I really just cannot bear it any longer. In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, and even somewhat before then, I had heard about this mysterious phenomenon by which Americans became unable to stomach another headline, another minute of CNN programming or another picture of Donald Trump. As a political junkie, though, this phenomenon had never affected me; the palace intrigue, celebrity feuds, party infighting, scandalous revelations, love and loss — I was tuned into all of it with laser focus.
However, the eight weeks since the avalanche of allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape hit Harvey Weinstein squarely in the chest have been just exhausting. And not just for the brave women who have come forward, but for me too.
With each new day comes another name that needs to be dragged in the mud. And it’s not just the Roy Moores of the world, the presidentially-endorsed evil and hypocrisy you might expect. No, it’s been beloved television stars like Louis C.K, Kevin Spacey and Jeffrey Tambor (God help us if something scandalous comes out about Bryan Cranston or Ty Burrell, or next year’s Emmy’s will be so depressing), charming politicians like Al Franken and trusted newsmen like Charlie Rose. Creeps, it seems, one and all. Allegations like these have come out in the past, but something is profoundly different this time. Namely, I never watched much of The Cosby Show and I’ve always been lukewarm on Bill Clinton, so I wasn’t that disappointed.
What’s perhaps most infuriating about all this is that the discussions that have been sparked in the wake of this so-called “Weinstein effect” are not the right ones. Unimpeachable outlets we all trust to provide sober, thoughtful commentary on the news of the day have instead chosen to tackle issues of variable, though all secondary, importance. I’m talking about the elite class of journalists on Fox & Friends, Morning Joe, the Blaze and pretty much all CNN programming. What does all of this mean for 2018, they ask? What do Trump voters think of all this? What’s worse: a criminal or a Democrat? And why is our society one that is inherently hostile to victims and institutionally sexist? Important questions, one and all.
None of them attack the very root of the problem. We need a better vetting process, so that men like this are not elevated to positions of power in the first place — whether that comes in the form of political office, celebrity or regular time on a television network. After all, what do we have in place now? Scrutiny from the media and public opinion? Clearly, our investigative powers are subpar at the moment.
The natural solution would be to add a layer of scrutiny. For each potential office holder, Hollywood star or television icon, why not consult a group of people with intimate knowledge of their lives? The first three members of such a commission could be chosen from among the applicant’s ex-girlfriends, at random. Some of them may have parted on good terms, but there will have been a messy break-up or two in the mix and those are voices we need to hear as well. Next, a low-level staffer at Wikileaks looking to prove themselves. I’m not entirely sure what the dark web is, but I want to know what’s on it about a potential senator or whomever might star in the next hit Netflix series. Then, to round things out, a casual acquaintance — friends on Facebook, but not close — from their high school years could share the juiciest gossip that was circulating about them 40 years ago.
Forget bland statements from senior members of their own party or nominations from the Academy, these are the endorsements I care about. The public could count on their absolute honesty. Only truly worthy candidates with squeaky clean records would receive all five yeses. Two to four votes would make it a judgment call for each individual voter and anything below that would be an immediate red flag. These committees of five would single-handedly revolutionize primaries and casting calls. Think how much time, column inches and heartache we’d owe them!
But then again, as I think about it, that would be a logistical nightmare. Plus, there are too many potential holes in the system. We need something simpler, cleaner.
So naturally my mind turns to eunuchs. Harassing women would be a lot harder without a sex drive. And what ever happened to them? For hundreds of years, they played important roles at court, in religion and in entertainment. Nowadays they’re little more than a gimmick on Game of Thrones. It wouldn’t be a requirement by any means — don’t be ridiculous. Instead, it’d be more of a strong suggestion. People could even frame it in a folksy way. “Well everyone knows, if you want to get elected in the Wisconsin 1st, you’ve got to be like a Ken doll down there!”
See the problem with that is I’m not sure any man is so obsessed with power, committed to public service or needy for fame that they’d willingly submit themselves to that kind of lifestyle. There might be a few, but not enough to fill both houses of Congress.
All seemed lost, as though we were condemned to a world run by perverts. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. All of this scandal, scrutiny and disappointment has one common denominator. They’re all men.
We could just elect women, watch shows starring women and get our news from women. I’ve never been represented in Congress by a woman, but it seems like the safer bet. I’d like to try it sometime soon; “Veep” is consistently funny, and I’ve always enjoyed Martha Raddatz. Ever heard of sexual misconduct from Debbie Stabenow or Julia Louis-Dreyfus? Probably not. Until the culture shift is complete, electing men and then hoping that resignation or public shaming will be enough to right the wrong is just too risky. That horse is already out of the barn.
Brett Graham can be reached at email@example.com.