CONTENT NOTE: This piece will contain numerous incidents of misogyny, misogynoir, sexual harassment, and racist & gendered violence.
Anyone remember the character Tom Cruise played in the Paul Thomas Anderson film, Magnolia? For those who don’t, Cruise played Frank T.J. Mackey, a brash, loathsome motivational speaker, hiding personal trauma. Arguably the finest performance of his career, he is an abhorrent distillation of patriarchy. He runs classes on how to “conquer women” to a rapt male audience, opening the seminar with the mantra, “Respect the c*ck! And tame the c*nt!”
Mercifully, Frank T.J. Mackey is fictional, but Julien Blanc is real. You may already be aware of Blanc. For the uninitiated, he’s Frank T.J. Mackey made flesh. Blanc is an executive coach for Real Social Dynamics, a company which dispenses “dating advice”. This advice includes Blanc instructing a room full of white men on how to harass and sexually assault women in Tokyo, under the guise of ‘getting lucky’.
Bruce Reyes-Chow recently gave a good breakdown on Blanc’s repeated egregious behaviour, including opening interactions with women by grabbing them by the throat.
In the midst of Blanc’s misogyny, it’s important not to overlook his gendered racism. He relies on racist stereotypes to demean East Asian women as nothing more than demure and subservient subalterns. It’s a toxic cocktail, which Joy Goh-Mah has addressed on this site.
One’s disgust may start with Blanc, but it shouldn’t end there.
Last weekend brought the hashtag, #YouAreAMisogynistIf. A collaboration between @sunnysingh_nw3 and @AListRap. It was a rejoinder to a woman of colour receiving gendered abuse on Twitter (these incidents tend to occur on days ending in the letter “y”) and produced a lot of incisive and necessary commentary on misogyny in society.
However, the hashtag was soon hijacked by men, spamming it with derailing arguments and/or pictures of half-dressed women.
Earlier this week, ESPN presenter Cari Champion was on the receiving end of a slew of misogynoiristic tweets from Artie Lange – who has been a some time guest on ESPN programming. This resulted in the #IsupportCari hashtag, which was instigated by a combination of @FeminstaJones and @RodFreeman05.
And then there’s the recent viral video of Shoshana B. Roberts, unable to walk down the street without being habitually harassed by men. It was later revealed that many of the white men who harassed Roberts had been edited out of the video. .
It is the twin privileges of whiteness and maleness that allows such behaviour to flourish. Blanc himself stated, “If you’re a white male, you can do what you want.”
You can have a platform to deliver racist and sexist sentiments. You can laugh at these sentiments, in the knowledge that there will be little in the way of consequence. You can be like Steve Santagati, who appears to think it’s a woman’s job to prevent street harassment. Or you can avouch that white men don’t catcall, and get a mainstream space for your views.
To return to Blanc and his seminars, what’s especially emetic is that they have the potential to be transformative spaces, where men can unpack the patriarchal ideas the world inculcates into us. Instead, Blanc is an allegory for a military sergeant, readying his troops for war. Patriarchy turns men into soldiers, and positions women as the enemy to be defeated through multifarious forms of dehumanisation and violence .
In actual military conflict, war only has to be declared once. But the structural and individual effects of patriarchy work on an ouroboros loop, with a war on women being declared again and again, such as the effects of the Nordic model on sex workers, rates of intimate partner violence, or the wage gap between men and women – felt more acutely by women of colour.
However, the hashtag has once again become a valuable tool of resistance. #takedownjulienblanc, created by Jennifer Li, has been a key catalyst in bringing attention to Blanc. Her tireless work is also responsible for the Change.org petition that has resulted in some of Blanc’s seminars being cancelled and last night he was deported from Australia.
Be it the women (and men) who have instigated the hashtags, or the women who have penned the numerous pieces that I’ve linked to, these are remarkable examples of courage from women who refused to accept this treatment.
But the problem is that they wouldn’t have to show such redoubtable bravery if so many men didn’t remain silent. How many of us have seen the events of the past week, thought it disgusting, but then forgot about it and went on with our day?
Women don’t need men to rescue them, but they also shouldn’t have to struggle on their own. The aforementioned sexist conduct doesn’t just happen because of obtuse thinking. It happens because they know they can get away with it.
Men have to take their share of the responsibility to change a culture that deems this behaviour permissible – while making sure they never set the terms of the discussion at the expense of women.
Our silence isn’t golden. It’s harmful.
 – This shouldn’t minimise what must have been a horrible experience for Roberts, and also doesn’t minimise the subsequent violent threats she’s had to endure.
 – If you think pushing back doesn’t take bravery, take a look at the increase in abuse women – especially women of colour – always have to endure for speaking out.
 – For clarity’s sake, I’m not absolved of accountability. I’m also complicit in this.
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A mixed-race film graduate, Shane comes from Jamaican and Mauritian parentage. He has been blogging about sport since 2010 at the website for The Greatest Events in Sporting History. He is also a contributor to ‘Simply Read’, the blogging offshoot of the podcasting network, Simply Syndicated. A lover of sport, genre-fiction, and privilege checking, Shane can be found on Twitter, both at @TGEISH and @tokenbg (and yes, the handle does mean what you think it means).
- The Symbolic Use of Women (mediadiversified.org)