S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership. The following podcast contains explicit language.
S2: Hello and welcome to the waves for Thursday September 26. The strippers behaving badly Ed.. I’m Christina cutter Ritchie a staff writer at Slate and host of the Slate podcast outward.
S3: I’m Marsha Chatwin a professor of history at Georgetown University and I’m June Thomas the senior managing producer of Slate podcasts. Hi guys. Hello.
S4: So Nicole is out sick this week. We wish her a speedy recovery. Abetted by the intellectual bombs we’ll be offering up on this episode. We’re gonna start off today with Kamala Harris and her time at Howard University. There is a really good piece in The Post. Then we’ll discuss Malcolm Gladwell. Newly published book specifically his take on alcohol sexual assault and baroque Turner. And last but certainly not least hustlers the late breaking I want to say it’s a hit film of the summer even though it’s not technically summer anymore it’s got J Lo it’s got exotic dancers it’s a Robin Hood scheme against Wall Street creeps we’re going to talk about it all. I’m so excited for that one and June what’s our Slate Plus segment this week.
S5: Christina today on our Slate Plus segment we will be asking if it is sexist for a man to walk around naked in a home that he shares with others and those of you who are particularly sensitive. My guess that this has a slight peg to well our favorite Supreme Court justice. And news that is continually creeping out about his past.
S4: You’re going to want to hear that segment. If you’re not a Slate Plus member yet start your free two week trial by visiting Slate dot com slash the waves plus one order of business before we get started. Nicole and I as well as several other slate women will be discussing the 2020 election at an event at the Bell House in Brooklyn this November November 20th that’s 7 p.m.. Go to Slate dot com slash live for more details. We would love to see you there.
S6: All right our first topic today Robin Givhan published a piece in The Washington Post last week titled Kamala Harris grew up in a mostly white world. Then she went to a black university in a black city quite a long title. And it was a really good piece. It’s all about Harris’s identity and ambitions and how they were shaped in part at Howard University in the 80s.
S7: Marcia give us your thoughts. So this is an interesting piece to me because I don’t think I was the intended reader. There was a lot of instructing people who aren’t familiar with historically black colleges or historically black sororities or the culture of these institutions that are so important to African-American history as well as present day leadership grooming.
S8: So it was like this walk into what it means for Harris to be a woman who is biracial multiethnic who had spent some time in Canada in high school who grew up on the West Coast to come to college and really shaped not only her ambitions in public service but her identity and so I think the article was interesting because she’s a person who’s really hard to capture in a single narrative that I think is usually done in politics. She isn’t just the child of immigrants and she isn’t just this person who emerged in traditional settings to public service. And she as we’ve talked about in the show she is a step mom and she was buried a little bit later in life and her husband is white.
S7: So there’s all of this stuff going on around her. And I think that the coverage of her is interesting because other than that time that she owned Biden I guess paid in the conversation about busing. I don’t know if there was a coherent narrative about who she was. And so I think that this piece is an attempt to do that. And I know that there are a number of profiles of her that are trying to tell a single story. But I think I don’t think you can do that with anyone. But I don’t think you can do that with her. And so I’m always really interested to see the different lenses that are put on who she is and where she came from. And it reminds me a little bit of the early days of Barack Obama where people couldn’t quite place him and he had to write his own narrative and a lot of it was about he says you know I really grew up and became a man being a community organizer in Chicago and his spouse played a large part in his cell fashioning as an African-American. And so in the absence of those elements of her own personal biography it’s interesting to see how her campaign as they move forward how they try to tell the story of who she is.
S6: Yeah that’s a good point. And trying to think about some of these other presidential candidates out there. I mean no human being can be fully understood in a single narrative like no one’s a walking stereotype but a lot of the other candidates who you might try to write a biography about do seem to have a path that we more commonly think of as like a straight path to the presidency like a Joe Biden or like one of the Kennedys or something like that.
S8: Even Elizabeth Warren like I think she does that brilliantly. You know I’m I’m Betsey from Oklahoma who got a chance to become a school professor at Harvard right. But she she curates that very carefully yeah.
S6: And with Carmela I mean a lot of people don’t know what to think about her because we aren’t used to hearing you know this collection of different all different American narratives sort of in the same person. And so this piece was interesting to me because I really liked the narrow focus on this one time in her life and you know I know a little bit about Howard just because I’m an interested person and also I’ve lived in D.C. for 13 years. But the way the piece talked about the specific cultural context of the 1980s and what was going on then and you know apartheid in the Reagan administration and how students there were activating about it taught me a lot at the same time. I saw a little bit of contradiction in the piece in terms of the way it talked about Howard as a place that wasn’t for revolutionaries as Givhan puts it but as a place for people who wanted to sort of rise within systems of power. I mean that certainly squares with Harris’s trajectory and her entire career as a prosecutor which has become a little bit of a sticking point in her presidential campaign and part of that sort of complexity we’re talking about. But I don’t know. She she talks about at the time this was before the emergence of cancelled culture success within the system was still a laudable act of subversive ness whether as an investment banker a corporate lawyer or a district attorney. That’s a narrative that benefits Harris definitely. But I’m willing to bet that there was like an equally passionate cohort at Howard in the 80s who would say you know even back then that becoming a prosecutor and investment banker was selling out in that change within the system is not the way to make actual social change.
S7: I think there’s a straw person being constructed here of kids today don’t get it that making it look like this way. And I think that part of the challenge of writing about Howard at the center of her life is that historically black colleges like Howard I think there’s too reductionist views one that they were all about kind of assimilation aspiring to a kind of level of white validation.
S8: And it’s so conservative and the college presidents broadly were not very supportive of students in the civil rights movement in the 60s and so it’s this place that is supposed to represent the more conservative elements of black life. But I think a lot of people today are starting to re-evaluate how we define radicalism in that context. And I think the writer is not quite sure how to come out on this. But she’s trying to suggest that this environment that from the outside could be critiqued as really conservative was actually doing something else. And I’m sympathetic to that but I think that these types of constructions don’t allow Howard to have the complexity that Harris has in my story right.
S3: I mean I think that the Robin Givhan does kind of faint at that when she’s talking about how Howard was a place for first generation students for the black elite that it was for radicals but it was also for quite conservative student you know that it contained multitudes. And I would mention too that I lived in D.C. I write at this time I recognized like I used to go to the South African Embassy I you know I a very good friend of mine was a Harvard student at the time.
S5: I you know did take me back to being in D.C. in that 80s period that mid 80s period that I enjoyed being just kind of put in the time machine there. But one thing that was really interesting was the way that she provides the information but she doesn’t kind of draw the conclusion that maybe some of those who were maybe cynical draw which was. So she talks about both at the beginning and the end of how important Howard is to her is not only as something that formed her but also as something no that establishes her in the eyes of some people who might need reminding that she is a black American you know hey I went to Howard I went to a black college you know it’s a black college I think that’s the you know the let the last words of the piece. And so but which obviously is very important is something that a lot has been crucially foundational to a lot of people but there’s an element now of where she’s running for office she’s running for the highest office. And is she using this wish. Did she always planned this. No of course. I think it’s impossible for anyone to believe that young Camilla was so clear on her vision for how she would end up and that 30 years 30 35 years later however exactly many years it is she would be running for president so it would be good to have gone through a story about how is that so cynical.
S9: No but then.
S5: But but then also there is this element at the end so say it mentions that she is not an Alpha Kappa sir or again. We know that the influence of sororities and fraternities to black historically black colleges is very key. But she joined the sorority as a second semester senior. What is the purpose of joining a sorority or any organization. Let’s just saline there. Exactly. Exactly. And exactly so it’s not pure. Clearly it’s a very cynical view to say she was doing this for political gain but she was doing it for networking. I don’t think there’s any other interpretation of why you would join any student organization in this in the second as a second semester senior except for the network which is great. Robin Givhan talks about how the sorority the Howard background is know something that she both draws on to kind of establish your bona fides but also draws on as a really strong and important network. You know that of course you should just as you should always drawn every network that you have invested in but it did also strike me as Oh that’s an interesting aspect of of Harris that I that I. It just opens something up for me and I really enjoyed the piece.
S8: Just to clarify it’s actually not that unusual for African-Americans to join rarities in fraternities late because you can’t join as a freshman. And so you can’t you can’t apply for membership until your sophomore year because you have to have a college GPA. And then what happens and I think this happens probably at historically black colleges often is that everyone doesn’t get in. And so some years they don’t take new classes. And I think that’s what they send the story. Yeah. And junior year they did junior year. No one no one was allowed to but all of this is to say that I think the things that you were pointing to in terms of the strategic nature and her thinking about how you know like about climbing the ranks you know in the context of the late 80s this is the type of choice that a lot of people made where I go to Howard and then I’m kind of plugged into everyone and I think you’re absolutely right. If we think about politically who she was looking up to in that time in terms of running for office they talk about Jesse Jackson’s runs for office. You know the only other people she probably had is a reference point maybe a Shirley Chisholm who was you know past her time but who was also in a sorority so I think that there is a playbook that a lot of African-American politicians of a certain generation think about and it’s kind of interesting it’s historically black college or the Ivy League. You don’t get as many people who do things like I’m going to stay at my state school so I can run for office. I think a lot of my white friends from college thought in those ways and so there’s just really interesting way but that network issue I think is so critical. And I actually wrote a piece for The Washington Post made by history blog last year about the importance of sororities in terms of political mobilization and I think in some ways that Spelman women are an incredible political bloc. STACEY ABRAMS went to Spelman. And you know you can see the excitement about it. I think that this article is helpful for people to understand the viability of black candidates if they don’t understand and recognize it because of these networks and I think it’s kind of interesting the hyper segregated nature of how a lot of people live these institutions that are so critical aren’t even visible or legible right. And so I think that this article is trying to walk people through this underlying question of like who does Harris think she is that she could make a bid for the White House and it’s like well actually she’s a really politically connected person who has all of these networks to draw from that may not look like anything from a larger view.
S10: But if you think about states like South Carolina where she spent a lot of time and a lot of sorority women turned out for her you start to see the ways that these political campaigns can be built.
S6: I think it’s also a really good and instructive piece in terms of just making the case for the value of being in a space like that like I was thinking of a recent story in D.C. about Howard students who were advocating against some of the white people who’ve moved into the neighborhood and now our walking their dogs through the yard which is like a really important gathering space on campus and they’re like you know this is supposed to be our space that’s like unmediated by the white gaze and wide expectations and now all these people are having their dogs poop on on the yard and a piece like this that as you said Marcia is sort of just like walking people through like why would someone choose to go to a place like this how does this actually empower people to become leaders and believe in their own capacity. I thought that was really important and it also made me think of the discourse around Pete booted George and his gay identity especially when the piece talked about you know some people are saying oh is Carmela black enough. Honestly I think a lot of those criticisms are coming from conservatives and are being made in bad faith and many of them are from Balts also right. Exactly. So that’s it’s it’s sort of like a false narrative that’s being advanced by these bots who are like well you know her dad’s from Jamaica. Does that even make her black and a lot of people are responding you know saying things like well racists don’t care where her father’s from Jamaica and her mom’s from India. You know they care that she’s black but this exploration of the fact that she decided to go to a place like Howard and you know I feel like her decision to go there and also the impact it had on her are equally important when you’re trying to think about how does this person’s identity impact their life. And that’s the same kind of conversation people are trying to have about people to judge where when you’re talking about identity and representation in someone’s politics it’s it’s not enough just to say you know well this person has any given identity. It’s it’s about you know how does that identity shape their world view and how does their identity shape the way the world responds to them. And so I think this piece does a really good job exploring the complexities of you know all the different ways that someone can interact with their own identity.
S4: Yeah. All right. I think that’s all the time we have for this. Listeners read the piece. If you read it we’d love to hear what you think. Email us at the waves at Slate dot com. All right. Malcolm Gladwell has a new book out talking to strangers. The gist of it is that the gears of human life are lubricated with trust that if we didn’t trust that strangers are being truthful to us that companies are dealing honestly with us we would never do anything. But Gladwell says we could stand to be a little more cautious in our interactions with other people. The chapter we’re talking about today Chapter 8 in the book is about alcohol and sexual assault.
S6: It takes as its case study Brock Turner’s sexual assault of Emily Doerr at Stanford University. Turner famously got just six months in jail for the assault. Emily DOE’s victim statement went viral on BuzzFeed. Actually now we know that her name is Chanel Miller she’s got a new memoir out this week. But the book refers to her as Emily doe. So the argument that he advances will not be uncommon or new to most of our listeners I think he spends a while on studies about how it’s really hard to tell if someone else is drunk how being drunk can make you into a totally different person by taking away your ability to consider future factors and consequences. He quotes a bit from former Slate writer Emily Yaphe who has written a lot about alcohol and sexual assault and who’s argued that young women and young men both should be taught to drink less by the end of the chapter. Gladwell is arguing that sexual assaults can be basically boiled down to a misunderstanding a misreading of signals often between two people too drunk to know what’s really going on and he he pretty much encloses the case of Chanel Miller’s assault in a black box and saying we can never really know what happened. They were both blacked out. Maybe Miller did want to hook up with Turner she just can remember feeling that way. Maybe Turner just misread her flirtations. You know that no one can really they can’t really remember what’s going on so we can’t really tell what went on. So the moral of the story for him is that alcohol just hopelessly confounds the possibility of adjudicating consent. You can probably tell what I thought of this. I was really mostly blown away that he spent the entire chapter giving credence to rapists who say that they truly believed that the women they assault wanted to have sex and he took Brock Turner at his word that he believed Miller experienced sexual pleasure and desire lying behind this dumpster partly or fully unconscious like being penetrated in such a manner that debris from the ground was found in her vagina. The premise that he takes as the foundation for his argument was objectionable to me but I’m curious to hear what you all thought about this chapter.
S7: What is going on with Malcolm Gladwell. Because this chapter and I also think about another chapter in the book that looks at Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno and the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State and the framing chapter that looks at Sandra Bland and I wonder what Malcolm Gladwell is thinking because each of the chapters of this book are about certain theories about about people being familiar to each other strangers to each other ideas of a truth and the illustrative examples. Have nothing to do I believe with the theories that he’s trying to advance about people’s vulnerability to either believe people or inability to connect. And so why in the world these choices are made. I have no idea. He’s being skewered pretty hard on this but I think that the way that he frames this issue of alcohol and sexual assault devoid of any other kind of structural issue about power about sexuality about group think about degradation it all of those things disappear in order for him to animate these theories. And so in many ways the chapters are reflective of a way of thinking that he thinks is all you need to solve or understand problems. It’s not just bad social pop social science it’s bad writing. I mean I’m a little surprised that no editor or maybe an editor did put a sticky note and say. Hey let’s think through these ideas and I think that what’s happening with him it’s that perfect nexus of incredible power and privilege and publishing because he does sell a lot of books.
S8: It’s a way of trying to reduce complex social and moral problems to a few studies. I read an article about this so therefore this is the issue but I don’t know why sexual abuse and sexual assault would be used as the examples. I feel like there are other things that could be used. People getting con people getting scammed pyramid schemes something else and so taken together the fact that he thinks that these are good examples of these theories I think demonstrates a culture that doesn’t take sexual assault and sexual abuse seriously that it can be so casually used in this way.
S6: It definitely seemed to me that he felt like well this this is just a simple problem that should be solved by now and almost doesn’t take into consideration the idea that sometimes people rape and they know they’re raping you know or that or like you said it seemed like he was very studiously avoiding the question of the of you know gender dynamics and power structures that encourage behavior or abet behavior or like refuse to punish behavior like this. June what do you think.
S5: Yeah. No I mean it’s funny when we were talking about this topic I was so discouraging it because I thought Oh Malcolm Gladwell you know it’s just something that. Right. Journalists especially are always a little bit. You know look at his stuff askew and ask us to talk about it. Yeah. But it was regular readers love his stuff and I read this and I was just honestly like just really disappointed. It’s it’s not very cogent it’s not very clear. The writing is very banal like there were even phrases like you know this is X on steroids. Like the the most basic blogger would have that cut out of there. It’s just so there’s. It just felt like there was nothing there except really misconstrued ideas. I’ve always had some sympathy for Emily Yoffe his pieces I do think it’s quite separate from the question of sexual assault but like yeah it probably would be a good idea if young people drank less. You know things when you’re drinking this much. I mean that goes into all the things that go into incredible detail about and there’s quite a lot of detail about how much people drink. And it is you know in these situations and it really is much too much I speak as somebody who enjoys a drink and has at times been way too drunk. But that’s not good. But then what is it even to do with this. Like I just could not follow a through line in this chapter you know which has whole sections of of like charts and it just didn’t hold together for me on any level whatsoever.
S4: Yeah it’s interesting to me and perhaps this is true throughout his writing but it almost seems like he starts with an argument and then finds studies to back up an argument he’s already made for himself. And but you know I think part of the reason why he’s so popular is because he brings studies into his writing. And so people feel like oh wow like this you’re right. All these different bits of information that we have really do add up to something bigger. But he leaves out a lot of really helpful information like you know with a quick well search I found that. You know even though it behooves a sexual assailant to say oh I was drunk at the time. Only 60 to 65 percent of admitted sexual assailants say they were drinking at the time of their assault.
S6: And yet Malcolm Gladwell says the issue was not about how men behave toward women when they’re sober it’s how they behave toward women when they’re drunk. Well actually there’s also a problem with how men behave toward women when they’re sober. And there’s also a study I found. Again quick google that tracked more than 700 men through college found that among men who reported committing fewer assaults over time and men who reported committing more sexual assaults over time each group drank less as time went on because they drank a lot their freshman year and not as much their senior year probably because they were sick of vomiting all the time. But what was correlated with their change in sexual assault behavior was their attitudes towards women and the people who reported assaulting or having more you know forced sexual encounters or whatever coercive sexual encounters over time were found that their you know their interactions with their peers in terms of feeling hostile toward women grew over time like these. It’s a very confounding problem. Alcohol and sexual assault are problems that are not easy to solve. Clearly we have not solved them. But to boil it down to just well we can never know what goes on between two people who were so drunk especially in a case like Brock Turner’s where there were actually witnesses to him you know humping this unconscious woman Chanel Miller on the ground like it’s it it really boggles my mind that he chose that. And I have to believe that maybe the reason why he chose that and the case of Sandra Bland was that he just wanted to feel like relevant and have people argue over it because I wouldn’t be talking about this if he had used you know pyramid scheme as an example or something.
S8: The fact that like you said this case is actually unusual in that there were witnesses and that there was actually bystander intervention. So that alone really puts this case in a very different place and that there was actual prosecution. So everything about this is an outlier to use language. And he uses it to enter into a conversation about alcohol.
S11: That is not just kind of incongruent. But I think there is something about this type of allegedly detached writing that says Hey folks I’m just giving you the studies and the facts.
S7: I’m not being a misogynist or I’m not denying rape culture I’m just giving you the stuff that you need that is at best irresponsible and at worst is disingenuous because it is pretending not to fuel the monster that creates the conditions in which he’s talking about. And so I think that there is a way that sometimes high profile writers they don’t want to do a full right turn right. They don’t want to become you know these ideologues or heroes of the right.
S8: But I think that we live in an era in which people are nodding to a series of really noxious ideas and then playing innocent that they’re doing this. They’re doing this for our own good. I’m just a heterodox thinker. I’m just yes I’m just trying to help us rethink and I and I guess fine if you want to do it with this case. But again I refer you back to the child sexual abuse case at Penn State which again is unusual that involves a witness. It involves adults actually corroborating the stories of children it involves all of this cover up and it actually involved to some degree some accountability which makes it an outlier again.
S11: But you know this is like Oh did he. Did he workshop any of these chapters. Does he have any friends. It makes me wonder what world he lives in in which there wasn’t someone to help shape this in a different direction.
S6: It also strikes me that it seems like often the same people who are saying you know so many sexual assaults are just a big misunderstanding people misreading each other’s signals also are often the ones that scoff at calls for affirmative consent as sort of the baseline. So like if if sex really is this sort of blurry zone where everyone’s misreading each other and and everyone has good faith intentions going in then why not call for like a really firm. Yes let’s have everyone say yes to sex before they have sex. I mean I know you just said you have a lot of sympathy for Emily Yoffie but I will say that this is one of the things that bugs me most about her arguments. And you know I would say Gladwell is argument to where he’s like starts the chapter off saying with these this pole where like no one could agree on what exactly sexual assault was or under what circumstances people have consented to sexual assault. Like there’s kind of a solution to that which is saying like let’s have everyone say yes to sex before having sex like it’s not that it’s a simple solution by any means and like how do you promote that sort of culture. But above that like there actually is a way to clarify some of these quote unquote misunderstandings that seem to be happening.
S7: You know that doesn’t appear in it’s talking is a radical idea. Yeah I mean it really is talking is a radical idea.
S10: And I think that there is a way that some of the issues around alcohol he doesn’t address the fact that the social lubrication of alcohol the anxieties that alcohol is supposed to reduce the reasons why people drink before they feel like they have the confidence to approach a person for a sexual encounter. All of that stuff is actually tied into this drinking culture. But there’s no place for that. There’s a lot of place for the misread motivations of sexual assault but not the kind of deep both emotional and social reasons why people are so dependent on alcohol.
S4: Yeah I know. All right. I think that’s a good place to leave it listeners. Are you Malcolm Gladwell fan. Have you read this book. Drop us a note at the waves at Slate dot com. We’d love to hear what you think.
S12: But hook. And good luck. Yeah. Me Up or down with any here you can do the carousel but you hit hustlers is a new film starring Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez.
S4: It’s based on a 2015 New York magazine story. The crowds are loving it. It hit number two at the box office in its first weekend. Jim tell us about it.
S13: So yes you say it stars Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez. It is based on a nonfiction piece it’s based on a New York magazine article by Jessica Pressler called the hustlers at scores. And as Rachel Hampton wrote in Slate it’s largely true. I mean as almost always with feature films there is a little bit of stuff that was invented but it’s mostly about the relationships in this movie which tells a story of these dancers strippers. During her time in the club that we mostly where most of the action happens Constance woos a new arrival she’s not doing too well. And then she sees Ramona. Ramona walks in the room she struts into the room. She takes the stage. She does a dance. Ramona is played by Jennifer Lopez and it is revelatory. It’s an amazing performance. It is full on charisma in all its glory. We the viewers are entranced the men in the club are in trance Constance Wu is entranced and she succeeds without actually much effort in having Ramona become her mentor her friend her so teacher in how to be a better dancer and how to kind of get more money because before she hooks up with Ramona she’s kind of going through all of this stuff and just not even making bank.
S5: And then the 2008 financial crisis kind of causes a lot of disruption in the. In this business Constance Wu’s character destiny is by that time I think actually left the business because she gets pregnant she tries to say go straight because this isn’t presented as something that is illegal which certainly isn’t. But you know you can see that people are trying to you know it’s not necessarily where they want to work forever.
S13: There are degrading aspects of it for sure. But at some point she’s you know she can’t she can’t make it. She doesn’t really have enough experience to get a regular job having essentially worked in clubs long term. That’s really her work experience. And so after her failed attempt to kind of leave the club world she reconnects with Ramona. But by now the clubs have really there’s no money in the clubs Russian women have come in and they’ll do blowjobs for 300 dollars. You just can’t make money anymore. So they turn to crime and they instead of just kind of you know working the clubs you know using their womanly wiles to use the terrible phrase they actually just start to target men. Ramona and destiny and then two of their friends Constance was Asian. Jennifer Lopez is Latina with along with fellow dancers one of whom is black one of whom is a blonde white woman. They sort of tell men that their sisters and sisters.
S14: Yes. Say the different models. Sisters. Two sisters.
S3: They take them off first to the club and then later when the scheme kind of starts to go wrong two hotel rooms and other places and they drug them and get them to sign credit card slips for like thousands of dollars. And they really are kind of stealing from men at that point kind of.
S9: They definitely are rigging yes gaming where they’re just drugging and stealing from men. Is that a crime.
S4: Well so that gets to the most interesting question that I have for you guys and that I’m still grappling with myself is I mean they’re doing something objectively wrong and kind of gross.
S6: And so I I found myself you know like I think much of the audience and certainly this is what the film wants you to do is just rooting for them all the way and feeling absolutely no no qualms about what they’re doing because these men are incredibly rich. They do it like a pretty bang up job justifying it in the film where they’re like they’re so rich they did steal this money from people. In fact I think we have a clip where Ramona is sort of explaining to destiny why they should feel okay about doing what they’re doing. We gotta start thinking like the Wall Street guys. You see what we did to this country. They stole from everybody. Hardworking people lost everything. And not one of these douchebags went to jail.
S15: Not one. Is that fair. I think about when they come into the club that’s stolen money. That’s what’s paying for their blow jobs. The. Firefighters retirement fund.
S4: So this is kind of a revenge fantasy on multiple levels on the class level and also on the gender. Well like they’re getting men drunk and high against like without their consent in order to take advantage of them. And when there was a point in the film where they’re like you know this man is kind of almost dying because they think he might be dead or passed out because they they might have drugged him a little too much and they’re sort of like slapping his face to wake him up. And I was going through my head like Oh my God what would happen if if he did die and the cops would come and I was like they would just say oh no he wanted to take the drugs. This is what he was doing like you know what. He came to the strip club. Like what man doesn’t want to come to the strip club with all these women like. Which is kind of what people say after they sexually assault women like to go back to our previous segment.
S6: It it felt like a very strong parallel between those two scenarios. Which is why I feel like there wasn’t a lot of moral complexity to the film which is one of it sort of bugged me a little bit until you know the end. It came in a little bit we’re like oh here’s a guy who couldn’t pay his mortgage who had a kid with autism who was a single dad and did it up and like then it’s like oh yeah they’re doing something actually wrong. Did you guys feel that way.
S16: Yeah I actually enjoyed the film but I think the trope of women behaving badly as revenge fantasy is a common thing that does this weird thing in film and in television that it excuses abuse more it contextualize is abuse to the point where you no longer see it as abuse. Right. It’s played for laughs or it’s played for excitement. And I think that is generally a problem in popular culture right. When it’s funny when a woman hits a man or murders her husband with that being said I think what I did like about this movie is that it was a love story between friends.
S8: And I think the complexity didn’t come in how the crime was committed. The complexity came through the relationships. And I think this is why the movie is getting such good reviews because I think it was it would be really interesting for a movie like this to default to this idea that women don’t want to be bad and they really struggle with it and they didn’t for a large portion of the film. I think that the kind of populist class politics of the economic crash of 2008 was done really well. But at the end of the day the love story between Ramona and destiny I found really beautiful because it helps you understand why a friendship that can be a little exploitative can also be really loving can also be a little abusive and coercive and also really dependent in a way that didn’t render either of the characters intolerable but they were just people who are in this dynamic because of their vulnerability and they refused to succumb to it. There’s a way that this movie is flashy with the fashion and the sexiness of the dancing but it didn’t feel excessive. The characters didn’t overact their positions and I think they used Lazo and Cardi B sparingly in the best possible way and they allowed these actresses to really kind of act through the film. And so I think this is the best Jennifer Lopez movie since like Selena. You know she’s usually not that strong in film to me. And I think she did a really good job again modulating the tone of the character so no one was a caricature but everyone was doing these outrageous things.
S6: I think it is very interesting that the very different responses people can have to this where I know people were sort of dunking on Richard Brody’s review in The New Yorker because he was saying the film felt incomplete without a little more perspective from or consideration of the men who are paying these women you know sometimes willingly sometimes not. But I kind of thought he had a point.
S4: It’s like it because it’s you know it’s it was very interesting to me to think about the fact that these men were getting off in part on giving away their money and yet and for a lot of them I don’t think it even was about sex.
S6: It’s about you know not just power but also the fact that they have this money and love to spend it. And and to love to see women being grateful for it. And that’s part of how they managed this heist. I don’t necessarily think I would have wasted more of the film on the men but I don’t think that that was a that that was a like out of line critique and it kind of goes back to the sort of lack of moral complexity that I felt when I watched it where you know I think I I did feel like stuff bubbling up toward the end and I kind of wished I had been able to feel that the entire time and questioning my own impulse to root for them.
S13: Yeah I mean it’s funny because my first response when you mentioned you know we wanted more perspective as mine was Oh come on because I loved like that this was about the women there really are you know yes there are some men who we see across the movie but it’s about the women the men are minor characters at the same time what you said is persuasive.
S3: Yes. It was clearly about the power of just being able to waste your money to get women to do things they really didn’t want to do just by throwing down a note you know and they’re just sort of more caricatures whereas the women were extremely complex.
S6: Yeah. I also loved the way that that Destiny’s desire to be completely independent financially was playing against her desperate need for companionship and and female leadership and also like loving touch from her friends. I saw that movie with somebody who was like I didn’t get their relationship like what was it sexual. Because they are like extremely physical the first time they sort of meet jailer was like Come get in my fur and just sort of say I’m going to my I’m into my ferret sort of wraps up destiny I’m using their characters names and their actors names interchangeably but I like I kind of loved that and I loved that it showed the jealousy that destiny experienced when somebody new comes into the picture both because the new person is becoming the beneficiary of some of Ramona’s like financial and personal largesse but then also because there’s this stratification of respectability and criminality between people who see themselves as like business women and dancers and people who are like doing drugs and probably sex workers and the bold line that destiny drew between who she was and who this newcomer was was also like really interesting to me.
S5: We’ve all talked about the female relationships the friendships especially the one between Ramona and destiny that is Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu and it it is really it is the through line of the movie it is the thing that I connected to at the same time it was I didn’t quite believe it like as you say the moment that Ramona sees destiny for the first time not knowing anything about her she invites it to climb inside or fur she you know is passing her effectively and why you know I don’t we like we don’t do that we women you know we don’t necessarily just immediately connect why why would Ramona give destiny the benefit of her lessons you know to teach her how to be what we women but I think that the the the New York magazine piece to sort of explains this woman you know the the basis the women who form the basis for Ramona adds like having a little bit of a soft spot so to speak for women who are struggling new women at the club today.
S3: Yeah I mean it’s not that I can’t believe it as a as a concept I just wasn’t quite sold to me as in this movie as why there was this immediate connection I understood exactly why destiny would you know have stars in her eyes seeing Ramona because Ramona when she’s introduced it’s you know it’s like a bullfighters it’s like she’s so she’s got so much charisma she’s got so much power she controls you know this which is a slightly overweight theme of the movie she controls everyone but why would I just had just didn’t wasn’t sold to me why Ramona would connect with Destiny and also we should mention that there’s a kind of an unreliable narrator narrators slight thing going on because the piece that it’s based on is kind of present in the movie because at times especially destiny is talking to a reporter played by Julia Stiles and we really only get that version of events and destiny is always trying to say what did Ramona tell you. Because they have their friendship has broken apart and you know destiny is still longing for connection with Ramona but she doesn’t have it and she just kind of wants you.
S16: She wants to know what Ramona’s version of this was because of course she wants to know how important destiny was to her so we’d like it that’s that’s a present thing but I’m not sure it really doesn’t quite work but it’s interesting I think it is believable because the character RAMONA IS is rendered powerful because she gets people like the way that she can manipulate men one of the things that that was really interesting is the movie really goes into the ecosystem of the strip club audience and knowing how to assess like a man with money and no money and the Wall Street guys and where they are in the latter I thought that was actually really well done.
S8: But I think that there is an indication that because she’s been in this business so long she gets she can perceive things about people very quickly and I think she also feeds on the vulnerability of and so I think her being nice to a new girl is really in step with how she is able to maintain her power in that environment. I think the part of the film that impressed me was the fact that they were able to really recreate the 2000s in this way. That was was actually really well done. And there’s a scene where they’re in Ramona’s apartment and the Cardassian Come on. And I think that that was supposed to be kind of a nod not just to the the period of time but this different ways in which sexualization is for sale and the way that reality TV validates it through a lens of celebrity. And these women who are working at this club they don’t have access to it but it’s still about kind of money and sex and power together. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Cardassian Come on you know in the background in order to set the scene.
S4: Yeah. It also made me think of the business of exotic dancing as a job that requires like several different kinds of skills. I think it showed that really well the way Ramona is not only teaching Destiny’s specific moves that she can do on the pole but also has to teach her how to assess the clientele how to you know draw down the clock instead of work the clock not the clock. Yeah. Like it’s it was a really good workplace comedy or dramedy for me.
S6: And and it like it also illustrated the financial and personal precariousness of some of these works place environments such that you know you can have designer clothes and maybe an enormous apartment and like a fur. But then the second there’s a recession and you’re exotic dancers are like the first luxury good to to be taken off the budget. You know then you only have a GTD and no other work experience and where are you supposed to go. And it made the point that at that strip clubs are not the only place that happens I mean even when Ramona goes to work at Old Navy she is subjected to the same sort of like gendered discrimination or like being pulled in two different places as she was at the strip club. Totally listeners we’d love to know how you feel about women behaving badly revenge fantasies do you love them.
S4: Do you hate them. Do you feel complicated about them.
S17: E-mail us at the waves at Slate dot.com recommendation time. June. What have you brought.
S13: So I would like to recommend a novel by Sarah Schulman who I’ve been reading for decades and she is back with a novel that’s actually kind of reminded me of a very early works is called Mikey Terry.
S3: It’s about a lesbian detective which is kind of back to her kind of the first novel that she wrote girls visions and everything was was a very similar kind of book. And she wrote other similar types of books at the beginning of her career. But it’s also of course because she is a very smart writer who loves to provoke. It also is about New York in the age of Trump. The main character Maggie Terry is a cop who has not really clear why she’s no longer in the force although the fact that she’s an alcoholic and the drug addict is probably relevant but she’s newly sober and she’s trying to stay sober and what she’s going through as a newly sober person seeing things afresh. You know after just a very long time of just being intoxicated in one way or another. And it’s also about America in the Trump era and kind of recognizing just the extreme strangeness that we’re surrounded by. And it’s also just a really very fun read. She’s a great writer. So Mikey Terry by Sarah she’s so good. I love Sarah Schulman. Got gotta check that out. Marsha what do you have.
S7: I am recommending a memoir this week. Sister Helen Prejean who people know from the dead man walking movie and book has a new book called The river of fire. My spiritual journey that looks at her upbringing in Louisiana things that she learned unconsciously about race. Her experience as a novice as a young nun and then the turning point that really helped inspire her decision to serve the poor in New Orleans and to really think critically about the death penalty. I love this book because apart from the fact that it’s about this thing that very few people do which has become nun it is inspirational for the things that people really can do and thinking about race and justice and where we really spend our time trying to change the world. So if you enjoyed Dead Man Walking you will enjoy River fire.
S4: Another good one I’m recommending a television series. I think everyone should watch this season of succession. It’s season two of the HBO series if you haven’t seen it. It’s about a billionaire family that owns media and hospitality conglomerate.
S6: It’s you know a politically conservative news media situation. The family is I think loosely based on Rupert Murdoch’s the three children of this terrifying and terrorizing old patriarch are jostling to take over that business. It is wickedly funny morally bankrupt. The characters are very easy to love even easier to hate. The performances are spectacular. I can’t think of anyone on the show that doesn’t deserve an Emmy and this season in particular has some really good stories about female leadership and negotiating and a particularly good piece about the the one daughter in the family who finds her time to shine when the family’s cruise line gets embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal. There’s a lot of good like weird sexual undertones to the series too and it’s got a lot of good wardrobe and home decor porn and it just a good skewering of the 0.01 percent. I love it. You should watch it.
S3: It’s on HBO if you’d like succession and I don’t know why anybody wouldn’t because it is amazing. And also it must be said hilarious. There is a Slate recap series which funnily enough is under the slate money umbrella so it’s in the Slate Money feed but Slate Money succession and it’s led by Felix Salmon and Emily Peck of Slate Money. But then they have a rotating cast of guests I’ve been a guest and the most recent episode. The guests were Lydia Polgreen of Huff Post and her wife Candice fight and they were on because Candice had tweeted that succession is the query show on TV without ever having had a queer storyline. And I think that was exactly accurate and so interesting and that made for a great episode of the podcast as they have all been amazing.
S4: I never thought of that. Maybe that’s why I like it. It’s also one of the only shows that my parents and I both like so oh a diverse range of sensibilities can be satisfied by this show. All right. Now it’s time for our Slate Plus. Is it sexist. Segment in case you haven’t heard. Earlier this month the New York Times published a new allegation and new corroboration of an existing allegation that Brett Kavanaugh when he was in college took out his penis at parties and thrust it into women’s hands and faces sometimes with his friends help. So the New York Times tweeted about this with a tweet that they later apologized for. It started with the line having a penis thrust in your face at a drunken dorm party may seem like harmless fun. Enter Bethany Mandel an editor and podcasters for a conservative Web site. She retweeted that line with the comment I lived with all guys my senior year of college and this happened to me literally every day. One of my roommates walked around naked everyday. Kind of seems to a lot of people who read the tweet like she was implying that college guys do this all the time and you know why is Deborah Ramirez who was the woman who first raised this allegation against Cavanaugh complaining about this funny you know boys being boys moment. That is a hallmark of one’s college education. So our question today is Is it sexist when college guys or maybe just men in general walk around naked in homes that they share with other people. Wow.
S5: So here’s the thing.
S13: I think any kind of behavior if it is consensually agreed upon is fine like if you live in a setting where everyone agrees that it’s fine for one individual for every individual to walk around naked that there’s no there are no issues around that that that could potentially be fine.
S3: However I’m not sure that that is the situation that we’re actually talking about. What we’re really talking about is whether it is okay for it to be done without getting clear consent whether it’s okay to have your penis out without getting everyone’s okay to have your penis. That seems pretty uncontroversial to me that yes that is both severely problematic and sexist. Am I crazy.
S8: So this one’s a terrible story for a number of reasons but I think part of the larger point that needs to be made is that in a culture like the party culture that was being rendered in the reporting about these allegations there is a sense that if everyone’s drinking or if everyone is in a jovial mood that anything goes. And I think one of the problems with nudity as a strategy of celebration is that you really don’t know the many perspectives that unannounced nonconsensual nudity can mean to someone. And so I think that this is a good example of something we talked about a year ago during the cabinet nomination process in which these aggressive behaviors aren’t even recognized as such. They’re recognized as either a reflection of excitement a joke and the fact that the cabinet hearings were so upsetting to me and I think so many people I knew because there wasn’t even clarity that if he did grab a girl at a party with his friends and pin her down that that could be interpreted as anything other than fun. Know that there isn’t a question in the minds of some of why that’s a problem and I think that this type of behavior in college parties and in different settings is part of the problem where the lens isn’t sharp enough or isn’t in focus enough to recognize how terrifying that could be. And I think that for a lot of people who’ve experienced trauma throughout their life this is a situation where unlike the New York Times tweet is not harmless fun. But we don’t live in a cultural context that can even see it from that perspective and so Bethany Mandela’s contribution to the conversation is no big deal and it’s like great. You’ve lived in a world where a guy coming around the corner naked or showing up naked in your room doesn’t scare you. That makes me really happy for you. But unfortunately there’s so many of us who have no other way to interpret that other than scary. And I think that this is what is so infuriating for me for these types of conversations.
S6: Yeah I would lean toward sexist just because this to me is an example of how male nudity or nudity that involves penises is perceived at large as like funny and a joke. And female nudity or nudity that involves like a vagina is perceived as sexual sexy. I think that’s sexist. I’m not sure which I would rather switch to you know like if I want female nudity to be funny or if I want male nudity to be sexy or like maybe I just want it all to stop until like everyone says like yes I consent to this nudity taking place. The situation that she’s explaining it she didn’t explicitly say like. And it was funny and I consented to it but she also tagged her old roommate at the end and was like Hi remember this. And then he responded If I recall correctly our roommate walked around in his underwear. And I think if you asked him to cover up he would have if you did ask and he didn’t. Then I’m sorry I didn’t act to help fix it then I do believe Debra Ramirez and Christine Barzee for it. So I feel like there’s some conflicting perspectives on what exactly happened in their group house but I thought it was also telling that then when somebody was like Oh Bethany Mandel so do you believe this allegation then you know if it’s so common and she said no. So I think that to me this exemplified the two arguments that conservatives are trying to make at once. On the one hand that it’s so common that everyone’s doing it. It should be taken as a joke. Why are we acting like this is sexual assault or you know even sexually offensive. But also to it never happened if if he did this everyone would know about it how could you not remember doing that. And to Malcolm Gladwell s point I think it’s totally possible that cabinet doesn’t remember doing this like whether because he was so drunk or because it just wasn’t a big deal to him at the time. You know I’m not I’m not saying that it’s true and that he should be excused for it but like that’s a possibility to me. Is it sexist when people walk around the house naked in homes that they share with other people.
S17: I’m halfway there.
S13: Well yeah I mean it’s definitely gender yes. The responses that we have as men as women as non binary people whatever the responses that individuals have to male nudity without thought you know again we’re in a non non fully consensual setting is different from the responses to female nudity because of because of everything. Of course the the response is gendered. Yes. Yes of course it is.
S8: The last thing I want to say about this the great joy of boundary violations really upsets me. The reason why this is done at parties or done to your female roommates is because there is an understanding that boundaries being violated by the presentation of nudity. That’s the whole point. That’s the joke. That’s what makes it so awesome. And so I the the part of me that really just bristles at these types of stories is that it doesn’t just stop at the nudity right. If the biggest concern that I think people in these settings could have is seeing a guy naked occasionally we would live in a better world. But I think that this behavior is often undergirded by other really creepy and demeaning and scary behavior so that you don’t remember it. I remember every time someone walked in on me using the bathroom or beheaded embarrassing unintentional nudity situation I remember every single one of these things. But the idea of like maybe showing your penis to someone at a party is not memorable. I think speaks volumes about how set everything.
S9: I don’t know what else to say.
S6: Also there was you know the thrusting of it into people’s personal space. Hurry let’s calculate this one who’s ready to put a number on it.
S13: I’m gonna go with the number 10.
S9: Oh my God. June full 10 over here.
S17: Wow I I was not expecting that I’m going to say seven point five seven point five.
S9: What. You think that’s too low.
S4: Was hearing your response. All right. Our average is nine point one six rep attend extremely high extremely high. This may be really sexy. Maybe don’t do it. Yeah. Don’t do it. Everyone’s permission before you do. If you have to. Thank you listeners for listening to us explain this and debate it. And thank you for your Slate Plus membership. Please continue sending us your awesome. Is it sexist questions you can reach us at the waves at Slate dot com All right.
S2: That’s it for this episode. Thank you so much to Sara burning Ham who produced this episode and Cleo Levon and Rosemary Belson who provided production assistance for Marcia Chaplin and June Thomas. I’m Christina Carter chief. Thanks for listening.