Dear Men, We Are Not Standing By You Anymore

By EJ Dickson

Georgina Chapman has surprised us all.

On Tuesday night, Chapman, the Marchesa fashion designer and wife of disgraced Miramax exec Harvey Weinstein, issued a statement via People magazine saying she had left her husband following reports that he had sexually harassed and/or assaulted dozens of women.

“I have chosen to leave my husband,” Chapman’s statement read. “My heart breaks for all the women who have suffered tremendous pain because of these unforgivable actions.”

It was, in some respects, an unexpected statement, in part because Chapman’s business interests had been so inextricably tied to those of her powerful husband throughout their 10-year marriage. It has been widely reported that Weinstein pressured stars to wear Marchesa on the red carpet, prompting many to speculate that Chapman’s career was built on the back of the Miramax empire. Even following the scandal, many people, such as Jezebel writer Hazel Cills, surmised that Chapman would choose, as many disgraced celebrity spouses have, to Stand By Her Man. “Anonymous sources described Chapman as being ‘really mad’ — but not at Weinstein. Rather, she is reportedly concerned about the impact the scandal will have on Marchesa,” Cills wrote.

These speculations about Chapman read as tangential and petty trade gossip at best, and anti-feminist at worst. Never mind the fact that accusing a woman of owing her success to a man has long been a weapon in the misogynist arsenal; never mind the fact that most of us can’t even begin to imagine the level of humiliation and horror that must arise from having to protect your children amid this kind of scandal (Chapman and Weinstein have two). The fact of the matter is that Chapman has not only very publicly taken a stand against her husband; she has also, swiftly and in no uncertain terms, condemned his behavior — a statement that would have been unheard of not even a year ago.

Sure, Chapman may have been acting, at least in part, out of self-interest, rather than genuine disgust over Weinstein’s actions. It very well might have been more beneficial for her to divorce Weinstein, purely as a means of protecting her own business interests. (The Hollywood Reporter speculates that the scandal put Chapman’s fashion line Marchesa in “a tough spot.”)

But even so, Chapman’s announcement made one thing clear: We are entering a time when it is no longer easy for women (or at least a good portion of them) to turn a blind eye to the misdeeds of men. Ignorance, whether feigned or genuine, is no longer the only response to bad male behavior. Are the days of “boys will be boys” over? Not quite, but fewer women seem to be standing by entitled men who wreak havoc. And Hollywood’s and Chapman’s swift condemnation of Weinstein is certainly compelling evidence of that.

Are the days of ‘boys will be boys’ over? Not quite, but fewer women seem to be standing by entitled men who wreak havoc.

It wasn’t always like this. For years, women have been expected to maintain steadfast at their partners’ sides following allegations of their bad behavior, regardless of whether the meat of these allegations was merely scandalous or outright criminal. The perennial example of this is Hillary Clinton, whose decision to stand by her husband in the face of rape allegations and extramarital sex scandals earned her the ire of feminists and right-wingers alike; ultimately, it cost Bill nothing to have Hillary remain on his side, and it arguably cost her everything, including an election.

But as the news cycle churns on, we have seen Hillary’s example play out, again and again and again, an endless silent film loop of self-debasement masquerading as self-sacrifice: the spurned wife Mary Jo Buttafuoco standing by husband, Joey, at a press conference, her face permanently contorted by his teenage mistress’ bullet; Huma Abedin, elegant and imperturbable in pumps and a tailored pencil skirt, stepping out with her husband and their child days after he’d been caught sending lewd pictures to teenage girls in 2013; and, most recently, Camille Cosby, sitting by her husband’s side in court, her face fixed in a rictus of what is either permanent defiance or humiliation.

As the patron saint of stand by your man-ism Hillary Clinton once learned, these women were in impossible positions. If they chose to stay, they were accused of being doormats or complicit; if they left, they likely did so at the risk of their own livelihoods or, worse, the livelihood of their families.

In every possible respect, this is totally unfair; it is totally unfair that a Georgina Chapman or a Camille Cosby is judged according to how they respond to their partners’ actions, arguably even more so than their partners themselves. And yet, it is par for the course in a world that, as The Washington Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg put it, made “women, rather than men, responsible for male misbehavior.”

And then, something changed: Trump, arguably the first self-professed serial harasser to assume presidential office, was elected. As much of the country struggled to make sense of what had happened, new, uncomfortable details emerged, primarily that Trump had garnered more votes from white women than his opponent did. These women did not seem to care that their candidate had grabbed women “by the pussy.” They didn’t seem to care that he appeared to have a tenuous grasp of the human menstrual cycle. They were steadfast and unflinching in their support of him. They were standing by their man.

For another group of women, however, those who stood reeling as if punch-drunk in the aftermath of Trump’s election, one thing became clear: Stand by your man-ism does not work. On the streets and on social media, feminine composure has fallen by the wayside, in exchange for something much more potent and much less attractive: anger. And anger is what you are seeing in the wake of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, anger at wondering how this could possibly have happened for so long and anger at knowing, deep down in our hearts, that the fact that this went unnoticed for so long is no surprise at all.

At the end of the day, we don’t know whether Chapman’s decision to leave Weinstein was motivated by a calculating sense of self-preservation, or by genuine horror at his alleged actions. As is so often the case, the truth is probably somewhere in between. What we do know, however, is that many of us are tired of being held responsible for the abhorrent actions of the men in our lives. We are exhausted by the prospect of having to stand up on a pedestal and grant absolution to those who are too arrogant to even demand absolution to begin with, as Weinstein made it abundantly clear he was in his flippant apology to The New York Times, which weirdly name-dropped both Jay-Z and NRA president Wayne LaPierre.

We are done with stand by your man-ism. We have seen what the byproduct of this line of thinking has been, not just for individual male celebrities, but for the country in general. We will not stand by our men anymore. Instead, we will walk out, and then breathe a sigh of relief that, against all odds, they were actually called out for all of the harm they caused.

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