On Tuesday night, The New York Times, Politico, and The Atlantic all published stories detailing numerous sexual harassment allegations against Leon Wieseltier, the New Republic’s famed literary editor for over 30 years before he left the magazine in 2014. Wieseltier had been accused of “workplace harassment” on an anonymously crowdsourced list of “Shitty Media Men” that was circulating among women in the media. Over the past week, after the list was brought to the public’s attention, a group of female ex-TNR staffers started exchanging emails about their own “Leon stories.”
“I wouldn’t call it an ‘open secret,’ it was just the way he was,” one former female TNR staffer told me. “Open secret implies that anybody else in management understood it was shameful and shouldn’t be done, which was definitely not the case… It was a culture there, there were a lot of other problems. There’s a reason why someone like Leon has lasted as long as he has at a place like the New Republic—that doesn’t happen by accident.”
This was the statement that Wieseltier provided to Politico, which first broke the news:
For my offenses against some of my colleagues in the past I offer a shaken apology and ask for their forgiveness. The women with whom I worked are smart and good people. I am ashamed to know that I made any of them feel demeaned and disrespected. I assure them that I will not waste this reckoning. And I am profoundly sorry to my extraordinary collaborators at the journal we began together that the misdeeds of my past have made it impossible to go forward. My gratitude to them is boundless.
" I am ashamed to know
that I made any of them
feel demeaned and disrespected."
Good choice of phrasing, there. Women, their feelings, all that stuff is quite foreign to me, a powerful male animal. I’m shocked, shocked, that any of them could have felt that way.
So much smoother than, “I am ashamed that I thrust my hand down the front of her clothing and grabbed her breasts”. So much less disturbing than, “I am ashamed that I pushed her up against the wall in a dark corridor, reached under her clothing to put my hand inside her underwear, and…”.
And so much less susceptible to criminal charges, too!
These men are unrepentant alpha males, at least where women are concerned.
Sometimes they even look the part, mane and all. (Photo of Wieseltier)
Note, in the excerpt above from Wieseltier’s disdainful self-exculpating statement, that he begins by offering a “shaken apology”. Shaken, surprised, caught unawares. The apology of an innocent man, who finds the rules have been changed without him knowing: he thought it was civil to force a woman, physically and by the power of his position and the circumstance, to submit to an assault of her person. Of course he did. He was “the New Republic’s famed literary editor for over 30 years”, how impossible that he could have been aware that his unwanted “advances” were brutish and criminal. Poor unschooled fellow, ignorant of the nuances of language and social behavior, he couldn’t have known.
The Oxford thesaurus, in the online entry for “civil”, says:
O my sisters, O my brothers, must women remain the never-to-be-freed slaves forever?
As a young woman forty years ago I thought so. Nothing so far has caused me to change my mind.