‘What are they asking for? Trouble.’

Last night before I fell asleep, I read Donna Karan’s remarks on the sexual harassment claims levied against Harvey Weinstein. I wasn’t surprised. I wasn’t shocked. I didn’t think or feel anything was out of the ordinary.

This morning I read her comments again, and I was enraged.

Why the change of emotion? Because last night I was tired. I had spent my day being assaulted by all of the micro aggressions our society allows the powerful to lob at girls and women on a continual basis. Last night, I just thought to myself “another woman coming to the aide and defense of a powerful man.” No, actually. I thought “another white woman doing the bidding and heavy lifting of a rich and powerful white man in an attempt to stay in his good graces and bathe in his golden light and privilege. What’s new?”

I see and hear this behavior in all of the spaces I occupy. I see and hear it on television when women make derogatory remarks about the appearance and dress of girls and other women. I see and hear it in the dress codes and standards that girls and women are expected to adhere to, while boys and men are not shamed and policed for their bodies and dress style.

I see it and hear it when women confront sexual harassment and sexual assault, and they are immediately grilled on what they were wearing, doing, saying, and thinking when they think they were unjustly assaulted.

I see and hear it in all of the self-described “liberal” and “enlightened” spaces that I frequent.

It’s common to have a man attempt to insert himself into a conversation and then drive it to his desired location, which is most always a white male-centered destination fueled by the emotional labor of the women in the conversation. When women push back, the men attempt to end the conversation on their terms, making statements intended to silence any and all critics and then declaring “this conversation is over.”

Routinely, a woman will come into the conversation and tone-police the women who called out the man or men who inserted themselves into the conversation, demanded free emotional labor, and attempted to reframe it in a white male-centered perspective.

She will talk about how nice this guy is, or how she likes to hear his comments because they are always so enlightening and impactful. She will make excuses for his behavior and attempt to remove any ownership or accountability the man needs to take for his words, actions or micro-aggressions that created a hostile environment for women. She will then try to shame the women that pushed back by stating that the other women were mean to him; that this is supposed to be a “safe place” for all voices; that we need to respect the man; and that we need to focus on “unity” and the common goal.

This woman is asking the aggrieved women to sacrifice their own sense of well being and safety for the brass ring.

It is routinely women doing the heavy lifting of blaming and shaming other women for pushing back against the patriarchy. Why? Because that requires emotional labor, and women are experts at providing free emotional labor on demand.

We call this internalized misogyny. The woman that is doing this doesn’t understand that she is doing unpaid work for the patriarchy.

She doesn’t realize that she isn’t garnering any additional points or affection from the men when she treats other women this way. She is simply another another tool for the misogynistic, white male-centered culture to use and abuse at their whim. She won’t receive the extra protection and privilege that she thinks she is going to earn by standing up against other women who are fighting to dismantle the patriarchal systems that hold all of us subservient and vulnerable in society.

This internalized misogyny is apparent in every economic and social class in America. Maybe we simply nod our heads in acceptance when we see and hear it from a woman with low economic and social status, as we acknowledge her challenges to simply exist in that space without the power that wealth and social privilege provide other women.

But do we call it out when we see it from women like Donna Karan?

A multi-millionaire in her own right with the privilege and power that comes from creating and running a successful apparel empire that clothed the wealthy, powerful, and beautiful for 30+ years. A woman who made her fortune by creating clothing designed to empower women, while enhancing their sensuality and sexuality in professional and personal environments. A woman who routinely dressed 14-year-old girls in the revealing gowns, lingerie, high heels, makeup, and fragrance designed for adult women to attract and retain the wealthiest and most powerful male gaze. She then took their photos, marched them up and down runways, and projected images of those sexually, and sensually, empowered 14-year-old girls all over the globe, peddling her wares and funding the lifestyle that allowed her to socialize with the likes of Harvey Weinstein and other men like him.

Donna Karan made her fortune dressing many of the women that Harvey Weinstein victimized. Donna Karan made her fortune on the backs of the troublesome girls and women she now blames for Harvey Weinstein’s downfall.

What happened when we called Donna Karan out?

Her first response was to blame the victims, blame society, and then attempt to obfuscate the issue. Only when she started to receive an enormous amount of criticism did she backpedal and provide clarifying statements. But when you read her apology, she’s not actually apologizing for her words and attitude. She merely blamed others for taking her words out of context and apologized if she offended anyone. She then stated that sexual harassment is not acceptable. That is not the apology she needed to make. Of course

This internalized misogyny is apparent in every economic and social class in America. Maybe we simply nod our heads in acceptance when we see and hear it from a woman with low economic and social status, as we acknowledge her challenges to simply exist in that space without the power that wealth and social privilege provide other women.

sexual harassment is not acceptable. Her throwaway comment at the end condemning sexual harassment doesn’t change the fact that she is operating without any ownership or accountability for her words and actions.

Karan’s apology is the textbook apology we hear from so many privileged and powerful men when they want to make a public statement to absolve themselves from the stain of bad press, but don’t want to actually acknowledge the harm they created and the pain they inflicted on the people they exploited. How are we ever going to end sexual harassment if women like Donna Karan — self-professed feminists and allies — are merely well-paid, well-dressed, more-privileged agents of the patriarchy?

Before I sat down to write this, I spent some time putting my 9-year-old son’s socks and pajamas into his dresser. I stared down at his Star Wars underwear and his Snoopy pajamas. I wondered when his clothing choices and behaviors would become troublesome and signal that he was deserving of sexual harassment. Will it happen in five years when he is 14 and wants to look like older teenagers and be a cool kid? Will it be in ten years when he is in college and desperately wants to attract the attention of the young women around him? Is there anything my son can wear, or ways he can present his body, based on traditionally acceptable, white male-centered mores that will message that he is fair game for sexual harassment? That his body and soul are open season for abuse? Of course not. That burden is placed solely on the backs of girls and women with the most impactful policing and enforcement provided by women to include the likes of the Donna Karans of our society.

Kate Hamilton Moser is vice president of Legislative Action for the Connecticut chapter of the National Organization for Women. Email her at katehamiltonmoser@gmail.com or find her via CT NOW’s Facebook page.

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