Angela Lansbury: Stupid, She Spoke

At first blush, the inclination is to brush off Angela Lansbury’s victim-blaming as the harmless, nonsensical natterings of a doddering, old fool who can hide her own Easter eggs.

Angela Lansbury

I mean, hey, she’s 92 years old. So let’s cut the Murder, She Wrote star some slack, right?

But no. Lansbury didn’t say what she said because she’s 92 years old. Telling us that women “must sometimes take blame” for sexual assault and sexual harassment is not about the horse-and-buggy generation. It has nothing to do with the numbers on the award-winning actor’s birth certificate.

After all, didn’t fashion designer Donna Karan say much the same? Didn’t American gymnast Gabby Douglas?

Let’s compare…

Lansbury: “There are two sides to this coin. We have to own up to the fact that women, since time immemorial, have gone out of their way to make themselves attractive. And unfortunately it has backfired on us—and this is where we are today. We must sometimes take blame, women. I really do think that. Although it’s awful to say, we can’t make ourselves look as attractive as possible without being knocked down and raped.”

Donna Karan

Karan: “To see (sexual harassment) in our own country is very difficult, but I also think how do we display ourselves? How do we present ourselves as women? What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality? You look at everything all over the world today and how women are dressing and how women are acting by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble.”

Douglas: “It is our responsibility as women to dress modestly and be classy. Dressing in a provocative/sexual way entices the wrong crowd.”

So, don’t give Lansbury a free pass because of her birth certificate, not when a 69-year-old woman (Karan) and a 21-year-old woman (Douglas) are singing from the same sheet in the song book.

Stupid knows no age, and everything this menage-a-victim-blamers said was stupid. Also dangerous.

(It doesn’t matter that both Karan and Douglas were quick to beat a hasty retreat from their words. Karan’s comments were “taken out of context” and “not representative of how I feel and what I believe” and she was sleep deprived, don’t you know? Douglas’s comments, meanwhile, were “misunderstood.” Spare us the empty rhetoric, ladies. Once you’ve blamed sexual assault/harassment on the victim because she wore five-inch stilettos instead of flats, you don’t get a do-over.)

I know what it’s like to be sexually harassed and assaulted. I’ve been groped. In public. I’ve been subjected to lewd, crude comments about my body parts, in public and on social media. I’ve been hounded on the street. I’ve been stalked. I’ve been forcibly detained and confined.

I wish I could say that makes me an exception, but it doesn’t.

Cate Blanchett

I haven’t asked all of my female friends, but I would submit that each of them has had similar experiences. Probably worse. And much, if not all of it, is likely locked away in a vault they keep hidden behind closed doors in the deepest recesses of their minds.

That’s why women who read and hear about the recent avalanche of sexual harassment/assault accusations in Hollywood and politics nod knowingly. Been there, had that done to them. They had their own Bill Cosby. Their own Jian Ghomeshi. Their own Harvey Weinstein.

If they didn’t put out for a work supervisor, chances are they lost a promotion. Or their job. If, out of paralyzing fear, they involuntarily surrendered to the advances of a sick, predatory father or another male relative, they were intimidated into silence with threats of dire consequences. Like abandonment or death.

The horror stories are plentiful, endless and ongoing. That’s why Angela Lansbury’s remarks are shameful. I don’t care how wrinkled she is. Shameful is shameful is shameful by any age. And whether we wear low-cut tops or button ourselves up to the neck, sexual assault/harassment isn’t our fault.

It’s as actor Cate Blanchett put it at the InStyle Awards in October: “We all like looking sexy but it doesn’t mean we want to fuck you.”

Welcome to the mea culpa Olympic Games

It’s official. We no longer can say anything without bruising someone’s sensibilities and setting off a three-alarm fire of political incorrectness on Twitter and other social media.

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

I mean, say “good morning” to someone and you’re apt to be accused of discriminating against afternoons, evenings and night time.

You think I’m kidding? Consider the goings-on at the Summer Olympic Games in Brazil. There have been more mea culpas issued than gold medals. One broadcaster had to apologize for talking about a female swimmer’s coach/husband instead of the female swimmer; another apologized for referring to lesbian beach volleyball player Larissa Franca’s wife Liliane as her husband; another talking head apologized for referencing a Chinese swimmer to a pig; the Olympic committee apologized for raising the wrong Chinese flag; former U.S. Congressman John Dingell apologized “in advance for my Olympic tweets;” singer Demi Lovato offered her “deepest apologies” for laughing at her mother’s bad joke about the Zika virus; American gymnast Gabby Douglas apologized for not putting her right hand on her heart during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner; organizers apologized to fans for lengthy lineups and waits; one broadcaster apologized for suggesting that American gymnast Simone Biles’ parents weren’t really her parents; a BBC broadcaster apologized for a homophobic remark about gays on the tennis venue kiss-cam; the Daily Beast apologized for an article outing gay athletes; the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes, apologized for faulty facilities; a CBC broadcaster apologized for misidentifying two American swimmers whose bodies were 99.9 per cent submerged; organizers apologized for thefts in the Olympic Village; organizers apologized for playing the wrong Nigerian anthem; the San Jose Mercury News apologized for an insensitive headline about African-American swimmer Simone Manuel; the Chicago Tribune apologized for an insensitive headline about trap shooter Corey Cogdell-Unrein; Lebanese judoka Nacif Elias asked “for forgiveness” following an epic rant on the heels of his disqualification; some Americans demanded an apology from their decathlete champion Ashton Eaton, who wore a red Canada hat in support of his Canadian wife, Brianne Theisen-Eaton, in the heptathlon.

And I apologize for the length of that paragraph.

But it underscores my point: No matter what you say, no matter what you do, you’re going to have someone’s knickers in a knot.

No wonder Grumpy was so grumpy—Snow White wouldn't date him.
No wonder Grumpy was so grumpy—Snow White wouldn’t date him.

It’s to the point where I think Clint Eastwood wasn’t far off the mark when he told Esquire that this is the “pussy generation.” Naturally, the award-winning actor/director was assailed for using a crude term that refers to the vagina and implies weakness, but one must be careful in any criticism of Clint. He is, after all, an 86-year-old man and we wouldn’t want to be accused of ageism, would we?

Of all the examples of political correctness run amok re the Olympic Games, the silliest had to be the critique of this headline in the Toronto Sun: Pretty Penny. It was in reference to Canada’s teenage, multiple-medal winning swimmer Penny Oleksiak. Some read Pretty Penny as blatant sexism. Oh. Come. On. It was a simple play on words, for cripes sake. But we don’t want to go there. Not in 2016. There can be no references to a female athlete’s appearance. It doesn’t matter that Penny is a pretty 16-year-old girl with dazzling eyes and a lovely smile. The politically correct police tell reporters that they’re in Rio to record the times of Oleksiak’s swimming events. Just the facts, ma’am. Nothing more.

What a shame.

I swear, it’s just a matter of time before these politically correct ninnies take aim at some of our most beloved literary works. Like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. WTF is up with that? Snow White is the fairest in all the land, yet the best she can do is cook and clean for Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy and Dopey? Talk about your sexist stereotyping. But wait. Snow White is not without her biases and prejudices. Clearly, she has a hangup about small men. I mean, she could have dated one of the seven dwarfs. Didn’t happen, though. She died rather than date a dwarf. Little wonder Grumpy was grumpy.

I think Snow White owes Grumpy an apology.

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