Surviving the Broken Record of Abusers: No Surprise from the Episode to the Series

Trump’s response to the Rob Porter episode is the latest in a series for our abuser in chief defending himself via his kind of man (Roy Moore, Roger Ailes, Corey Lewandowski etc). And nowhere to be heard from our leaders are the voices of the survivors of men’s abuse. But, with such abuse and its silence, what is the precise relationship between an episode and the series it is a part of? Does the series turn each of its parts into an episode, or is it the accumulation of episodes that constitutes a series? Of course, beyond abuse, when watching the mind-boggling 8th episode of Twin Peaks: The Return, we are well aware of this being a series (or a season). But when it comes to events less defined from the outset as part of the same sequence, how are we to tell the episodic from the serial, a one-off from a pattern? With abuse, even as a solitary episode, there is a series, a system of power. Or as Jenny Holzer unforgettably put it:

Perhaps this lack of surprise is the best way to recognize that an episode is part of a series, an incident as part of a larger problem. From the #MeToo movement to the We Are Not Surprised (WANS) collective (who appropriate Holzer’s statement), the network of sexual abuse entrenched in patriarchal culture is becoming clearer by the day.

But how can we maintain this moment, and, with each new episode, define a series to break the system? Our contribution to this movement has to be focused on showing how in every single post we have written about ancient Greek and Roman culture and contemporary art, the former, so valorized by the discipline of Classics, also enshrines the forms of abuse that we recognize in contemporary patriarchs. Rather than summarize in broad outline ancient Greco-Roman misogyny, rape culture or imperialist power games, let us take it a day at a time, during the two-week period between Feb. 6-19 last year:

Feb. 6            Catullus 51’s mansplaining of Sappho 31

Feb. 7            Zeus’ laddish boast to Hera on sexual pleasure (via transgendered Tiresias)

Feb. 8            The eclipsing of living bodies for sculpted bodies (kouroi) in defining the Classical

Feb. 9            Relegating present crises to the memory of past crises (to define freedom from pain, ataraxia)

Feb. 10          Jupiter’s rape of Io as prelude to the origin of peacock feathers

Feb. 11          The patriarchal social hierarchies, their pomp and pretension, included in the casual display of rape scenes from Classical myth

Feb. 12          Systematic forgetting of Egyptian myth

Feb. 13          Always reliving how the apple of discord leads to the perverse beauty contest of the Judgment of Paris

Feb. 14          Concepts dressed up as women by philosophers

Feb. 15          Sex and dialogue kept apart (especially between genders) by philosophers

Feb. 16          Constant reminders of Rome’s imperial prowess

Feb. 17          Derisive laughter of individual bearded philosophers

Feb. 18          Latin the virus of languages

Feb. 19          Classics as the gatekeeper of all canons

This litany is why we at Minus Plato need contemporary artists to show us the way out of the legacies of ancient abuse cultures and their perpetuation by the discipline of Classics. You can click on any of the dates above to see how these tiresome cultural norms are transformed by dynamic, active artists. Today we choose Christiane Möbus’ 1972 work The Unnecessary Betrothal of Frau Holle with the Shaman, or, “A New Life”, included in one of Lucy Lippard’s iconic number exhibitions.

Here she is Icarus and not Icarus, a woman and not all women, an episode but not a series, announcing as clearly and succinctly as possible, for us all to hear:

my work deals with the problem of other people insofar as I am like them and does not where I am different.

Hear hear to difference and to freedom to be different. Let us work for another Jenny Holzer, beyond the abuse:

 

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