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Updated: Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein: Are They Really So Different?

On October 5, 2017, The New York Times published an in-depth investigation of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, with a focus on his alleged sexual harassment of young women over a period of many years, and "at least" eight settlements reached, presumably at the cost of the victims' silence.

The article features an interview with superstar Ashley Judd, who says he tricked her into a breakfast meeting that quickly turned into a protracted verbal tussle. How about a massage? Would she watch him take a shower?

“I said no, a lot of ways, a lot of times, and he always came back at me with some new ask," said Judd of the encounter.

Weinstein promptly fired back, positioning himself as essentially a good guy who has been stabbed in the back by a troubled friend. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he deftly:

  • Calls her crazy: Brings up Judd's history of prior sexual abuse and "brutal" life story -- i.e., she's confusing a friend with an enemy.
  • Calls her a liar: Makes the claim that her earlier account, to Variety, is different from the one she told the Times -- i.e., that the problem is the discrepancy, not the fact that Judd had already mentioned her encounter with him before the Times story appeared. 
  • Ignores the power difference between them: Notes that she went on to appear in two of his movies and that "I even set her up on a date with my brother Bob" -- ignoring the obvious fact that people trying to survive and succeed will put up with a lot of stuff from people who are otherwise odious to them.

In her analysis of the story for The Daily Beast, Amy Zimmerman picks up on the choking level of outrage among women that the Times' story invokes.
"Even for women completely outside of Weinstein’s orbit, the Times story is sure to strike a chord, evoking the sort of mental calculus we revert to when engaging with a potential predator who is also a professional superior."
Certainly the story resonates with me. I can still feel the rage rising up in my throat as I recall a superior who instructed me to lay out a report "as though it were a Playboy," holding up two plain white pieces of paper side by side.

After the Times article appeared, Weinstein issued an apology which reads, in part:
"I came of age in the '60s and '70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then. I have since learned it's not an excuse, in the office — or out of it. To anyone."
Reading between the lines I take Weinstein's statement to mean that 50 years ago, it was normal to harass the women who worked for you, but now he "gets" that women are actual people who feel actual pain.

It's not clear how real his remorseful words are though. Weinstein's done everything he can to shut everybody up about his predatory behavior until now; he tried to discredit Ashley Judd; he is threatening to sue The New York Times; and as for those settlements, “my motto is to keep the peace.”

It appears to have been a pattern that Weinstein liked to noodge, and noodge, and noodge until his victims finally gave in to him. As the Times reports:
"a female assistant says Mr. Weinstein badgered her into giving him a massage while he was naked, leaving her 'crying and very distraught,' wrote a colleague, Lauren O’Connor, in a searing memo asserting sexual harassment and other misconduct by their boss."
Other women interviewed by the newspaper said he had a habit of "repeatedly asking for a massage or initiating one himself" (emphasis added) in addition to "appearing nearly or fully naked in front of them, requiring them to be present while he bathed."

The harassment was interwoven with work, such that Weinstein "could switch course quickly — meetings and clipboards one moment, intimate comments the next."

They tried to protect each other; "one woman advised a peer to wear a parka when summoned for duty as a layer of protection against unwelcome advances."

It also appears that Weinstein's behavior may not have been confined to employees, actual or potential. In an interview with The Huffington Post, television reporter Lauren Sivan claimed Weinstein trapped her in a restaurant hallway and masturbated in front of her until he ejaculated.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, now-President Trump was falsely accused of raping a then 13-year-old girl. Nevertheless, numerous allegations have been recorded of the now-President treating women like sexual objects.

Another New York Times article, published on May 14, 2016 (coauthored by Michael Barbaro and Megan Twohey; the latter co-wrote the article about Weinstein) create an impression of a man who used his power and money to sexually exploit women:
"Unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form, a shrewd reliance on ambitious women, and unsettling workplace his offices at Trump Tower, at his homes, at construction sites and backstage at beauty pageants....fleeting, unimportant moments to him, but they left lasting impressions on the women who experienced them."
Later, Trump, dogged by a taped encounter where he bragged that he was so famous he could "grab 'em by the pussy," and known for his euphemistically titled "modeling parties," was asked about how women should handle sexual harassment. He provided a relatively realistic response:
“If there’s not a better alternative, then you stay. But it could be there’s a better alternative where you’re taken care of better.”
Sometimes people ask me how, as a feminist, I could support President Trump, given all that's been said about him.

[Author's Note: The section below has been updated to reflect online comments, such as this Tweet by John Podhoretz, and news stories from October 9-10, 2017, such as this Newsweek story, "The Men of Hollywood Don't Own Women: Rose McGowan Becomes Voice Of Weinstein Resistance." See also "Why The Harvey Weinstein Sexual-Harassment Allegations Didn't Come Out Until Now."]

Well, for one thing, our President is far from a sexual predator. I do believe he has a history of objectifying women, and I do believe he has treated some women with disrespect, even rage, at times.

But I believe that President Trump is overall a great patriot, an effective leader, and a good individual. All individuals are flawed.

Maybe Harvey Weinstein would say the same thing about himself. But from the raft of stories detailing his abusive behaviors, I don't think a comparable case can be made.

He donated lots of money to Democrats. It is good to hear that Democrats are walking away from this clearly very sick individual.


Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. All rights reserved. Photo by James DeMers via Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons).

The 10 Elements of Free Speech on Campus

The purpose of this post is to highlight the main points of the University of Chicago’s 2012 “Statement Of Principles On Free Inquiry,” later published as its “Statement Of Principles On Free Expression.”
  1. Vision: The purpose of a university is “free and open inquiry in all matters.”
  2. Mission: Therefore “it guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn.”
  3. Limits: This is not an “absolute” right.
  4. Common sense: Exceptions may include “expression, for example, that violates the law, is threatening, harassing, or defamatory, or invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests.”
  5. Operations: “Moreover, the University may reasonably regulate the time, place and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of the University.”
  6. No Paternalism: Despite the need for some restrictions, “the University is committed to the principle that it may not restrict debate or deliberation because the ideas put forth are thought to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the members of the University community to make those judgments for themselves.”
  7. No Peer Pressure: Commitment by the university means that “members of the University community must also act in conformity with this principle. Although faculty, students and staff are free to criticize, contest and condemn the views expressed on campus, they may not obstruct, disrupt, or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe.”
  8. Brainpower Is Your Power: “The proper response to ideas they find offensive, unwarranted and dangerous is not interference, obstruction, or suppression. It is, instead, to engage in robust counter-speech that challenges the merits of those ideas and exposes them for what they are.”
  9. Protect Unpopular Ideas: “To this end, the University has a solemn responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.
  10. Brand Essence: “As Robert M. Hutchins observed, without a vibrant commitment to free and open inquiry, a university ceases to be a university. Commitment to this principle lies at the very core of the University’s greatness.”

Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author’s own. Photo of the University of Maryland’s McKeldin Library by rainesUMD via Pixabay (Creative Commons):

Don't Be A Personal Branding Jerk

I'm sitting here working on my blog and a lady passes by who is definitely famous. 

She turns to look at me, as she sees me seeing her. That flicker of recognition is in my headalthough I don't know her name, I know that she is someone.

Lots of makeup there, hair done perfectly. But she doesn't look that good.

I used to live in New York, many years ago, and when I did, occasionally I would see celebrities on the street. 

Tony Randall, on the Upper West Side.

Ann Curry, on 23rd Street. (Our kids went to the same karate studio as hers.)

Jon Cryer, downtown.

They looked like regular people.

As a marketing person I had the opportunity to interview one of the leading lights of the industry.

Another plain Jane.

Paradoxically, people striving to be famous tend to preen over themselves, like cats licking their fur.

You know these types of people. They're very into personal branding. They take themselves super-seriously. 

The ambition they have is not normal self-empowerment, self-respect. It's more like they think about themselves in the purely objective form, pretty much all the time. Like products.

The further they run toward the spotlight, the more their humanity is lost.

What's the right way to present yourself in public? What's best?

As a celebrity, honestly, it's probably a good idea to spend that extra time styling yourself, on the assumption that people will see you.

As an also-ran, maybe don't get so overly obsessed with yourself. People don't care as much about your "look" as you think.

And the huge display of ego is definitely off-putting.


Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. All rights reserved. Zoolander movie poster via Wikipedia.

Remove Bias and Gain Insight Into "True Trump Supporters"

It is an unfortunate fact that news stories often seem written for the greatest number of clicks as opposed to the greatest amount of accuracy when it comes to conveying information.

In the past year, nowhere has this been more true than any analysis or coverage of President Trump, which is continuously written as a negative form of clickbait. One study posted in late October of last year, just before the election, found that an incredible 91% of candidate Trump's coverage on broadcast news was "hostile."

Day after day, night after night, the continuous drumbeat of negative coverage continues. It has become routine for me to watch the news while shielding my eyes and ears from the inevitable President-bashing that will take place.

And so I shouldn't have been surprised that someone recently claimed Trump supporters are anti-gay, because they resist "marriage equality." As proof they cited a recent survey by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal that singled out "True Trump Supporters," meaning that we're in favor of President Trump on his own merits, not just because we opposed Hillary Clinton as a candidate.

Now I am a sociologist by training but you don't have to be a a sociologist to point out the obvious: People are entitled to their personal beliefs, including the belief that marriage ought to be between a man and a woman. People can have those beliefs for any reason, whether based on religion or simply because they just feel like it. That's called living in a free country.

But the writers of the article about the survey, Dante Chinni and Sally Bronston, were biased in their presentation of its findings. Through them, NBC virtually assailed anyone who dared to have a dissenting personal opinion as somehow backward.
"The country’s movement toward accepting gay and lesbian marriage has been remarkable. In just seven years, Pew Research data shows the public opinion has gone from a plurality opposing the unions to a strong majority in support. Republicans have lagged behind the broader national trend and that’s even more evident among true Trump voters."
The fact of the matter is, opposing gay marriage personally (note: I favor gay marriage) does not mean that you oppose it civilly. Mature adults can tolerate that people have civil rights. To take it a step further they can also say, "I may disagree with gay marriage but I will not discriminate against a legally recognized married couple."

The survey did not ask whether Trump supporters distinguished between their personal views and their views on the civil rights of the gay and lesbian community to marry. So no conclusion can be drawn about that data, but you wouldn't get it from the superficial and biased presentation brought to us by NBC News.

In a similar vein, there is another question in the survey which talks about "diversity" and then throws in a word salad about “different lifestyles, gender roles, languages, cultures, and experiences," ultimately claiming they found that 56% of Trump supporters are "uneasy" about questions like this.

Of course, once again, the implication is that anyone who questions the general vague dogma of political correctness is a Neo-Nazi. This would somehow include me, even though my grandmother, may she rest in peace, was a survivor of Auschwitz.

The fact of the matter, however--and this is based on more than a year immersed in the pro-Trump movement--is that true Trump supporters oppose the ideology which says you cannot have gender altogether. 

We oppose the slippery slope toward radical "progressive" leftism, Antifa lunacy, transgender lifestyles foisted upon children, and most horrifying, the normalization of pedophilia as a legitimate alternative lifestyle. We oppose in the strongest terms the glorification of the "introduction" of minors to this lifestyle--a traumatic, soul-stealing crime, an an excuse for child molestation.

Trump supporters couldn't care less what consenting adults do in private, as long as they aren't hurting anyone. What we do care about is an Obama-fueled cultural revolution where Chris Cuomo chides parents for not wanting their little girls to share a public bathroom with transgender men.

Yes, of course, some people have strong religious beliefs and to the extent they cluster in the "True Trump supporters" camp their attitudes will differ.

But we Trump supporters think about the radical attack on gender norms from a much larger perspective. We see how ivory-tower campus extremists and other elite influencers and opinion-leaders glorify the rejection of religion as regressive and oppressive and the nuclear family as the same.

We oppose the notion that it's a good thing to break children away from their parents, from a home with a mom and a dad, so as to indoctrinate them into a free-floating, borderless world where globalism is the ideal and dictatorship by powerful and unseen elites is inevitable.

The truth of the matter is that the "True Trump Supporter" is not preoccupied with what people do in bed in private. But neither will we seek to destroy and overturn the basic values and traditions that are the bedrock of our nation.

Yes, we are nationalists. We believe that defending our Nation is good.

And we take care of our own people. Including the belief that you should live and let live, and let people have the values that they choose, as long as they're not hurting anybody else.

Don't believe people who make money from making up stories, whether for the sake of clicks or cheap political gain.

Insist on quality when it comes to survey research and its interpretation.


Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. All rights reserved. Photo by Geralt via Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons).

Will The Real Yom Kippur Please Stand Up

I began Yom Kippur by rushing home from work Friday night. Frankly I am sick of all this self-assessment as it coincides with the performance appraisal period at work. It's been weeks now of going over past accomplishments when I'd much rather focus on doing new stuff.

The fast started at 6:35 p.m. and I walked in at 6:31 exactly. (For more background on the significance of this number, check out my husband's posts on the subject, collected here, or mine, here, herehere and here.)

I was determined to honor the entire fast as opposed to previous years where I ended it early telling myself "we get the idea by now" but this manifested itself in a rather disgusting display of me eating chicken wings and hot dogs in front of the refrigerator for approximately three minutes straight followed by one more minute of gulping down drink to wash down the salty food.

Thankfully God had mercy on me and I made it through the fast just fine. Where I often have mild dizziness now, miraculously this was absent and I felt almost 100% normal throughout the day.

If you're not familiar with Yom Kippur you are not supposed to eat or drink anything for 25 hours while God judges you. This however did not stop Whole Foods from insensitively dreaming up a Yom Kippur cake. There is no need for me to beat up on them any further for this idiocy as all you have to do is take one look at it and you know they are incredibly tone-deaf when it comes to marketing this holiday.

In any case I spent the first part of the morning futzing on my computer. Keep in mind that I have a religious resolution not to do any work on Saturday and definitely not on Yom Kippur and this year the two coincided. At the same time I am an insanely computer addicted workaholic. So my method of handling the situation was to futz with new apps. 

Apparently this did not satisfy God as I clicked on a sophisticated phishing email, which is very not like me at all. I ended up spending a lot of time and aggravation Yom Kippur morning fixing the problem. 

Of course everyone had a field day telling me that I shouldn't be on the computer on Yom Kippur and see what the result is, ha ha ha. My assessment was that God was doing two things with this neat hat trick. Thing number one was to say, you wanted to be busy on the computer, now I'll keep you busy -- sort of teaching me a lesson that I needed to learn (you can spare one day a year to reflect, even if you don't want to). Thing number two was to prevent me from being tempted to do more things on the computer, because I absolutely and totally was not and limited myself to simply reading stuff online after that. 

We proceeded to synagogue which for me was a wholly disappointing and suffocating experience as usual. It's not the fault of the synagogue or the rabbi or any of that. The air is heavy with judging, and people being cliquey, and I honestly just can't deal with all of that. The sole exception is the ceremony where they bring the Torah around for us to kiss. That makes the whole journey worth it.

Onward to the afternoon and thankfully the air was beautiful, crisp and cool. We took a walk to the park. Along the way I expressed my aggravation and irritation and my husband asked me to think of five things I was grateful for. He's a pretty smart guy because this got me out of my self-pitying mood.

But not before I spent a few minutes crying and sniffling. Here again God stepped in...I was embarrassed at my sadness and probably awful-looking face and reached into my bag to get lipstick and concealer. The concealer went on fine but somehow I dropped or lost my favorite Revlon red. 

As I stood there with the cap of my favorite lipstick in hand, I thought to myself, how much more aggravating can this day get and wound up scouring the grass to find it. Of course this did not happen until I remembered one important thing: You're not supposed to put makeup on during Sabbath and particularly Yom Kippur when we are supposed to be presenting ourselves before God in a humbled state.

That lightbulb went off in my brain and I told my husband, who promptly asked me if I had looked 300 yards behind me (I hadn't) where the lipstick was sitting in plain sight.

Of course.

There were a few hours left in the fast and we went home. We spent the rest of the time hanging around, and then went over to our neighbors who are kind enough to invite us every year.

Their warmth and welcoming attitude are the highlight of Yom Kippur for me. They are part of an older generation of people who struggled a lot and who have no fancy airs about them. 

I sat in the back, chugging Coca-Cola and eating kugel (they are Sephardic and made a special effort to include one Ashkenazi item, and it was great). 

Life is not meant to be happy in the way most people think of happy. Strange for a marketer to say, but it's not about the joy of consuming.

Real happy comes from feeling a sense of meaning in your life. (Read Victor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning, which he wrote as a survivor of the Holocaust). I looked at these people sitting all around me and realized that I do not fit in with them, as I have never really fit in with anyone, and that is pretty much the way I like it.

Meaning for me comes from being an observer, and learning from the things I observe by writing them down for you.

Meaning comes from me learning to be there for my family instead of only buried in the books. 

I am Yom Kippured-out, performance appraisaled-out, and overall worn out from all the judging going on these past few weeks.

But even in my hung-over state I feel good for having extracted the central lessons that I need to keep on growing in my life.

Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions my own. All rights reserved. Photo by Daniel Reche via Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons).