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les moonves and the language of sexual assault

· sexual assault,gender violence,sexual harassment,metoo,sex abuse

Today, I am fired up. I’m not going to say angry because, sadly, that’s a loaded word for women. This has been a rough week if you are a person who cares about gender issues. What’s more, the language to express the anger for the week has been whittled away, stolen or so overused that we can no longer adequately express what is happening.

Early this week, I read the New Yorker article about Leslie Moonves. I had been watching the news and hearing about women coming forward to accuse this man of “sexual harassment,” but then I physically sat down, during breakfast, and took quiet time to read the long, descriptive article about what happened. The words “sexual harassment” are obscenely misleading.

This is not the clean, generic, CBS this Morning, smiling Gayle King, story I had been listening to. This is raw, horrific, locking doors, trapping women and climbing on top of them, sexual assault.

What Les Moonves is accused doing of is forced sexual contact … and even those words are too clean. He is accused of calling a respected woman to his office for a business meeting and while listening to her business proposal, reaching up her skirt and touching her genitals through her underwear. He is accused of purposely sabotaging women’s careers because, in his words, they should have “f—ked” him when he wanted it.

Are we so afraid of saying these words out loud that describe sexual assault, sexual manipulation and sexually disgusting behavior? Has Sexual assault become so common now that our journalists don’t have words left to express what has happened to these women? Are we still protecting perpetrators with the clean language we use to describe what they have done? What has happened to our language?

Moonves literally used the words “flirting,” or “attraction,” to cover up climbing on top of someone on a couch and forcibly kissing them, or putting his hand up a woman’s skirt during a work meeting…and he still has a job. I think we need new words.

His most amazing feat of verbal judo was in his ubiquitous defensive statement where he essentially says, “well, I may have done some of these things, but I know that ‘no means no.’” Wait…What? In one sentence, he just hijacked decades of rape prevention language as his own shield to say “at least I didn’t rape them.” Is that going to work for people?

Yes, I’m angry. I’m angry at Les Moonves, I’m angry at CBS, I’m angry that it’s 2018 and we are still discussing whether or not this man has done something wrong.

But, I shouldn’t say I’m angry, because “angry” is now a loaded word and a loaded emotion for women. According to studies that also came out this week, as opposed to men who express anger and are seen as serious, important and worthy of listening to, women who show anger are seen as emotional, not serious, and worthy of disregard.

So, instead, I’m fired up about how even the language we use today has gender bias…how even in the time of the #metoo movement, we cannot see how much we still discriminate.

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