The Right Stuff


Penelope Trunk
(via Matt Yglesias) has a strange career-woman take on the DSK rape charge:

These [low-status] women have nothing to lose when they report men who cross the line sexually. So the maid reported. And then, it turns out, all sorts of women in higher up positions spoke up against Strauss-Kahn. The women wouldn’t report the harassment on their own. They don’t want to suffer retribution. But now there will be no retribution, so it’s safe to come forward.

Nothing to lose? Like a good steady (if low-paying) job? And the right to stay and work in the United States with her child?

She didn’t know quite how important a political figure Strauss-Kahn is, or more exactly was – far more than a mere US Senator. She must have known – as Trunk herself points out – that middle-aged men who stay in $3000 hotel suites are rich and influential. Filing a complaint was extremely risky. At the very best it would certainly expose her to the trauma of cross-examination in the witness box by the nastiest defence lawyers money can buy.

The hotel manager gave a very strong endorsement of her :

Our employee worked at the Sofitel New York for three years and was completely satisfactory in terms of her work and behaviour.

We can therefore rule out that she’s a naive idiot. On the scanty evidence available, the most economical hypothesis is that she is simply an exceptionally brave human being.

I do wonder however if an equally courageous African-American maid in the same situation would have shown this African immigrant’s faith in American justice.

Comments

  1. J. Michael Neal says

    Probably due to a greater length of experience with the lack of American justice.

  2. politicalfootball says

    Nothing to lose? Like a good steady (if low-paying) job? And the right to stay and work in the United States with her child?

    There is an assumption among the privileged that the stakes (in everything) are lower for the poor.

    Maybe it’s true that when you got nuthin’, you got nuthin’ to lose, but when you have very little, then losing a little means you lose everything.

  3. modaca says

    While I agree that the stakes were high even though the woman is a housekeeper, I think the latest account adds credence to the complaint: she was found by a hotel employee (supervisor type) in the hall outside the room, distraught, spitting and vomiting.

  4. NCG says

    Politicalfootball made a good point. It’s the same with photos in handcuffs. Just because you know fewer people when you’re obscure doesn’t make such a photo less devastating. I’ve been thinking about it and maybe they’re worse than I thought. And as Mark pointed out, they should be easily avoided.

  5. NCG says

    Btw: there was a piece in the NYT about predator personalities (not saying this guy’s necessarily one of them). The people around them already know, usually. This means that others (other men?) allow it to go on. This fascinates me.

  6. says

    As the song says: “When you got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose”. It’s true. It’s also true that whistleblowing takes courage even for people at the bottom of a hierarchy; below zero is the realm of negative numbers. Still, it’s easier for people with few assets and few commitments (no children to feed, no college loans to pay off, no mortgaged house to lose to default) to take a risk. Empirically, congressmen become more supportive of the status quo the longer they remain in office, for example. I had no spouse or children to support, no loans to pay off, and no house to lose to default when I wrote to the legislature about a bogus project at my school. The legislature killed the project. The DOE administration and the HSTA (our local NEA K-12 subsidiary) then made my life miserable for three years (the project director was the Leeward District President) and I quit. It would have been irresponsible for a teacher with a mortgage and kids’ private school tuition at stake to take that risk.
    Women seems. lately, to be less inclined to team loyalty and more likely whistleblowers: Colleen Rowley and the FBI, Sherron Watkins and Enron, Governor Palin and the Alaska GOP, the Tea Party leadership and the US GOP, for example.

  7. Barry says

    “Btw: there was a piece in the NYT about predator personalities (not saying this guy’s necessarily one of them). The people around them already know, usually. This means that others (other men?) allow it to go on. This fascinates me.”

    Two comments – first, I’ve been in a situation where I knew both a harasser and his victims. The harasser was *very* careful to behave himself – perfectly – around the men. We didn’t have a clue. I imagine that this was deliberate.

    Second, for the men, they’ll both rarely be certain, and certainly face the persecution if they report. In that case, it’s not surprising that they just keep their heads down.

  8. James Wimberley says

    Chad: the collective memory of slavery and Jim Crow, transmitted in childhood and confirmed by discrimination in youth, would I think give long pause for thought. This woman, however poor, is a native African: there’s little slavery in her ancestry. Compare Barack Obama. Colonial rule, however oppressive, is unlikely to have embedded self-doubt to anything like the same extent.

  9. Rutherford says

    “I do wonder however if an equally courageous African-American maid in the same situation would have shown this African immigrant’s faith in American justice.”

    If DSK is guilty, this is probably right. Her home country has a per-capita G.D.P. of less than $2/day and a murder rate that’s much worse than even LA’s. Female circumcision is near-universal. The U.S. must look fair and well-run by comparison.

  10. anon says

    Shorter Penelope: I have to make up a reason why this brave, principled woman did what I wouldn’t do. It couldn’t be because she is a better person.

  11. Antoni Jaume says

    Mark Paul says:
    May 23, 2011 at 7:55 pm
    “According to Dean Baker, she didn’t have anything to lose because her union has a contract that protects her [...]”

    Now that explains a lot about why some people oppose unions.

  12. says

    (James): “We can therefore rule out that she’s a naive idiot. On the scanty evidence available, the most economical hypothesis is that she is simply an exceptionally brave human being.
    Perhaps you might extend Tea Party shop keepers and middle-income private-sector workers the same consideration.

  13. NCG says

    It’s absurd to say a person who brings rape charges has “nothing to lose” just because her job is safe. She gets to look forward to a complete loss of privacy, the relentless trashing in the media, and then getting beat up again on the witness stand. All apart from the work of actual recovery, which can take years. Sure, it’s a picnic.

    For these reasons, it’s also a bit much to blame women who don’t come forward, many of whom *will* lose jobs if they do.

    Let’s review: the person to blame is the *rapist* (and/or harasser etc.) And all the people who make excuses and pretend they don’t see it.

  14. James Wimberley says

    Mark Paul: the union membership reduced the risk the maid took, but did not eliminate it. A union protects you a bit (not completely) against unfair dismissial, not administrative and media persecution. The vengeance of rich and powerful men has a long reach.

    Malcolm: I’ll bite. Why? What principled and personally risky action do these people habitually take that has escaped my notice? Suppose a Tea Partier jumps into a crocodile-infested river to save a drowning child. Bravo, great stuff. It doesn’t carry over to the politics. As for the middle-income private-sector workers you affect to think I despise: these are precisely the people that did well under under Clinton and badly under Bush Jnr, and that Obamacare is designed to help, or didn’t you notice? Which blogger here has advocated shifting the tax burden more to incomes under say $100,000?

  15. says

    (James): “As for the middle-income private-sector workers you affect to think…
    I’d say “suggest”.
    (James): “
    …I despise: these are precisely the people that did well under under Clinton and badly under Bush Jnr…
    Complicated argument, there. I’d credit deregulation, begun under Carter, and NAFTA and GATT, negotiated under Bush I and pushed by Clinton (I give him credit for that). Things didn’t fall apart until 2007, when Democrats took the House.
    (James): “
    …that Obamacare is designed to help, or didn’t you notice?
    I notice the passive voice in “is designed to help”. I do not agree that the health insurance industry or the medical services industry are likely candidates for State (government, generally) operation. My point is stronger if it is; these people vote (according to you) against their material interests. That’s “principle”, no? Seniors who accept that Social Security and Medicare are wealth transfer programs from young to old vote against their immediate self-interest if they support privatization, right?

  16. says

    As to “affect to think I despise”, you reveal your attitude toward those with whom you disagree with “global warming denier” and “teabagger”. Kleiman regularly imputes insanity to ideological opponents. That does not look like respect to me. Most contributors to this site promote expansion of State (government, generally) control over resource flows (the command economy at the expense of the market economy). If that’s honest concern for the general welfare, why has no one taken a stab at the questions I have posed repeatedly:
    1. From State (government, generally) operation of what industries does society as a whole benefit? Your answer make the form of a dichotomous classification, A = {x: x is an unlikely candidate for State operation} and B = {x: x is a likely candidate for State operation}, or a continuum
    (highly unlikely) -1_______._______+1 (highly likely).
    2. What criteria determine an industry’s classification or position on the continuum?

    Bringing this back to our topic: “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely”. Some feminists insist that rape is not about sex but about power. Why not both? Some Western journalist asked Fidel Castro how many children he had and Castro said that he did not know. John F. and Edward Kennedy were notorious womanizers, as was William Clinton. Saddam Hussein’s sons were famous for their sexual predation, as was Mao.

    Centralized control of resource flows enhances the opportunities of political decision-makers. I recommend “The Lives of Others”. Institutions both select for and shape individual psychology. What argument other than individual advantage of political authorities can there be for preferring inefficient State-operated enterprise over competitive markets in goods and services?