The 'heightened sensitivity' blues

One woman's angertorial regarding progressive politics in SF

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OPINION 

"No one can deny that there is presently a particular sensitivity around domestic violence issues, and this may have been a contributing factor in their decision in this instance. I want to emphasize that I respect this heightened sensitivity and I will not criticize those allies of mine that have chosen to withdraw support."

- Oct. 17 press statement from District 5 candidate Julian Davis

This is not a Julian Davis hit piece. Just as much as any young progressive in this town, I know the guy. He's not a bad guy.

He can be a boor. But to be fair, he's only doing what he's been taught to do in this era of the San Francisco City Hall progressive scene.

Lemme take it back to my first assignment covering politics for the Bay Guardian (indulge me.) I was a culture intern.

I was assigned to the Democratic County Central Committee election-night party at the Great American Music Hall. I had the early shift, because those hours of the evening are boring enough to entrust to an intern with little background knowledge of the San Francisco political scene. While I was there, gamely interviewing the only person I recognized from the newspapers (a man who I've been told ad nauseum is a leader of the San Francisco progressive movement), a shrill -– to appropriate a term usually coded for women and gays –- elderly, straight male blogger approached us and inquired loudly if I was the politician's escort.

Now, I am pro-sex worker. But as a young woman who was performing an important task for the first time, when a dinosaur implies that you are at a stone-dull political happening to solicit sexual favors for money -– well I'm sorry, brothers and sisters, but I was there to interview people for a newspaper. I don't think this man's query, shouted as it was over the crowd, implied a high degree of sex-positivity.

The progressive leader seemed unfazed. Who knows, maybe it happens all the time. He briefly made introductions and ninja-moved into the social melée, leaving me with old blogger, who commenced interrogating me rudely, on camera, from a distance close enough that I could smell him. It wasn't a superlative scent.

Perhaps Kay Vasilyeva felt similarly six years ago when she went to Bill Barnes, who was serving as campaign manager for Chris Daly, the San Francisco progressive deity at whose campaign event she says the most egregious incident with Davis took place.

Davis groped her, she told Barnes. He told her she could report the incident to the police, and when questioned about the incident by Fog City Journal last week, he said "my memories that are most clear about that campaign were the political side of what was going on, not about the interpersonal issues."

I've told my election night story a couple times over the last week since it stands out clearly as the moment I knew, for sure, I would never get involved in San Francisco politics.

More than one of my friends told me I was asking for this humiliation, what with having identified myself as a Guardian reporter. I'll admit, that perhaps I could have expected such diminutive behavior. The paper's, like, "controversial." All the same, I told those friends, as respectfully as possible, to fuck off.

In the wake of the Ross Mirkarimi and Julian Davis debacles, and in the wake of reaction to said debacles (decidedly the more catastrophic happenings, even compared with the acts themselves), many are realizing that the dominant face of SF progressivism is that of a self-absorbed, hierarchy-enforcing man.

Perhaps some are making the cognitive leap to wonder about why we're not exactly overwhelmed with progressive females in elected office.

Comments

types of remarks here by, er, well, the remarks that you make here?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 1:15 pm

Your vitriolic and misogynist comments here clearly speak for themselves. You just proved my point.

Posted by Erika McDonald on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 3:01 pm

Your vitriolic and misogynist comments here clearly speak for themselves. You just proved my point.

Posted by Erika McDonald on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 3:01 pm

You are correct and I think the author is somewhat lucky if this is the worst she got, considering the circumstances.

I did some paperwork for a adult operation in 2003 or so and then for a few years after that off and on, I got a few calls and did some work with libertated sex positive types in the process. Those people are unsettling in some creepy way more often than not

For some stunted people (mostly men) "sex positivism" means that others who claim to be sex positive must be as creepy as they themselves are. Being "liberal" or "progressive" with it's history of female openess might lead stunted people to think that these females are OK with sleazy antics.

Because I did work for an adult company many people felt it was OK to talk to me about "cocks" I mean "COCKS" on the phone. I was related details of gross swinger parties in person and over the phone. Creepy people would get touchy feely with me while I would stiffen up like a board.

It's probably not a "progressive" issue so much, people who associate progressive with sex positive and sex positive with their their disgusting sex lives... These sexxxy people probably have a hard time fathoming that others are not interested in fucking them or hearing about their latest butt plug antic.

Posted by muckluck on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 10:37 pm

Dearest troll the second:
Alas, once again you show your double standard.

Here you say "She's relating what happened to her, a personal experience. It's hers, she owns it and she's using it as an example..."

But yet, when I posted a comment about the violent crime committed against me, you responded by hurling the following invective:

"Me," "I." Her comments never involve anything substantive beyond how the issue of the day impacts HER. After seeing her testimony at the Mirkarimi hearings I understand more and more why her generation is so fucked up - the chronic inability to see beyond oneself and to imagine everything involves YOU. Narcissism to the extreme. "

Apparently, my dearest troll the second, it appears that personal experiences are only relevant to you when they are used to attack people you don't like.

The truth is all here:
http://www.sfbg.com/politics/2012/10/31/olague-attacks-led-billionaires-...

Posted by Erika McDonald on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 7:56 pm

Caitlin, thank you very much for your piece. It reminded me a bit of several of leftist English journalist Laurie Penny's writings on the intersection between feminism and leftist politics. In particular, the reactions to your essay brought to mind the crap storms Penny received for not giving a pass to the substance of the rape charges against Julian Assange as well as her public admission of being raped by a "nice guy" leftist.

Thank you again for stepping forward to air this ignoble moment in SF leftist politics.

Posted by Peter on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 2:16 pm

Caitlin,
You say "I've told my election night story a couple times over the last week since it stands out clearly as the moment I knew, for sure, I would never get involved in San Francisco politics."

Listen, I know how you feel. I had to put up with similar stuff too over the years, and it wasn't always comfortable. I think I might know who you are talking about, but then again, who knows. I've also felt uncomfortable in the "progressive" political scene when I sense a certain combativeness (with the opposition or even with fellow progressives). That right there, is not very "progressive" in my book. I always, personally, bemoaned the fact that politics here in SF (and no doubt elsewhere) seems to be lacking in a certain "spirituality" whereby people can just see others as human beings and treat them as such...not always the case, unfortunately.

But it was just through this discomfort that I did find my "niche" if you will, and for me, it is nonviolence in the tradition of MLK, or Gandhi (for me this *is* the intersection of spirituality and politics). What I've realized is that we live in a violent culture, and the progressive movement—though it may call itself "progressive"—is really but an emanation of that very foundational aspect of our culture, which, I have found, permeates *everything*—including so called "progressives" and even, some progressive women! I've seen it. It doesn't shock me anymore.

I do beg to differ with you on your assessment of that evening, however, when you say: "if you make those who are different from you feel like shit when you're two cocktails into election night..."
Nobody can "make you feel like shit". You are responsible for your feelings. A guy (and yes, women too) can act like a jerk, or say, be abrasive—whatever the case may be—but, I have found: welcome to the world.
I believe it is your responsibility to either go find some friendlier sorts, or basically hold your own and tell these folks the error of their ways...They are just people and don't know any better. Up to you to accept vagaries and deal with it by befriending them—or not—and then you might have a chance to change said bad behavior. But if you fall victim to aversion, where does that lead us? To a lonely place, I say.

So if it's sexism, drunkenness, meanness—it's all out there! I think it's good it's being discussed (so thank you for the article), but for me the bottom line will always be respect for all. I allow for people's foibles because we're all human just doing the best we can. Most bad behavior is just a reflection, I think, of what's wrong with our culture, or what has been wrong with our culture—and nothing more—including your response that "someone made you feel bad". That's weak (I've been guilty of it too, don't get me wrong) and it's *all* learned behavior.

Let's stay in the game and allow for feeling uncomfortable. If you can take it, you can mature within these circles and in the end, stand up for the values you want to see. But I stand for making friends with all these people who are in the headlines these days, and in your story, and helping each other out as best we can—without denouncing those individuals, or the "progressive movement" itself.

Posted by Daniele E. on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 3:41 pm

I have nothing but respect for people that can stay in that kind of atmosphere without losing their sanity/morals. I think you can make a difference working in all kinds of areas besides politics tho. And clearly, I keep getting sucked in regardless of MY sanity/morals :)

Posted by caitlin on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 4:08 pm

Agree—you can (make a difference in other areas). Journalism is one, so thanks again for your story. I love the Buddhist perspective on life...it can really help when the going gets tough. As someone who had absolutely no religious/spiritual upbringing, I have to say that beginning on the East coast, but mainly out here, their perspective/way of looking at the world, simple as it is (and to me it is not religion but just common sense), is really almost a healing balm in and of itself to the ills that our culture teaches us. So many amazing teachers in the Bay Area, too...I guess I'm giving a plug to Buddhist thought, but, like I said earlier, I think spirituality has a lot to teach us, period.

Posted by Daniele E. on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

Interesting article. SFBG should have you write more outside the cultural pages.

I am still having a hard time finding the logical thread running between the SFBG's coverage of the RM and JD cases, though. I realize the claims were different (false imprisonment vs. groping, etc.), but both concerned inappropriate conduct towards women. The RM case resulted in a guilty plea, and SFBG still gave a robust defense of him, claiming he was duly elected, the Mayor was overstepping his power, etc. With respect to JD, the SFBG swiftly abandoned their endorsement, arguably trying to keep him from being elected in the first place. The positions that SFBG has taken about these two seem at variance.

Finally, I continue to find it weird to read these articles that relate to JD on your site alongside JD banner advertisements...

Posted by The Commish on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 3:59 pm

Given its stance in the Mirkarimi case, SFBG and progressives can ill afford to be branded as anti-women/ anti-feminist. So, they opted to throw JD under the bus. Of course, they knew all about the whisper campaign but chose to disregard it until it broke out in the open and threatened to undermine some candidates/ issues. That's when they all banded together like a herd of lemmings and charged over the cliff in a desperate attempt to hold on to what little power they still have. The JD banner ads bring in needed revenue. Get it, now?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 4:47 pm

Caitlin,
Some folks don't always have the time to write back to everything (especially during election season), but I do want to say that I find this piece offensive too, and I'm glad that marcos and lilli are pushing back. Your piece, along with the accompanying headline on the Guardian cover "Men Behaving Badly" unfairly tarnishes all men, the vast majority of whom don't behave "badly." Are there jerks out there? Absolutely. Both men and women. Carole Migden was absolute hell to work for -made Julian and Ross look like saints. To smear all men because of the allegedly poor behavior of one, is a major turnoff to 50% of the voters.

No one is condoning the behavior in question, and it needs to be called out. But not in a way that rips apart the whole progressive movement. I think your point could be made with more sensitivity to the diverse coalition that we need to build. And then to tell people that they're writing too much and they should stop because they disagree with you -wow. I mean... wow. That's just beyond the pale.

Posted by Greg on Oct. 25, 2012 @ 7:56 am

Greg, if you read Caitlin's piece again, she makes it clear that she's not writing a generalized anti-male hit piece. This article offers one perspective on why there aren't more young progressive women. It's hard to build political alliances when your supposed allies see nothing wrong in engaging in personally offensive behavior towards you. How closely would you work with an ally on an issue who also casually uttered racial caricatures of blacks?

Also, your bringing in Carole Migden struck me as a false equivalency. Unless Migden's behavior towards her male staffers included insulting their manhood on a regular basis or making sexist remarks, it's an irrelevant point.

This is one of those moments where you need to woman up and listen to what Caitlin has to say.

Posted by Peter on Oct. 25, 2012 @ 8:56 am

When did the progressives become puritans?

If the progs get back in power I guess we can expect an end to the Folsom Street Fair, the banning of 50 Shades of Grey and written authorization before trying to get to 2nd base. After all, isn't it "sexual assault" to have to witness some of the activities at the Folsom Street Fair? And, certainly the bondage, dominance and submission on public display there (and in 50 Shades of Grey) plays directly against the egalitarian ethos that forms the foundation of progressive thought (i.e. "social justice").

Seriously, if Goody Donohue can't handle the likes of h. Brown or Julian Davis, then she is in the wrong town. Maybe for her next article I'll take her out for drinks at Martuni's and she can count how many times I, as a straight man, get an unsolicited grope or pinch on the butt.

Or, perhaps the moral of the story is "don't flirt with progressive women", especially if you want a career in politics. Progressive women are taking down good guys who are progressive politicians left and, well, left, whether its Ross or Julian or Assange.

Or, perhaps they aren't good guys. Perhaps they only take up progressive positions in order to get with progressive women. Perhaps the natural state of men and the natural state of women is less malleable than progressive women wish it was.

Then again, this is San Francisco . . . who wants to be around puritans?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 26, 2012 @ 1:02 pm

Can't wait until these puritans try to turn their attention to enforcing PC "norms" of cruising conduct onto gay men.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 26, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

Your ideas of "cruising" (steam rooms and parks) are quite generationally different than my own and other gay men I know who are younger than you. And this topic has nothing to do with PC "norms."

Posted by Troll II on Oct. 26, 2012 @ 2:14 pm

The other delight here is that a minority of liberal and progressive feminist women presume that all women are likewise liberal and feminist and want to live according to those values. It turns out, and this is true for LGBT, women, people of color and all "identities," that folks get to have their own politics that comport with their own values.

Feminism is a marginal position in society these days. Radical feminism is almost invisible. This means that most women don't adhere to the feminist view of what is right and wrong with male and female interactions. That is not saying that they want to be completely and totally abused. But suffice it to say that most won't pull the alarm bell if groped in a bar, they'd either slap, throw a drink in his face or let it go and move on.

What we're seeing in all of the radical formations is a rebellion against the people who will not consensually buy their interpretation of radical political practice for the given identity in the form of forcing them to accept the marginal interpretation or else.

So long as radicals are convinced of their impeccable correctness and blame others for not cleaving to the dogma, we're going to be seeing this kind of acting out , political correctness as a form of Munchhausen by Proxy.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 26, 2012 @ 1:29 pm
Posted by Guest on Oct. 27, 2012 @ 4:56 pm

Progressivism is successful only when it is male dominated, ie when the Black Panthers and the Yippies were not afraid to confront cops, confront the military-industrial complex, confront the Brown/Lee/Chamber of Commerce machine.

We stood up for Ross against some PC bourgeosie feminists trying to take him down for grapping his wife's elbow. Yes, that was wrong. And he apologized for it. Then a anti-DV group aligned with the Right Wing enacted a witch hunt.

In Julian's case, some of us are standing up for a good progressive politician who is now getting punched in the gut by the feminists.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 30, 2012 @ 10:26 am

Progressivism is successful when it integrates both male and female attributes instead of allowing any one to dominate while repressing the other.

Progressives fail because they are unable to confidently walk in power.

Julian scares so many because he enjoys the company of women and is able to convince many more to spend time with him than most het men are able to.

This threatens feminized men as well as feminist women but loses traction rapidly once out of that orbit.

Of course this gender-normative conduct freaks the "non cis gender" people out to no end as their only vector towards normalizing themselves through external validation requires pathologizing others.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 30, 2012 @ 11:20 am

Im still confused as to why Julian Davis is still even running. He should bow out and leave the politics to politicians and leave him to "play with his hippy friends". Julian Davis needs to rethink his intention of going into politics firstly and then the alliances he has on his side.

Posted by Guest Give up On Julian D on Oct. 30, 2012 @ 11:49 am

Wow!!!! #1 - sounds a bit like "go home boy, we'll call you if we need some to shine our shoes". #2 - last I checked, Julian was and is a politician. This is not his first time running for office and he worked in Leno's office. #3 - I don't know if you have total recall, but our last Governor earned the title "Gropinator" and he was re-elected, so Julian's transgression certainly pales by comparison. #4 - Newsom drunkenly slept with his most loyal operative's wife while in office, was re-elected and is now Lt. Gov.

#5 - only losers take a dive on the first slap (or expect others to do the same). If he bailed out now, he doesn't deserve to be in politics.

Finally, someone made the claim somewhere on SFBG that this woman dated Julian sometime AFTER this incident. Which, if true, would certainly make this a "jilted lover" situation and not something to consider seriously. Still waiting for someone to confirm or deny that.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 3:16 pm

So let me get this straight- the reason more women aren't involved in the Progressive movement is because of all the boorish insensitive men in the Progressive movement? On the other hand women are doing just fine as center right Democrats and conservative Republicans because of the sensitive souls who dominate those political movements?

The logic there is deeply flawed. We have 2 female Senators, one of whom was mayor of SF and a female Congressperson. But they are non Progressive not because of their lame sellout politics, but because Progressive men are boorish? I suppose Meg Whitman would have worked for the Sierra Club if they would have listened to her more at the meetings?

Women are smart and they know what they believe in. If more women believed in Progressive politics they would have more power in Progressive politics, just like they do in manistream and conservative politics. This piece is a cover up for a bigger problem. Why are so many women willing to sell out the Progressive movement over petty identity politics?

Look for Ms. Vasilyeva to be washing Willie Brown's limo shortly.

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