites]


I read that same paragraph and had exactly that reaction. Probably should have framed the post differently, I guess.
posted by martin q blank at 9:26 AM on April 6


"It takes two to make a locker room."
posted by panglos at 9:26 AM on April 6 [32 favorites]


Over time I have realized that colleagues test the waters with me by telling dirty jokes or saying things that are offensive. This is probably why I haven't seen photos like this in a work context. I have definitely dissolved friendships over this kind of thing.
posted by poe at 9:27 AM on April 6 [35 favorites]


Probably should have framed the post differently, I guess.

Wasn't chiding, more bemoaning in a (hopefully proven-wrong!) hedging sort of way. It's a helluva piece and that paragraph especially is a guitar solo moment in my books. It'll stay with me a long while.
posted by Drastic at 9:29 AM on April 6 [5 favorites]


God it's so short it makes me want to pull quote every line of it. But the humor of the writing made me laugh in the middle of the very strong and serious piece:

"Never show that to anyone, ever again. Go home and rethink your life. I do not feel closer to you. If anything, I want to have you removed forcibly from my presence by strong gentlemen whose biceps are tattooed with ‘MOM.’ The fact that you thought this would make us closer makes me question every decision in my life that has led me to this point. Leave now and never come back.”

I've never been strong enough to do this in the moments I've faced these kinds of situations. It was usually stories I didn't want or need to hear, though the time my boss pulled up porn in my office on my pc around 1995 stands in sharp relief in my memory. He ended up out jumping free of his career held aloft by a golden parachute when worse indiscretions came to light. I should have done something when it happened, but I didn't. Sadly I don't think I'm unique in my cowardice.
posted by hilberseimer at 9:30 AM on April 6 [39 favorites]


[T]he humor of the writing made me laugh in the middle of the very strong and serious piece:

"You eat lunchmeat sandwiches."
posted by riverlife at 9:49 AM on April 6 [2 favorites]


martin q blank, thank you for bringing my attention to this. An excellent piece that -- per usual for Petri -- foregrounds the necessary person who, in most tellings, fades into the background of the story everyone else is telling, and explores their constraints, their psychology, and their choices.
posted by brainwane at 9:52 AM on April 6 [3 favorites]


This is great. And Petri is a fantastic writer.

But I also hate that this is a Petri opinion piece, because she's better known as a political humor writer than as a political writer, so this is far more likely to be ignored as another of her comedic pieces on the Opinion page than what it is - a real plea that this shit needs to stop.

It just breaks my brain that there's nothing in place to censure someone who does that stuff, though that's probably just my naivete. The amount of time I've had to waste at various workplaces doing anti-sexual-harassment "modules" where you watch videos and answer questions for HR to check a box (though we do get a lovely printable PDF certificate) - shouldn't Congress at least have that in place? Some sort of blanket "do not show nude pix" policy? Or is that just something people (men) still do everywhere regardless even with their PDF certificates, and that I'm just unaware of it?

I guess I'm asking, is this piece necessary because Matt Gaetz is a particularly clueless terrible person who was being enabled, or is this piece necessary because there are so many Gaetzes walking among us perpetually being enabled? Or TL;DR, how depressed should I be?
posted by Mchelly at 10:07 AM on April 6 [27 favorites]


Great piece, thanks for posting.

There are many moments in my life I'm not proud of, but a casual friend offered up "the n word" at a gathering and I said, clearly, "NAME, I'm going to try to pretend I didn't hear you say that, because I never thought you were that kind of person. And I never, ever, want to hear it again."

Everyone else had been kind of stunned by what he said, then kind of stunned by me, and then the server showed up with drinks and we all continued on. I'd like to think maybe it made a small difference. (It made a big difference in MY life, because my then-husband scolded me later for "making a scene," one of many reasons he's a former not a current.)
posted by cyndigo at 10:12 AM on April 6 [117 favorites]




hilberseimer: One contrast between your story and Gaetz's is that he was your boss, and Gaetz reportedly showed the nude photos to colleagues. It's easy in retrospect to know the correct action, but there's a real cost to criticizing your boss, and often that's a cost people can't afford. But as Petri observes, with Gaetz and so many cases, the lack of criticism stems simply from a desire "to avoid any discomfort."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 10:40 AM on April 6 [9 favorites]


Or perhaps because they didn't see a problem with it, who knows?
posted by Gelatin at 10:43 AM on April 6 [7 favorites]


It just breaks my brain that there's nothing in place to censure someone who does that stuff...

Congress can vote to censure a member, and I think there would be a strong move to censure Gaetz *if* one of his colleagues who witnessed his behavior had publicly objected to it. As it is, the accusations are at the level of a rumor that everyone's heard or a poorly guarded secret; reporting with unnamed sources but good credibility. We're not even sure to whom he showed the pictures. I don't know why the member(s) in question don't just come out and point a finger at him, unless they (a) approve or (b) are ashamed of not having already called him out publicly.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:50 AM on April 6 [3 favorites]


I marked the same paragraph Drastic quote. It is such a great point--that the world we live in is often not the result of any large, deliberate decision, but a million and one choices made in the moment. I suppose the major lesson is to try to be conscious of these decisions whey they are occurring.

poe: Over time I have realized that colleagues test the waters with me by telling dirty jokes or saying things that are offensive.

This is how it happens: someone tests the waters in the way you describe. A dirty joke. An inappropriate nickname. A marginal meme. As the jerks feel out what level is acceptable, they either learn to keep it at home, or who they can "trust." As that circle grows, the overall level of acceptability drops.

What I also appreciate about this piece, as others have noted, is that it's not about how Gaetz behaved, or how an institution should respond (as noted, someone on Paul Ryan's staff had some conversation with him). It's how each individual contributes to this environment. It also challenges each individual to try to change this.

Here is they synthesis of these two notions: someone tests the waters, and I give them a dumb look, or some neutral-though-discouraging "uh huh," or maybe not even really respond They get the message I'm not their target audience, and move on to someone else, perpetuating the cycle. Instead, it's on me, at the first dirty joke, offensive nickname, or inappropriate meme, to let them know this does not fly in this environment.

They may move on to the next person. But each person who does this makes the soil that much less fertile for this.
posted by MrGuilt at 10:54 AM on April 6 [15 favorites]


...or is this piece necessary because there are so many Gaetzes walking among us perpetually being enabled?

Yeah, that one. Not just Gaetzes, but proto-Gaetzes in the process of forming, the ones still in the beginning waters-testing phases of their fuckery.
posted by Drastic at 10:57 AM on April 6 [12 favorites]


That is an amazing, powerful essay. Alice Dreger offered a response on Twitter pointing out that this kind of behavior is also, effectively, sexual harassment of the men who are shown the pics as well. Certainly sometimes the viewers are happily complicit, but sometimes guys who are the offender's audience can have the same sort of stunned nonresponse that the direct targets of sexual harassment often have, and are criticized for. "Gaetz was using unconsenting men for his own pleasure, too, by forcing them to look."
posted by Sublimity at 11:24 AM on April 6 [42 favorites]


"Gaetz was using unconsenting men for his own pleasure, too, by forcing them to look."

I was thinking about this earlier today, too. It's an interesting version of "straight" male behavior, in the cases when their primary interest in women seems to be as props for how they relate to other men.
posted by eviemath at 12:40 PM on April 6 [15 favorites]


>I guess I'm asking, is this piece necessary because Matt Gaetz is a particularly clueless terrible person who was being enabled, or is this piece necessary because there are so many Gaetzes walking among us perpetually being enabled? Or TL;DR, how depressed should I be?
I need to step a bit offtopic to illustrate but, here in the UK, we're facing a reckoning about the horrid things schoolboys do to schoolgirls (principally and not solely), aided by their school's leadership to cover it up: 'Moment of reckoning' for UK schools as 5,800 accounts of abuse published was The Guardian's headline on Sat 2021-03-27 about the schoolgirl-led "Everyone's Invited" campaign acknowledging that UK schools are places not of safeguarding but of abuse. (At time of writing no 'previously on Metafilter' was found.)

Take a moment to go through the full grief arc before settling into your depression. This piece is necessary because I'm untroubled by the flaws of the system because I've lived a life benefitting from them; Gaetz and these UK schoolboys, too.
posted by k3ninho at 1:00 PM on April 6 [7 favorites]


This is what I have been saying for years. Men, and people who are read as men (I used to word that differently), tell your colleagues/friends/neighbors/cousins/brothers/boyfriends to cut this shit out. Don't be subtle about it. Directly say "that disgusts me" or "that behavior is completely inappropriate in any context," or "that is so disrespectful to the person you are claiming to have slept with."

Parents, actively teach your children to tell their classmates/cousins/boyfriends to cut this shit out.

Teachers? Stop letting "boys will be boys" bullshit seep into classrooms.

Sure, sometimes you might lose a job or a friend. But the Matt Gaetz's of the world keep doing this shit because they think it's normal. And they think it's normal because people they respect (other men, especially white men) aren't pushing back enough.
posted by bilabial at 1:16 PM on April 6 [29 favorites]


On the flip-side of that: you may in fact be an upstanding man who everyone knows would never condone such behavior. If this is the case, please understand that this sort of thing, as well as cat-calling and general harassment of others does happen, just not while you're around.

I've unfortunately seen too many otherwise "good men" disbelieve accusations of misbehavior because they never saw it.
posted by explosion at 3:06 PM on April 6 [24 favorites]


This needs to be given more media play: The party of "family values" clearly knew about this long ago. Did they stop funding him? Did they ask him to step aside for a replacement candidate? No, all they really care about is power.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 3:26 PM on April 6 [6 favorites]


BREAKING NEWS: Women for America First - one of the groups that held the Jan. 6 pro-Trump rally in Washington, D.C. that turned into the insurrection - is hosting a “Save America Summit” at Trump National Doral, the former president’s Miami resort, this weekend. The announcement says, “Congressman Matt Gaetz has been a fearless leader in Washington. Few members of Congress have been more willing than Matt to stand up and fight on behalf of President Trump and his America First Agenda.”

Gaetz tweeted Tuesday, “Join me at Trump Doral Friday! Thank you to ‘Women for America First’ for the invitation to share my vision for our great nation.”

Can't make this shit up.
posted by thecincinnatikid at 4:49 PM on April 6 [12 favorites]


The choice between doing what is easy and what is right is always where morality is tested.

Clearly Gaetz's associates failed that test. I like to hope I do better.
posted by sotonohito at 5:14 PM on April 6 [4 favorites]


If you look at their website, there's no list of founders, board members or the name of a single woman leader or person involved.

Wikipedia says: In 2019 Amy Kremer and her daughter Kylie founded Women for America First
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:41 PM on April 6 [2 favorites]


That may be due to liability issues associated with Jan 6th.
posted by Selena777 at 6:19 PM on April 6


Over time I have realized that colleagues test the waters with me by telling dirty jokes or saying things that are offensive.

People definitely do this. Not just for super offensive stuff, but also for more benign but socially-risky things. Before weed was legalized, I can remember so many times people I knew socially would lightly hint towards the topic. If you were clued in and picked up on the signals, then that opens the door to more.

As a white guy (therefore "safe" for these topics, sadly), I've had lots of people start with the slightly off-color jokes, but happily never with the non-consensual nudes.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:00 PM on April 6 [4 favorites]


Oh wow. Thanks for posting that.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:26 PM on April 6


There is so much wisdom in this. We need to understand morality on a more visceral level to really be good at it. We need to know that we will feel awkward and nervous and unsure at the very moment we are making the morally right choice.
posted by vorpal bunny at 10:25 PM on April 6 [7 favorites]


The party of "family values" clearly knew about this long ago. Did they stop funding him? Did they ask him to step aside for a replacement candidate? No, all they really care about is power.

To be fair, "boys will be boys" is a family value. Especially in the kind of mythical throwback 1950s nuclear family that Republicans seem to have been pining to re-establish as the norm since at least 1970.
posted by flabdablet at 3:20 AM on April 7 [2 favorites]


To be fair, "boys will be boys" is a family value. Especially in the kind of mythical throwback 1950s nuclear family that Republicans seem to have been pining to re-establish as the norm since at least 1970.

Yes. The "family values" conservatives espouse involve the subjugation of women by men, which is why they don't even feel their stance regarding Gaetz is hypocritical -- they are acting in according to their beliefs.
posted by Gelatin at 4:16 AM on April 7 [6 favorites]


~If you look at their website, there's no list of founders, board members or the name of a single woman leader or person involved.
~That may be due to liability issues associated with Jan 6th.


Looking at the Wayback Machine, it doesn't appear they ever had names on their website, just a lot of claims of "millions of women" etc. Being Trumpists, I suspect it's just another grift.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:31 AM on April 7 [3 favorites]


“Family values” to this crowd means the women he slept with were lacking in them. She’s a morally repugnant homewrecking fornicator, so what did she expect? If they bothered to trouble themselves about the nonconsensual aspects of it at all, and that’s a pretty big if. They’d say something to the effect of, “She’s lucky worse things didn’t happen to her.” Then they’d excuse those worse things, including rape.
posted by JLovebomb at 8:57 AM on April 7 [1 favorite]


In the news today: Rep. Gaetz fought a proposed law banning "revenge porn" tooth and nail in the Florida statehouse. He believes that such intimate images are the recipient's property, to do with as they please.

Gosh, wouldn't it be ironic if...
posted by panglos at 9:41 AM on April 7 [4 favorites]


I remember when my old boss (we'll call him Bland) transformed in my view from "blandly pleasant guy with no guts to do anything hard" to "will go along with anything if he feels it will benefit him". At the time he wasn't my boss. The guy who was my boss, and the guy who was his boss, were having a good laugh about how at home they assumed Bland was hiding cake, ice cream etc if his wife hadn't yet "lost the weight" from the baby she'd had two weeks before. Bland was also laughing at this. I don't think he found it very funny but he was expected to laugh, so he did.

Anyway after that every interaction I had with him was fake on my end, because it was clearly fake on his. In a friendly room, he was Mr Girl Power (As Long As It Doesn't Threaten My Power) and in a room that was friendly in a different way, he was Mr My Wife Better Not Get Fat or Make Me Do Chores. If his bosses had been feminist he would have boarded that train instead.

As an invisible assistant person these men chose not to really censor their shit personalities in front of me but they were probably even worse when I wasn't there.


Not that I think Gaetz has been covering up his bad side, it doesn't seem far from the surface at all.
posted by Emmy Rae at 1:41 PM on April 7 [10 favorites]


Matt Gaetz is disgusting. It's remarkable to me (but probably shouldn't be) that this shit still goes on in 2021 but of course Trump. I so appreciate the many comments here recounting gross things women had to endure from people they worked with and reminded me of how when I was a first year assistant professor I was first informed and then "invited to see" how much porn there was on the WWW circa 1990. This was by a department employee whose job it was to assist me in setting up my lab. I so wish I had reported him and he had been fired. The guy was a jerk to begin with and this was him flexing his jerkiest at me, a young, nervous, desperate to get my lab set up young woman. Instead, I stood there helplessly watching him try to search for porn in a neighboring lab. Fortunately, the internet was down being the not so stable WWW of 1990. This is the mold for Matt Gaetz and I can only hope that me in 2021 after so much #metoo would've reported him but I tellya, I'm not sure. It's really really hard.
posted by bluesky43 at 2:44 PM on April 7 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the sad thing is, people think these guys are dying out...but they just keep coming.
posted by amanda at 4:42 PM on April 7 [4 favorites]


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