To say that the left has a problem with handling sexual violence is not to imply that everyone else doesn't. There is, however, a stubborn refusal to accept and deal with rape culture that is unique to the left and to progressives more broadly. It is precisely to do with the idea that, by virtue of being progressive, by virtue of fighting for equality and social justice, by virtue of, well, virtue, we are somehow above being held personally accountable when it comes to issues of race, gender and sexual violence.
That unwillingness to analyse our own behaviour can quickly become dogma. The image is one of petty, nitpicking women attempting to derail the good work of decent men on the left by insisting in their whiny little women's way that progressive spaces should also be spaces where we don't expect to get raped and assaulted and slut-shamed and victimised for speaking out, and the emotions are rage and resentment: why should our pure and perfect struggle for class war, for transparency, for freedom from censorship be polluted by - it's pronounced with a curl of the upper lip over the teeth, as if the very word is distasteful - 'identity politics'? Why should we be held more accountable than common-or-garden bigots? Why should we be held to higher standards?
Because if we're not, then we have no business calling ourselves progressive. Because if we don't acknowledge issues of assault, abuse and gender hierarchy within our own institutions we have no business speaking of justice, much less fighting for it.
That is in England but it's everywhere to, isn't it? That's why we have the problems we do in this country. Michael Ratner and Michael Smith should be leading lights of the left but they think it's fine to rip apart women. They feel no shame about it. They make no effort to change the way they are.
Over and over, the above happens. I really thought that we would have moved beyond all of this by now but there are men on the left who still won't try to lose the sexism.
"TV: The True Scandal" (Ava and C.I., The Third Estate Sunday Review):
We searched in vain on World Can't Wait's website to see some applause for Shonda Rhimes. We didn't see any. They're happy to attack Kathryn Bigelow and Bigelow's film but they're happy to promote the pro-torture Homeland (because it's made by a man). Some want to pretend it's not about gender.
But with the patriarchal left, it's always about gender.
On a recent press junket, Shonda Rhimes told reporters she didn't like Scandal being called a "guilty pleasure" because that implied that it was a bad show. She's right about that but take a moment to ask yourself which shows get labeled "guilty pleasures"?
It's shows that skew women that get labeled that.
That tells you a great deal about the term and the gender bias.
Shonda Rhimes is overseeing a richly textured show, why should a show so filled with layers be considered less than some tired, sexist offering on AMC?
As we noted earlier, Olivia and President Grant became an item during the campaign. She left the White House to end the affair. That didn't quite take. The start of the affair was only one story Rhimes chose to reveal in season two.
That's also when we learned that Olivia, Cyrus, Mellie, Supreme Court Justice Verna Thornton (Debra Mooney) and lobbyist Hollis Doyle (Gregg Henry) conspired to get Fitz into the White House with a plot which included vote rigging via electronic voting machines.
The plot to assassinate Fitz meant that the vote rigging scandal had to go to the backburner. Verna was the one to figure out that Hollis was behind the assassination attempt. That prompted Nellie, Thursday night, to forge Fitz's signature on a letter stating he was ready to be re-instated as president. Only problem is, since being shot, Fitz had yet to awaken. After Nellie's set this plan in motion -- she couldn't let Hollis run the country via Sally Langston, Cyrus and Olivia had little choice but to help her create the appearance that Fitz had recovered. They maintained the charade even as Langston grew ever more suspicious, even as they tried to catch the assassin, even as Olivia stood firm against her lover, Senate Majority Leader Edison Davis (Norm Lewis) who demanded to see the president.
And then Mellie started to unravel, unsure of how long she could keep up the pretense. Olivia let her have it, "Mellie, you need to pull it together. You have one job: You're holding off Sally. I'm doing everything else so get a grip." In fairness to Mellie, she's also in the last months of her pregnancy and probably would have preferred to have confided in anyone other than Olivia (she knows of the affair Olivia and Fitz had).
But Olivia truly was dealing with a lot. The quieter scenes in the episode revolved around Cyrus and his husband James (Dan Bucatinksy) who are fighting and hoping to adopt. Where is the promised baby, James wants to know? Cyrus wants to know why James hasn't quit his job like they agreed he would?
A quiet moment for Olivia? In her office having Quinn wanting to know why Hollis hasn't been arrested, why Olivia's covering for him when he ordered the hit on the president and, Quinn says, killed her boyfriend and others and tried to kill her? What's going on?
For Olivia, that qualifies as a quiet moment.
For show runner Shonda Rhimes, this should qualify as satisfaction. Scandal is a hit and it's also a first-rate riveting drama that doesn't shy away from the tough or the topical. If she takes some time today, her birthday, to survey the landscape, we hope she realizes how much she's changed television. She's not gotten the praise she deserves, not even half the praise she deserves -- and that's a true scandal.
But maybe with determined women like Ava and C.I. and Laura Penny, this issue will be forced and people will finally have to address it? Let's hope so because this issue is not going away.
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):