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May 19, 2011

A Letter to Men: A Lesson from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dominique Strauss-Kahn

IStock_00harrassmentall In an article in The Huffington Post, regarding Arnold Schwarzenegger’s illicit affair with his housekeeper, http://tinyurl.com/3ktnywq, Gov. Schwarzenegger is quoted as saying, "After leaving the governor's office I told my wife about this event, which occurred over a decade ago.  I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family.  There are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused.  I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family.  I am truly sorry.“

Really?  Here’s my personal take on what Arnold might have said if he were truly being honest: “I waited until after I had left the governor’s office to tell my wife about this event…because then her reaction could no longer jeopardize my position as governor.  And because my housekeeper could tell the world at any time that I fathered her son, I thought it would be in my personal best interest to tell the story first. “ 

Arnold is apologizing because he got caught.  He’s apologizing, like so many politicians before him, because to not do so would be a huge political blunder. And please tell me that the power differential between the Governor of California and his housekeeper is not lost on the world.

This latest report comes after years of reports about Arnold’s grabbing women’s breasts, putting his hand up their skirts, groping them at his will and countless other abusive behaviors.  This comes after years of our culture accepting his outlandish minimization of these incidents by stating that sometimes he “behaves badly.”  It follows decades of those in the movie industry (producers, actors, directors etc.,), movie audiences, and voters bowing down to his enormous sense of entitlement due to his fame. 

Another powerful man is also in the news for his behavior with women.  Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, was charged with sexual assault and attempted rape at the Sofitel Hotel in Manhattan.  He is claiming that he and the maid had sex, but that it was consensual.

This event, of course, is not the first or only accusation against him.  I hope by now, we’re all aware that seldom, in these kinds of cases, is there only one event or even two or three, for that matter.  The International Business Times reported that, after news broke over the weekend that Strauss-Kahn had been charged with sexual assault, France’s President Sarkozy rolled his eyes.
"We did warn him," Sarkozy told his aides, according to The Times.
Read more: http://tinyurl.com/3wsrysf
What is up with all these powerful men who think women are a piece of meat to do with as they like?  What is up with our world -- that we give these men and thousands like them, the go ahead to be cold, heartless, entitled predators?  When will we as a nation stand up to protect the females in our world—the first time something happens rather then the 2nd, 3rd or 4th time?  When will we stop allowing, encouraging and condoning the sexual abuse, exploitation and rapes of our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends by these kinds of men?  When will we act as though we believe a life and soul is of greater importance than fame, popularity, money and influence? 

Men need to take a stand against the poor treatment of women even if that treatment is coming from their best friend, father, sports idol or son.  Until men start holding one another accountable for their abusive behaviors of women, these men will continue to do it.  Men’s silence, fist bumping and understanding nods in the face of the egregious treatment of women, is killing our culture.  Men’s complacency is harming all the mothers, wives and daughters of our world -- your wives, your daughters and your legacy. 

I believe there are many amazing men in our world who wouldn’t dream of harming a female in any way and I thank God that we have you in our world.  And it’s not enough that you don’t harm women.  Our world, our culture and our children need men and women to stand together to stop men’s abuse, degradation, humiliation and sexual violence against women.

Challenge: Look at all the ways you are complicit in sexual crimes against women.  Talk with your daughters about how men should be treating them.  Talk with your sons about what it truly means to be a man versus a Neanderthal, brutal “player.”  Demand your sons respect women and don’t give them mixed messages.  


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Ditto to J.A. Lockett's recommendation of "Cheating on the Sisterhood" - does an excellent job at explaining just how the love game has changed for women.

I do not understand HOW this relationship went on for so many years and the mother accepting it as normal, because of what, MONEY-- She still would have gotten money if they had spilled the beans a lot earlier, Why did she not talk? For what reason was she silent for so long? The child's sake, I do not think so , for her sake, or for the amount of money she gained by not talking. Arnold Schwarzenegger is not a good role model, husband, father or friend. What is the woman, is SHE a good role model- wife, mother or friend, What part does she have in this, What is her responsibility in this affair. Did she NOT have a mouth, could she not talk. Was she blinded by MONEY at the expense of her child. Is she a child herself or an adult? Was she threatened if she told anyone? This story is NOT one sided and as stupid and indecent as he is, or as a lot of men are, WOMEN NEED to take some responsibility for their allowing men to do as they please. MOST men will back off if told to do so, if they do NOT then it goes to harassment which is a whole different game,it is not an affair. Women NEED to take action as well \.

Dear Arlene: You are absolutely correct. This point was in fact my next letter--to women:-)
Thanks for the important view point!

I couldn't agree more with you on this. Our culture gets outraged by the burquas women wear in Afghanistan and the way many women in the Middle East aren't allowed out without a man. Our disrespect of women is subtler but just as bad. It's not just the sexual harassment/abuse. It's also assuming we are too stupid to make our own medical decisions. Part of the problem is that women don't stand together. Maria may not have known about the housekeeper but she did know about the women in Hollywood. We need to stop looking at each other as competition and stand up with each other in the face of oppression.

While I certainly don't condone Arnold's behavior in this most recent, that one doesn't sound one-sided, so there is blame to share.

Straus-Kahn...what else is there to say. Let's keep him in Riker's until he goes to trial.

Dear Steve: Regarding the affair, absolutely. Regarding his sexual assaults of women--that's all on Arnold and the crazy messages our culture gives to men and women about what's okay and not okay.
Thanks for checking in-Lisa

The two cases are very different, one allegedly criminal, one politically and personally selfish and uncivil. In the case of Arnold, did the mother of his stepchild discourage his behavior over the 20 year period? Refer to "Cheating on the Sisterhood" by Lauren Rosewarne, or "Dark Desires and The Others" by Luisa Valenzuela? Women have come a long way, but culturally in the US, most commercials/ads on men's network encourages a path of disrespect for women to satisfy sexual desire. Even the good men are bombarded with messages that sex at any cost is either funny or expected.

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