And yet, last Friday, when Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States of America, efforts to combat violence against women were instantly snuffed. At 12:01 pm, the White House web page of Carrie Bettinger-Lopez, the former White House Advisor on Violence Against Women was replaced with:
“Sorry, the page you’re looking for can’t be found.”
The excision of the advisor and web page is an apt symbolic gesture. The president brushed aside his vulgar admission of sexual assault of women, captured on video, dismissing it as “locker-room talk.”
In October, after Trump’s video went viral, author Kelly Oxford asked on Twitter, “Women: tweet me your first assaults.” 27 million women responded, using the hashtag “#NotOkay.”
In the Trump era, how do we change the culture of sexual violence?
“Grab them by the p***y.”
Soon after Trump’s video was released, the hashtag #GrabYourWallet was trending on social media, urging consumers to boycott companies that do business with the Trump family. The Grab Your Wallet website followed, with a list of “Retailers to boycott.”
What if we take the movement one step further, Grab Your Wallet 2.0?
Shouldn’t all business leaders be accountable for changing the culture of sexual violence?
Here’s an example;
I have been blogging about Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s affiliation with accused sex abuser Marc Gafni. In case you missed it, here’s the short version:
In December 2015, The New York Times reported Mackey’s association with former rabbi, spiritual leader, accused sex abuser Marc Gafni. The Times reported Gafni describing one of his accusers:
“She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her.”
“A co-founder of Whole Foods, John Mackey, a proponent of conscious capitalism, calls Mr. Gafni ‘a bold visionary.’ He is a chairman of the executive board of Mr. Gafni’s center, and he hosts board meetings at his Texas ranch.”
The New York Daily News reported Gafni stated his then-underage accusers “were willing partners.”
More than 100 rabbis and Jewish leaders undersigned a petition to Whole Foods: “Stop Marc Gafni from Abusing Again,” citing “many, repeated and serious allegations, both public and private, former and recent.”
Sara Kabakov was the then-girl whom Gafni described as “going on 35.” She came forward publicly for the first time in an essay in the Forward:
“I was 13 When Marc Gafni’s Abuse Began.”
The Washington Post reported on coordinated protests at Whole Foods stores in New York City and Los Angeles in May. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey issued a statement in June, declaring his loyalty to Gafni.
In November, soon after Trump’s p***y grabbing video was released, Gafni tweeted:
“We live in world of outrageous pain. Only response is Outrageous Love. Donald Trump is an Outrageous Lover.”
According to a Whole Foods Market statement, Mackey silently vacated his position as board chair of Gafni’s nonprofit; their relationship is “personal and independent of Whole Foods Market.”
While the statement may indemnify the company, it leaves Mackey and Whole Foods morally bankrupt.
In his statement of loyalty to Gafni, Mackey cites “the presumption of innocence.” Gafni has never been charged with a crime — nor has President Trump.
Judging from the millions of marchers who gathered on Saturday, adjudication has nothing to do with accountability.
“Given the dismal rates of prosecution of rapists and the fact that even rapists who are prosecuted are not always convicted or appropriately punished, we cannot use the wide-spread failure of the criminal justice system as an excuse to let offenders off the hook.
Regardless of Gafni’s arguments about consent, it is a crime in this country for an adult to have sexual contact with a minor, and his defenders cannot hide behind the argument that alleged contact was consensual. For these reasons alone, it is important for us as a society to hold him accountable, and part of the mechanisms for doing so require us to demand that his powerful friends end their support.”
“Regardless of whether Gafni was ever charged with a crime, and in spite of statute of limitations restrictions, we are obligated as a society to support victims and survivors of sexual abuse and give them a voice. As a leader, Whole Foods CEO Mackey’s unwillingness to address the issues at hand enables and emboldens all perpetrators of sexual assault, and allows the cultural stigma to continue.”
On January 11, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a plan for the Child Victims Act — eliminating the statute of limitations for claims of child sexual abuse in the state where Gafni’s then-underage accusers allege sexual abuse took place. PAC Protect NY Kids and Stop Abuse Campaign are lobbying for enactment of the legislation. Sara Kabakov is working with legislators to lobby for the bill’s passage.
If New York state lawmakers vote to eliminate the statute of limitations for claims of child sexual abuse, what will be the consequences for Gafni, and by association, for Mackey?
Will Whole Foods be listed on Grab Your Wallet 2.0?
In December, advocacy leaders from organizations including Faculty Against Rape (FAR) and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV) were among 130 signers of an open letter, urging Mackey to disavow Gafni.
From an open letter to board members of Whole Foods and Conscious Capitalism (a nonprofit Mackey founded), on Feminine Collective:
“In pledging his loyalty to Gafni, and protecting their ‘personal relationship,’ as noted on his Whole Foods Market Blog, Mackey has inadvertently hurt survivors of sexual assault and obstructed efforts to change the culture of sexual violence. Overlooking Gafni’s public admission minimizes and normalizes sexual violence, and impedes efforts to change the culture…. Changing the culture of sexual violence is on all of us — we must all hold each other accountable.”
The Women’s Marches around the globe mark a renewed and hopeful wave, one that has the power to erode the bedrock of patriarchal domination that underlies sexual violence against women and girls.
Continuing in the spirit of Women’s Marches, a protest will be held at Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s keynote in San Francisco on February 28.
Because we must all hold each other accountable.
Whole Foods CEO & Sexual Violence Accountability — Protest
Tuesday, February 28, 11am-1pm
Omni Hotel, 500 California Street, San Francisco, CA
Photo: © Julie Anderson All Rights Reserved