Welcome to a Chronicle of Culture.

Tag: Sexual harrassment

What I said

VickiKristinaBarcelona at the jazz fest.

The Rochester International Jazz Fest is over. I return to my regularly scheduled life.

Except for one last detail. While wandering the streets, I had a few people ask me about one of my morning appearances on “Open Tunings,” Scott Regan’s show on WRUR-FM (88.5), to discuss the festival. What were the comments I had made opening Wednesday morning’s show?

It was nothing extraordinary. It is what should be obvious. A reminder, for those of us with a public platform, or if we’re just chatting with friends, of the importance of the words we choose.

So here it is:

No one said anything to me yesterday about this. I received no emails or tweets or Facebook posts about this. But I said something yesterday that I regret. I joked about stalking one of the all-female bands that I’ve admired at the festival.

Stalking is a part of our society’s culture of sexual harassment. Unfortunately, it’s nothing new. But in the last two years we’ve see the Me Too movement bring more attention to the issue. I’ve been shocked by some of the stories shared by my women friends.

We have a president in the White House – our house – who faces serious allegations of sexual harassment and assault. A new accusation came up last week. The president’s response? “She’s not my type.”

She’s not my type. That’s an astounding level of entitlement.

Women musicians deserve to be appreciated for their music. If dressing in a charming or sexy way is a part of that performance, fine. But I’m not allowed to take it to the next level.

So I apologize to VickiKristinaBarcelona. And I apologize to your listeners.

And with that, Scott played VickiKristinaBarcelona’s version of Tom Waits’ “Hold on.”

“Take your broken heart and turn it into art”

Maybe I’m the wrong guy to comment on this weekend’s Golden Globes, because one of the things I used to do for a living was watch the various entertainment awards shows – usually The Grammys or The MTV Video Music Awards – and ruthlessly mock them. It was easy money. I have no respect for authority or institutions.

In the last two years, we’ve been seeing and hearing our creative people increasingly using their time onstage to speak out on social issues. That’s happened in isolated ways over the years, but now it’s a regular occurrence when a celebrity is summoned to the stage to pick up a piece of hardware. Like what Meryl Streep said at last year’s Oscars, after her emotional speech attacking the callous actions of President-elect Trump, and recalling a comment by Carrie Fisher: “As my dear departed friend Princess Leia said to me once, ‘Take your broken heart and turn it into art.’”

The world and art. There’s no separating the two.

How you feel about celebrities sounding off on social and political issues seems to depend on if you agree with what they’re saying. If you disagree, you’re probably insisting people like Streep should keep their mouths shut until it’s time to read the lines someone wrote for them. But I like to hear what entertainers, particularly musicians, have to say. In my experience, they’re pretty smart people. Generally thoughtful, well read. And when Charlie Daniels starts going off about how a secret shadow government known as The Illuminati is running the world, I figure I’m smart enough to know he’s wrong.

Well, I’m sorta sure he’s wrong. I actually have no proof he’s wrong.

And now we have Oprah Winfrey delivering such a superb speech at last weekend’s Golden Globes that people were immediately chanting that she should run for president. And Oprah was reportedly thinking about it.

That’s where we are today. Someone can put together a moment of elegant and cogent words on a national stage and suddenly he or she seems presidential.

Barack Obama certainly set a high bar for articulate words. And as has been noted repeatedly in the days since Oprah’s speech, we’ve already endured a year of a television personality president over the past year, and it isn’t working out too well. Oprah would be a significant upgrade over the current officeholder – she has communication skills and a moral compass – but the job description calls for a serious public servant who understands how to operate the government gearbox. Someone who not only knows what has to be done, but how to get it done.

Isn’t there someone out there, somewhere in this country of more than 300 million people, who fits that description?

Of course there is. The problem is, we don’t have the patience to find them.

America has a superhero fixation. We see it in the most-popular movies of our time, stories featuring a being with amazing powers who swoops in, defeats evil and takes care of those hard-to-clean spots on the rug. A quick fix in a cape.

George W. Bush and his wars, Donald Trump and his wall, Paul Ryan and his postcard IRS form. All were superhero wishes unfulfilled. President Oprah, with her cabinet members Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz., is just another superhero fantasy.

You know where the real superpower is? It’s in numbers, and a slow evolution decades in the making. It’s all of those women at the Golden Globes making statements against sexual harassment. Women, including Oprah, standing on that national stage and telling the men who have made such a mess of things: It’s over.

BE THE FIRST in your neighborhood to know when a new Critical Mass has been turned loose. Hit the “Subscribe” button on the under-renovation web site jeffspevak.com for an email alert. You can contact me at jeffspevakwriter@gmail.com.


Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén