Following a Writer: Masha Gessen

Finding The Times sparing in interesting material, I decided to return to my old stomping grounds at The New Yorker, interested in what that publication might have to say that could complement/differ from what The Times‘ writers have said on the issue of Al Franken, which has been a consistent story covered in my posts as of late. Seeing a headline that reminded me of Goldberg’s wonderful writing on the topic, “Al Franken’s Resignation and the Selective Force of #MeToo,” I decided to read the article, which was writen by Masha Gessen. The article did not end up being entirely what I though it would be about, though. It starts as I figured, pointing out how the trend of justice finally coming to long-time portrayers of sexual misconduct really only affects those in liberal circles (Weinstein, Franken, etc.), while those in conservative circles are able to be exposed but still thrive (Trump, Moore), because the people in those circles just don’t care. Liberals have for a long time now chosen the moral high ground as their primary platform, yet it is proving more effective at harming those in it’s own ranks than having any effect on the opposing side. This of course highlights the hypocrisy of many in the left, and a reckoning of people like Franken was probably inevitable and just, but it’s an illusion to suggest we’re making sound progress when the worst perpetrators of these issues still have firm shields protecting them. Franken is small potatoes compared to serial harassers like Trump and Moore, yet he’s the only one susceptible to #Metoo, an unfortunate truth that reveals how much more still needs to be done.

Gessen does not actually say all of this, but I take it as implied. Her article goes on to be more about the policing of sex on both sides, not necessarily acts of illegal nature (Franken’s actions, as well as a supreme court example Gessen cites on a baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple’s marriage) but of a moral one, and how liberals and conservatives have gone about policing this differently, conservatives basing off of traditional Christian values while liberals go off of general moral principles (Gessen certainly is not afraid to be clear with whose side she is on). Overall, I walked away from the article with a different understanding of the #Metoo movement than I had expected to, so I applaud Gessen for awarding me some new thoughts on a subject I felt I had read enough on.

Going to her bio, Gessen is actually an extremely accomplished writer. She has written for The New Yorker since 2014 and became a staff writer in 2017, and has published nine books, including the winner of the National Book Award for 2017, The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia. Aside from her usual topics – Trump, Russia, LGBTQ rights – she has written on an impressive variety of subjects, and was even, as the bio says, “dismissed as editor of the Russian popular-science magazine Vokrug Sveta for refusing to send a reporter to observe Putin hang-gliding with the Siberian cranes.” I do not know how I have not heard of Gessen before, but I have no doubt that I will start seeing her name in everything.

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