Excuse me while I get political. I’ve got some stuff to say about Billy Bush and…other things.
Image Description: Billy Bush, a white man in his late thirties with short brown hair, stands in front of greenery. He speaks into a microphone that someone holds in front of him. He’s wearing a navy polo shirt.
Content Warning: Sexual harassment, sexual assault, Donald Trump, vulgar names for female anatomy, Access Entertainment bus recording, Roy Moore, Al Franken, Harvey Weinstein, Billy Bush
There’s an interesting emerging trend in late night lately…if you want your side of a controversial story to be heard, book yourself on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. First. We saw this first when Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci departed the White House after just eleven days, before he even officially began his position as Communications Director. He thought he could bullshit Colbert. The results were awesome.
Part of the reason why Colbert has been so successful in his new role as host The Late show, I believe, is that he’s a very good interviewer – charming and engaging, but fair, and totally able to hold a person’s feet to the fire when the occasion calls for it. I made it a point to watch Billy Bush’s “explain myself” interview on The Late Show, his first since his firing from NBC after the now infamous clip of him and Donald Trump talking on the Access Entertainment bus emerged doing the election.
The interview followed an op-ed by Billy Bush confirming that, despite Trump’s recent insistence that it’s not his voice on that recording, it is. Bush followed up in the Colbert interview, saying that he’d not only heard what he’d assumed had been a ” crass stand-up act, Andrew Dice Clay performance “(I’m old enough to remember Andrew Dice Clay’s standup, so I know the reference) , but seven other men on the bus had, and that it wasn’t him laughing on the tape, which he obviously felt had gotten lost in the coverage. Also:
“If I’d have thought that there was a man detailing a sexual assault strategy to me, I’d have called the FBI, not just reported it to my executive producer…”
I narrowed my eyes, surprised at how angry I was. Because yeah, I totally agree that it sucks that Billy Bush lost his job because he was complicit in the bus incident while the guy that talked about grabbing women by the pussy is now running the free world. But something about how Bush talked about the incident really irritated me.
“Don’t let him off that easy, Colbert.” I said after Bush got done describing how Trump was a big NBC star at the time and how everyone had to “kiss the ring of The Donald.”
Colbert didn’t disappoint. “And where exactly was he wearing that ring at the time?” And he didn’t smile. He didn’t smile much at all during this interview.
Female friends and I have disagreed over whether Colbert was harsh on Billy Bush. One of my female friends saw an interview that was just designed to let Bush get his side of the story out. I saw that, yes, but I also saw an interview where Bush is held accountable for his behaviour. Colbert definitely got some jabs in. He makes Billy Bush relive the embarrassment of being fired from his job, including his feelings on being the one who lost his job over the bus incident, while Trump went on to become President after women actually accused him of sexual assault. Colbert even asks him to speculate on what Trump meant when he said, “I moved on her like a bitch” because it didn’t make sense to him. It all moves forward in a comedic way, yes, but there’s a subtext to it:
“If you want to tell your story, Billy Bush, you’re also going to have to tell us what you’ve learned.”
I do think that’s feasible and fair There’s no reason that an interview can’t be both an opportunity to get a story out and a push toward a broader point. I watch 24-hour news networks, and I see it happen all the time, in a lot less subtle manner than Colbert did with Billy Bush – and Colbert is not a reporter here. And kudos to Billy Bush for going on Colbert likely knowing that he was going to get some jabs. It’s no secret that Colbert can turn the screws when he wants to. After all, in Colbert’s previous life as host of “The Colbert Report”, politicians avoided being booked on his “Better Know a District” segment because he had a tendency to make them look foolish.
What Has Billy Bush Learned?
So what has Billy Bush learned? From my perspective, not a whole lot, but he did give some clues if you read between the lines of his answers: That he really wants to be a better man, one that doesn’t objectify women, one that, hearing today what he heard from Trump on that bus ten years ago, would instantly know that it was wrong and know exactly what to do about it. But I’m not sure that he knows how to start, and I know from hearing men talk and from hearing my female friends talk about what their male friends have said since the Weinstein story broke that he’s not alone.
Don’t get me wrong. There are good men out there who treat women well because they sincerely want to and believe it’s the right thing to do – they value women and their contributions, they talk respectfully about and to the women in their lives, and their actions demonstrate their commitment to making women feel safe and respected in their presence, without expectation of reward. I was surrounded by men like this as I grew up. I was lucky.
But in adulthood I saw that there are a lot of broken men, too, products and purveyors both of a culture of toxic masculinity. Some know that they aren’t “nice guys” and aren’t interested in challenging their ideas of women. Some think that they are the good guys, and when they’re told, “Your behaviour tells me you’re not” will not believe it. Or maybe wouldn’t believe it until recently, and now they’re having their eyes opened, and want to be better for the women in their lives…but legitimately don’t have a clue what they need to do.
They don’t know how to not treat a woman like an object. The Billy Bushes of the world are feeling truly lost.
And that’s scary to me as a woman, because that tells me that to achieve true equality between the sexes, the unlearning and relearning that men are going to have to do is so fundamental that just “discussion” and “dialogue” isn’t going to do it – there’s going to need to be a seismic shift in how both women and men look at themselves, each other, and the world.
So What Now?
I’m not exactly sure. I do think that this is going to be big and messy and hard to deal with for a whole lot of people. I don’t think that any of us should assume that we’ll be exempt from asking tough question about ourselves and people around us. I thought hard over whether I thought that Al Franken should resign after the recent allegations of sexual assault made against him, because I like Al Franken’s voice in the Senate about issues that are important to me. It was uncomfortable, taking a look at myself and my thoughts and what I’d being saying with my stance. I decided that Al Franken and Billy Bush are guys that are pretty much in the same boat in that they “get it” for the most part but still have some work to do, and that cleared things up for me.
The All Frankens and the Billy Bushes of the world don’t get a free pass for creating an environment that makes women feel unsafe, even if harm wasn’t intended. It’s not the fault of the victims of sexual violation that society’s failure to work out its issues with women and power on a collective level has caused some confusion in even men that appear to “get it” about women and respect and power . Even if they didn’t understand the effect of their actions, those actions have real consequences for the victims, and they need to have real consequences for the perpetrators. In All Franken’s case, it’s too bad for for America because it means the loss of such a valuable voice in the Senate, and it’s okay for Americans to feel conflicted about that, I think. As one of my new favourite bloggers, The Rude Pundit, said on Twitter:
“It is possible to be both glad and angry that Franken is resigning. It’s just a sad fucking situation all around.”
But you can’t have it both ways, America. You can’t do this dance that I’m hearing some Democrats (badly) doing of: “Yes, we believe women, but we don’t want to be too hard on these guys either, because hey, we like them a lot…”
Meet Me at Camera Three, Democrats
Keep your own house clean, because you know…you know…that there are at least two Republicans who are more than well-meaning but a bit confused when it comes to this stuff. Your President, who has allegations of sexual assault against him, has thrown his support behind Roy Moore, a man running for Senate who has allegations of sexual misconduct with teenagers when he was in his 30s against him. Not only that, he’s got a history of racism, homophobia, and anti-Islam remarks.
I said a while ago that I was going to be careful about what I write about Trump in this space. I’ve considered lately what I want to say. I think that I need to say…this…because it I think it’s one of the things that recent events have dictated *does* need to happen next:
I think that Democrats need to call loudly for Trump’s resignation, every damn day.
I mean, I can write here every day that Trump should resign, but I’m Canadian – I don’t count. *You* need to be pointing out the hypocrisy of the GOP, and what it says about Alabama, the GOP, and your President that apparently electing a Senator who’s been accused of sexual misconduct with a child is preferable to electing another Democrat.
I’ve had three incidents since Trump took office where watching the news literally made me feel physically ill – two of them have been in the last two weeks, listening to the people of Alabama talk about why the allegations against Roy Moore don’t matter and why they’ll vote for him despite them, including pastors of churches. It’s simply gross that President Trump is in support of him as a Senate candidate – it boggles my mind.
Keep your house clean, and keep showing women who have experienced sexual violation that you are the party that will believe them and fight for them – insist that perpetrators in the GOP resign.
Even the President.
Every. Damn. Day.