Monday, July 13, 2009

Politicians Hitting on David Brooks
Some Unfair Criticism From Hilzoy


BROOKS: You know, all three of us spend a lot of time covering politicians and I don’t know about you guys, but in my view, they’re all emotional freaks of one sort or another. They’re guaranteed to invade your personal space, touch you. I sat next to a Republican senator once at dinner and he had his hand on my inner thigh the whole time. I was like, ehh, get me out of here.
Hilzoy apparently thinks it's not o.k. for Brooks to mention this given that women have to put up with much worse...which is ridiculous.

Brooks mentions all this by way of supporting his claim that politicians are emotional freaks who invade your personal space. In a few seconds he says "I can only imagine what happens to you guys"--that is, apparently, women. Then he again indicates that it's a problem for females:
I’ve spoken to a lot of young women who are Senate staffers and they’ll have these middle age guys who are sort of in the middle of a mid-life crisis. Emotionally needy, they don’t know how to do it and sort of like these St. Bernards drooling everywhere. And you find a lot of this happens in mid-life and among very powerful people who are extremely lonely.
Brooks's words and actions are unimpeachable here. He just mentions this in passing, because it's funny and supports his point. (And look--it's important for us to know that our politicians are freaks!) He immediately makes it clear that he knows women have it worse. Heck, in what seems to be a response to what seems to be a question about why he didn't ask the senator to remove his hand from his (Brooks's) "inner thigh," he (Brooks) says "I’m trying not to be too dignified and stuffy." So it seems that Brooks is even trying to be cool about this possibly-homoerotic invasion of his personal space. You'd think a conservative American male would get some props for that from liberals...but apparently not.

News flash: This has been happening to people forever, at least if you count women as people. Back when George Washington was writing out his "Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation", which Brooks cites as an example of the Dignity Code, Thomas Jefferson was hitting on Sally Hemings. A professor whose class I was enrolled in once grabbed my breasts at a party. Every woman I know has stories like this. Maybe being groped in a public setting is a novel experience for straight guys; not being a straight guy, I wouldn't know. But if it is, that isn't because no one ever groped anyone in a public setting before.
Chill out, sister Hilzoy. Nobody's denying any of that stuff, least of all Brooks. It's just not relevant here. The professor who grabbed you deserves an ass-kicking--we're all on board with that. But that has nothing to do with what Brooks is saying.

Me, I firmly believe that all guys who grope or otherwise sexually harass women ought to be punched squarely in the nose. I have a kind of zero tolerance policy about this kind of thing. (Though you have to watch out not to get overly zealous, interfering with normal human consensual flirting and all that...but that goes without saying.)
But it's absolutely unfair to unload on Brooks with all this stuff. He's in no way denying that women have it worse--in fact he explicitly acknowledges it. He mentions a hilarious anecdote in passing, and that's all.

Cut him some slack.

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