In the latest episode of Straight Up with Stassi, VPR star Stassi Schroeder decided to do something that made
a large portion of her very niche fanbase most of America collectively facepalm: She diverged from her areas of expertise (sex, fashion, and wine), and spoke out instead about the recent slew of sexual assault allegations, as well as the #Metoo campaign specifically. While no one expected Schroeder to have a particularly groundbreaking or insightful take here, we certainly couldn’t have predicted the 90 minutes of hateful garbage she proceeded to inflict on her listeners—key points of which included her belief that these women are lying about rape for attention (Lena? Is that you?), her fears that “men won’t want to be in the same room as her anymore,” and her suggestion that women actually wanted to engage in the sexual conduct they’re now calling rape, since according to Stassi, “it’s the easiest thing in the world to not suck that person’s dick if you don’t want to.”
Everyone done gagging? Still with me? Cool. I’ll cushion my recap of this episode with the good news here: Backlash to her commentary has been immediate, with three of her biggest advertisers pulling out overnight and publicly denouncing the views she expressed. Schroeder has also since taken down this particular podcast episode, and posted an apology on Twitter on November 25, in which she states that she “crossed a line” and pledges to “put more thought behind dialogue moving forward.”
Unfortunately, that wasn’t Schroeder’s first reaction. Before she caught wind of the fact that she might actually lose money from this, she took the stance that “about 5 ppl heard this podcast” and everyone else just heard “ONE quote without the backstory or context of a TWO hour episode.” So, aside from the fact that that ONE quote was that aforementioned tidbit about how easy it is to not suck someone’s dick (which can FYI be loosely translated as “I don’t believe that sexual assault can happen”), which I have a hard time believing ANY context would reasonably cushion, I’d like to go on record as someone who did listen to the entire two-hour podcast and say that quote was barely even the worst of it.
The heart of the issue with Schroeder’s commentary was this: She used her personal, apparently sexual assault-free, experience in Hollywood as the “correct” version of the state of the industry, and, working from that perspective, proceeded to call the women coming forward liars (either about the events themselves, or the extent of their consent), fame whores (for coming forward with these stories now, when it’s “trendy”), and somehow either weak or implicitly guilty for having allowed these events to occur—since again, neither Stassi herself nor any of her acquaintances have personally been raped in hotel rooms. Further, while she drops a line every now and then for the so-called “real victims” (which she believes is around 50% of those who have come forward), the true recipients of her sympathy are the men of Hollywood: those who she fears have been falsely accused, those who are “too afraid to flirt” now that we’re amidst a “male witch hunt,” and those whose behavior, like “grabbing an ass” or “a breast” does not qualify as real assault, and do not deserve the backlash they’re receiving for it.
While my hackles have been up about Schroeder’s politics ever since the season 1 episode where her father cracks “you’re not a Democrat, are you?” at then-boyfriend Frank, I was still shocked and disappointed at the things I heard Stassi say in this podcast. Some of the best arguments against what Stassi is saying are even made by Stassi herself—when she ponders “who’d want to hire someone who lied about rape,” as a way of questioning the intelligence the women she perceives as liars, she’s making a good point: women who come forward with allegations are absolutely likely to suffer diminished job prospects, alongside public shaming, discrediting, and character assassination like Stassi herself so happily served up. These women are not, then, simply hopping on a “trend” with little thought of the consequences like that time you bought gaucho pants—they’ve stayed silent for years due to fear of these consequences, and are speaking up now because the Weinstein takedown has chiseled a tiny crack of light into an institution long believed to be impenetrable. These women have decided that their personal sacrifices are worth it if they can help a larger cause—and when Stassi announces that “it’s understood” that young women moving to LA will be propositioned for sex in professional settings, and they “should have known,” she’s both attacking rape victims’ intelligence and stating her acceptance of the system they’re trying to dismantle.
Because I was an ardent Stassi fan up to this point, I want to say a few things to her directly: Just because this is the way Hollywood “has always been,” you don’t have to accept that it won’t change. Just because we’ve “all seen dicks we didn’t want to,” and all had our “asses grabbed at a party” doesn’t make it okay, and you shouldn’t use a set precedent as a future goal. Remember how Jax set a precedent of being a cheating, lying asshole, and instead of continuing to date him and being okay with it when he cheated and lied again, you drank his liquor, threw out his things, and cut him out of your life? You think of yourself as royalty, and refer to your fans as Khaleesis: set the expectation that we be treated like queens. Queens don’t walk out into this world and tailor their behavior so as to best avoid rape despite the constant, expected threat that it could happen; they walk out and inspire respect, and look the fuckers who would dare treat them otherwise in the eyes as they burn them to the ground. You are a master of revenge, and of inflicting painful justice; for a moment, put some faith in the women whose experiences you don’t share, and help them do the same.