Did Kathy Griffin Sexually Harass Anderson Cooper on New Year’s Eve?

Alyssa Royse wonders how we would react if the sexual harassment leveled against Anderson Cooper on New Year’s Eve had happened to a woman.

Barring one obscure episode of Seinfeld in which she played George’s assistant, I don’t think I’ve ever found Kathy Griffin funny, and I give the credit for the Seinfeld episode to the writers. But not until New Year’s Eve this year, when she used Anderson Cooper and his penis as a punch line over and over and over again, did I find her offensive. One penis joke would have been fine. But when he kept saying no, and she kept going, I became increasingly horrified. When she kept insisting that she knew he “wanted it” even when he kept saying he didn’t, I became enraged. When she kept touching him, and making moves to “get him”, I wondered if I was just insane.

Let’s be clear, this is Rape Culture, plain and simple. This is using another person’s body as a tool for your own gratification, whether it’s a laugh, attention, status or a schtick. This is putting your goals ahead of someone else’s right to agency over their own body.

Even though it was a woman doing it to a man.

Do I think that Kathy Griffin was being outright abusive of Anderson Cooper? Maybe not. But I do think that seeing this behavior normalized by two public figures degrades our understanding of bodily agency in relationships. It literally makes a joke out of our boundaries.

To make this crystal clear, imagine this scene played out between any two different people. Try reversing the genders: the guy repeatedly grabbing the breasts or crotch of the female anchor and asking if she wanted him to perform oral sex on her. Imagine that every time she said no he said, “oh come on, you know you want it” and grabbed at her, and that it happened over and over again.

Hillarious? No.

Best case scenario, Griffin and Cooper both think this is funny and are totally in on it together. In which case, CNN has a lot to answer to for thinking that this behavior was funny and agreeing to air it. One has to wonder if they would think it was funny if this were just taking place in the break room at their offices, no cameras to help drive ratings. If it’s not funny there, then it’s not funny to sell it to the rest of the world as acceptable behavior.

In another scenario, Griffin went a bit rogue, as she’s been known to do. Then what we’re talking about is workplace sexual harassment. I mean, Cooper pretty much has to go along with it, right?  After all, they are live on the air. In that case, wouldn’t it be the responsibility of the producers to cut to a break and haul her marauding ass off stage? No. Again, reverse the gender roles, what would we say about a company that let their female employees be touched and talked to in this way?

♦◊♦

In my opinion, Kathy Griffin needs to apologize and acknowledge that what happened on New Years Eve was inappropriate.

Even if she doesn’t think she needs to apologize to Anderson Cooper, she sure as hell needs to apologize to the legions of women who have been fighting for generations to end this kind of behavior in the workplace. At the very least, Kathy Griffin needs let us know that she knows this kind of harassment isn’t funny when it happens in the real world. I may be dreaming here, but an acknowledgment that this brand of comedy is what feeds rape culture in the real world would be awfully nice.

One explanation people have used for this behavior is that Griffin and Cooper are friends in real life. But that’s what bothers me the most. As if the fact that they are friends means she doesn’t have to respect his boundaries, means that his “no” doesn’t really  mean “no”, or means that she’s allowed to do things that humiliate or degrade him in public or in private.

Why does that piss me off so much? Because that is the very hallmark of of Domestic Abuse. “But baby, I love you, I didn’t mean to hurt you.”  “But you’re my wife, I’m allowed to do this.” “That’s just how our relationship is, I’m sure he doesn’t really mean anything by it, I know he loves me.”

This is Rape Culture. This is one of countless instances in our media culture that tells us “no” doesn’t mean no.  That it’s okay to keep going after the prize even after someone expresses his or her boundaries.

No. A thousand times, NO.

On behalf of every man, woman and child who has suffered abuse at the hands of a loved one and thought that’s what love was, on behalf of every man and woman who has had to endure a sexually hostile work place, on behalf of every rape victim who heard their attacker say, “Oh, come on, you know you really want it,” Happy New Year, Kathy. Thanks for the many unhappy returns to sexualized violence in a culture that confuses rape for humor, accomplishment and some kind of sick joke.

 

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About Alyssa Royse

Alyssa is freelance writer, speaker, fitness trainer and personal coach living in Seattle with her husband and their 3 daughters. They own a gym that she is not legally allowed to tell you the name of because it contains a trademarked word that she paid a lot of money to be affiliated with, but can't use without violating the trademark. She can also be found on her eponymous blog, where she pontificates about food, family, politics and the Seattle rain. Yes, she would love to speak at your event, host a workshop or write something for you. Just ask.

Comments

  1. wellokaythen says:

    Any lawyers out there, please correct me if I’m wrong on this. Theoretically, she could be sued for sexual harassment even if Anderson Cooper refused to press charges. One can sue for sexual harassment on behalf of someone else even if the alleged victim doesn’t cooperate. In many jurisdictions, it depends on the evidence of the creation of a hostile work environment or repeated unwanted sexual advances, of which we have clear documentary evidence. If Cooper didn’t help with the suit, it probably wouldn’t be successful, but it is possible.

    Certainly the network has some grounds for firing her, even if Cooper doesn’t do anything about it.

    It’s not just sexual harassment. What she did could also be construed as anti-gay harassment, which is in some places a hate crime.

  2. Even if she doesn’t think she needs to apologize to Anderson Cooper, she sure as hell needs to apologize to the legions of women who have been fighting for generations to end this kind of behavior in the workplace.
    I think there should also be an apology to the all the men out there that have been sexually harassed by a woman and had it played off in a manner very similar to what she did. Way to give a nation wide demonstration of proof that a woman harassing a man is okay or at the least not a big deal.

    Even if they are friends it’s a matter of decorum. They weren’t at someone’s house party in front of 100 people. No they were on a nation wide broadcast being watched by tens (if not hundreds) of thousands on the street on probably millions at home.

    This isn’t the first time she’s pulled some stuff like this on the New Year’s celebration. Back in 2009 (as in 2008 turning to 2009) she (and Cooper) were hosting and a guy started heckling her. I’ll be the first to agree that heckling is wrong but how does she respond to the heckler?

    “Screw you,” “Why don’t you get a job, buddy? You know what? I don’t go to your job and knock the d- – - out of your mouth.”

    • You are totally right! No gender necessary for an apology that should go to everyone who fights sexual harassment in any way! Or has been victim to it.

  3. Oh my god, so inappropriate. I felt very uncomfortable watching this. Poor Anderson! He handled it with as much class anyone could be expected to.

  4. When I was 21 I (a man) was groped by a stranger, (a woman grabbed and fondled my ass from behind), in a convenience store in Glens Falls, NY. I felt horrible and ashamed because…I actually felt horrible and ashamed. I hardly ever talk about it. As men we are just so programmed to believe that we must always “want it” and thus no one thought me anything but randomly lucky.

    She was a local, known to the cashier, and I was just passing through and felt I couldn’t make a fuss about it without endangering myself, but then I realized I also lacked the vocabulary with which I could make a fuss about it. I literally could not bring the words to my lips…molested, sexually harassed, assaulted. As a man in1988, I simply thought they didn’t apply. My friends were in the car waiting for me and when I told them what happened, it seemed like a joke, to both the man and the three women I was traveling with. A joke.

    That was 25 years ago, these are different times. I thought they were anyway.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      I think times are different now, but not nearly different enough. I’m sorry you went through that, and even more sorry that you felt you had no real way to define what happened.

      Everyone needs to keep their damn hands to themselves. How disgusting.

  5. Bob, what happened to you was wrong. Just flat out wrong. And I still don’t think we have a vocabulary for it, which saddens me. I was floored by what I saw between Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper, horrified that we all laugh at this as if it’s okay. It isn’t.

    And then we don’t understand why people don’t respect – or even see – our boundaries. This is why. There are dozens such examples on any given day, I’m sure.

    • Thank you Alyssa. I know it was wrong. I still struggle with the language to describe it today. It wasn’t particularly traumatic but the presumed uphill battle about explaining how I felt about it is part of what keeps it inside. No cultural context. And lots of doubters.

  6. Alyssa, thank you for writing about this. I watched some of this and felt extremely uncomfortable. Your comments make sense.

  7. If Cooper himself were to object, either during or after the broadcast, I might think Griffin’s behavior constituted harassment. Instead, I see a comedienne engaging in the kind of bawdy humor people expect from her (including a demographic of gay fans she has a reputation for appealing to), and even if that doesn’t include CNN’s audience, it does include her friend Anderson Cooper, who knows from working this exact gig with her several times before that she is pretty much certain to cross the line of good taste as far as many viewers will be concerned. He deflected her physically and verbally, but overall reacted the same way he always does to Griffin, which was to giggle a lot and make incredulous expressions. If these antics were too much for him, I don’t think he showed any sign of that, and if he had – either on-air or off – I think Griffin would have eased up.

    Cooper has enough pull at CNN, I’m sure, to get out of the New Year’s gig with Griffin if he did not enjoy it. CNN itself,could pull the plug on it (or find Cooper a new sidekick) and maybe they will at some point, but I get the feeling that as long as the FCC isn’t fining them into submission, they care more about ratings than taste, and as Howard Stern’s career shows, you can be plenty successful if you get as many people tuning in to take umbrage at your latest outrage as you do tuning in because they actually think you’re funny. CNN seems an odd outlet for this act, but the act isn’t odd for either Griffin or Cooper. If you think Cooper has far too much gravitas to “lower” himself to such base entertainment, recall that before he hit it big on CNN as a journalist, his biggest claim to fame was being host of “The Mole”. (I like Cooper – I just don’t picture him as some always-serious news guy like Cronkite or even Blitzer.)

    Would this be sexual harrassment if it was “any two different people?” In most cases yes, but stripping away all relevant context and making believe it’s the worst possible context involving two random people is a good way to turn lots of benign interactions between friends into outrageous acts.

    • I agree with you Marcus. The proof is not whether some website like Feministe would object or not, or whether the reversing of genders causes hypocritical stances by the same group, or whether we note a hypocritical stance on the reversal – the proof is the context of the situation and how the subjects interact historically and whether there is a complaint from Anderson on the behavior.

      The evidence is the evidence not a self-selected artifact of the evidence. I don’t like that the discourse on sexuality seems to be converging on the bar set up by extremists. I don’t see progress as something that matches the stupidity of an extreme ideology for the sake of avoiding a hypocritical outcome.

      • John Anderson says:

        “the proof is the context of the situation and how the subjects interact historically and whether there is a complaint from Anderson on the behavior.”

        RAINN estimates that 54% of rapes are not reported. for men raped by women that estimate would be higher. I don’t think you can say that something isn’t a crime or wrong just because someone hasn’t filed a formal complaint, which is really the argument. If Anderson Cooper had a problem with it, he would file a formal complaint. Unless it was staged, I think he complained sufficiently.

        I don’t have a problem with looking at the historical context. The historical context also shows that he’s gay and she knows it. Maybe it’s an issue of straight women feeling entitled to gay men’s bodies that doesn’t mean it isn’t wrong. Maybe Kathy Griffin kisses all her male friends on the crotch during New Years. I don’t know that.

    • As always, Marcus is correct. It’s an individual situation which merits an individualized response.

      “this is Rape Culture, plain and simple.” Nope. This is an individual incident. Rape Culture is a self-serving feminist myth, plain and simple.

    • John Anderson says:

      @ Marcus

      “If Cooper himself were to object, either during or after the broadcast,”

      I thought he did. He held a no nudity sign in front of his genitals. Every time she kneel down, he did also. So it’s not rape if you don’t fight back hard enough? It’s not rape if you’re too embarrassed to report it or if you just want it to go away and put it behind you.

      “CNN itself,could pull the plug on it (or find Cooper a new sidekick)”

      I’ve heard this argument to. So it’s not sexual harassment if the bosses don’t mind.

      “and if he had – either on-air or off – I think Griffin would have eased up.”

      I suppose life would be easier if we could read peoples minds. This is an assumption like if a woman wears a short skirt she must be looking for sex. I kind of missed the part where they went off air during the interaction. So how would she have eased up or are you talking about next time? Kind of reminds me of how they “investigated” the players complaints over the actions of Lisa Olsen in the player’s locker room. They didn’t actually investigate the complaints. They based their determination of past behavior based on how she interviewed the players the week after.

      “Cooper has enough pull at CNN, I’m sure, to get out of the New Year’s gig with Griffin if he did not enjoy it.”

      He should be able to defend himself against a woman if he didn’t want it. If he can’t what kind of a man is he anyway regardless that would be next year. You’ve been raped. Well maybe you should just not hang out with him anymore.

      • My impression was that Cooper was enjoying himself, based not on mind-reading, but on the same external signs of enjoyment that I have seen him exhibit with Griffin in the past, or even when he’s having a silly moment that doesn’t involve Griffin. It looks to me that rather than seeing Cooper experience discomfort and a sense of being harassed, and feeling sympathetic to that, what people are doing is projecting a sense of discomfort and harassment that they think he should feel, or that they would feel if they were in his place.

        This was not a newscast, it was a performance. Both performers (and the network that hired them) had plenty of experience to know what to expect from each other. That doesn’t mean it was scripted, but going blue and intentionally making people squirm is completely expected from Griffin, as is Cooper’s reaction to squirm, laugh, and “protest”. I put “protest” in quotes intentionally, because he’s done it every time I’ve seen him perform with Griffin. One of the reasons I reject any notion that this was sexual harassment is that I don’t believe for a second that it’s a workplace condition Cooper was forced to endure to keep his job. Maybe the first time they did this gig, there’d be cause for surprise, but it was entirely consistent with how they’ve behaved on the New Year’s broadcast before, and he showed no more visible discomfort than he did those other times. I read somewhere else (sorry, don’t have a link) that when Cooper told we he thought was the most outrageous moment of the broadcast, it wasn’t when Griffin groped at him or pretended to go down on him – it was when Psy and MC Hammer made an unplanned cameo and Psy seemed to have no idea who Cooper and Griffin were or why he’d been shoved in front of a camera. I think all the commentary about how Cooper was humiliated is coming from people who think he should have felt that way, not from Cooper himself.

        Now, if you strip away the context of who it was, how well they know each other, what was expected, etc. and make it “any two other people”, then yes, I could easily construe it as sexual harassment under different circumstances. But not in these circustances. Similarly, if I hear of two consenting adults tying each other up, saying things that sound degrading, and having sex, that “consenting adults” part tells me it’s a couple of people getting their kink on, as opposed to the violent sexual assault it would be if it was just any two people.

        • By the way, I’m not disputing whether Griffin’s conduct toward Cooper made many viewers uncomfortable. Obviously it did. I think in the titular question, though, that Cooper’s own impression is relevant to whether it was sexual harassment, and based on their history together, his reaction, and the power structure in place (he’s got the regular gig, she just comes to make him squirm and giggle on New Year’s), it didn’t look like he was sexually harassed in any serious sense of the phrase.

    • @Marcus….

      “Instead, I see a comedienne engaging in the kind of bawdy humor people expect from her (including a demographic of gay fans she has a reputation for appealing to), and even if that doesn’t include CNN’s audience, it does include her friend Anderson Cooper, who knows from working this exact gig with her several times before that she is pretty much certain to cross the line of good taste as far as many viewers will be concerned.”

      Marcus I agree with you. Last year, she was undressing in front of him…..We need to be able to laugh about certain things. Stuff is just taken way too seriously today. hell, I just read where mothers no longer like for strangers cooing at their babies. This 79 year old woman was yelled at by a 20 something mother. Come on! Give me break!

      Now Brent Mussberger is being taken to task over the beautiful woman who is his new girlfriend. I did not find his comments over the top. Hell, he was just speaking the truth! Everyone knows that even ugly and unattractive athletes get beautiful women. Is it hypergamy? Or the alpha male thingy? I am sure if the Alabama QB was not the Alabama QB he would NOT be dating Miss Alabama. Or the Heisman Trophy winner dating a model.

      It is what it is people.

      • There is a world of difference between stripping and touching someone in a way they say they don’t want, repeatedly. I can go to a party and naked if I want. Poor judgement maybe, but not sexual harassment. The minute that I start touching someone else, ESPECIALLY after someone else repeatedly says no, that’s a problem. A big one.

        • Alyssa, have you ever playfully wrestled with someone you know and trust, and given them something like an “Aw, cut that out”, even while you’re not seriously bothered? Or laughed at someone you know well while they do something naughty, while at the same time telling them to quit because you know it’s naughty and could get them – or both of you – in trouble? I’d say there’s a world of difference between that kind of resistance – which is what it looks to me like Cooper offers to Griffin every New Years, including the “harassment” bit – and “starting to touch someone after repeated no’s”, which is a way of framing it that strips away all the relevant context and established cues between the two people being discussed.

          This is not me encouraging rape by saying “no” means “yes” and it’s all fun and games. I’m saying people aren’t morons, and there are contexts like comedy or friendships (and this had both) where the appearance of objectionable behavior and token resistance by someone are NOT actual harassment in the face of authentic resistance. It’s a show. The players know it, and I’m guessing most viewers do, too. To me, this is roughly comparable to being outraged at all the eye-poking that goes on in the Three Stooges. I mean, you can tell from the way they keep blocking with the straight hand in front of the face that they didn’t like their eyes being poked, right? We can all relate to how much it hurts getting poked in the eye. Imagine any two other people going around poking eyes like that. Now, are the Three Stooges crystal clear examples that we live in Eye Poking Culture? I submit they aren’t, and if you disagree, why I oughta…nyah nyah nyah.

          • This is something I’ve been trying to teach my boys. That intonation and tone mean things as much as words do. They play the obligatory warrior type games and there is an important lesson in teaching them that “Oh stop it! You are killing me” delivered in a dramatic tone (all while continuing to pose and fight) is different than “CUT IT OUT NOW I MEAN IT” in a different tone of voice and withdrawing play.

            I also have them pick a “for real NO” word so that their Spartan or Roman warriors can use words like No, Stop, Flee etc without stopping the game.

            Hearing tone, noticing non-verbal cues…really important.

            • Alyssa Royse says:

              Can you see why that might be problematic? Imagine a rapist saying, “well, she said NO, but it wasn’t that kind of no, it was the joking kind of no, it was the NO my brother says when we’re rough-housing, and my mom said that’s not the real kind of no.”

            • I can see why it might be problematic for rapists but I don’t see why its problematic for the vast majority of men who don’t rape.

            • I can see the problem with it, but I can also see the solution to it, both visible in the same post. Those kids aren’t learning to disregard no completely, they’re being given a useful tool to navigate some of the ambiguity human communication unfortunately has.

              By having them agree on a “for a real NO” word, you basically enable them to play pretend, and avoid breaking the illusion while still giving them an out if they need it. It’s very much akin to a safe-word in that respect, and I’d think that it enriches their ability to communicate about and manage boundaries, not diminishes it.

              I actually think it’s a bit of a pity safe-words are associated with kink, because I believe the stigma that comes with us stops us from using what is really a much more widely applicable tool.

            • Alyssa Royse says:

              My sweetie and I use a safeword in lots of settings. If i say 5 or 6 times that I’m ready to go home and he doesn’t seem to get it, for instance, one stern look and a clearly stated “tomato!” gets the job done. Time to go. ;)

            • That’s another great use. I haven’t tried it much myself, but I’ve heard many times of people arranging code phrases ahead of time for conveying a desire to leave while minimizing the social awkwardness of it. Especially if it’s a social setting where you can’t whisper the codeword without drawing awkward attention, it’s handy to have some word, phrase, or even gesture to send the message without having to announce, “I’m serious – let’s go now!”

            • Yes! And I think the idea of safewords even for just rough play is a good idea. I usually associate safewords with kink, but as in your example, there are many good potential applications, including ones that help kids (or anybody) learn to intepret, deliver, and respect various kinds of “No”.

          • And the Stooges are a great example of “Low Comedy” which is a form that began back in ancient Greece, commonly using lewd gestures and physical comedy (involving pain and suffering) which moved through Commedia d’ell Arte, Vaudeville and most recently cartoons like Bugs Bunny or Road Runner or Tom and Jerry. Looking over Griffins performance, there is a lot of that referenced.

          • Alyssa Royse says:

            Yes and No.

            Mostly no. I don’t really do rough-housing and tickling like that. And when I do reach over and tickle my 2 year-old, as soon as she says “don’t do that,” I stop, and I thank her for telling me what she wants. My 7 year-old will ask first, if she feels like wrestling or something, which I love. So no, I don’t think that there is ever a situation in which it’s okay to be poking at someone, especially if they ask you to stop.

            That said, those are my relationships, and the people who have relationships with me know that that’s how I operate. I am not a touchy-feely person. I don’t like to hug people either. Not unless I am really close with them. People who know me know that, and if someone I am not close to tries to hug me, I will very quickly stick a hand out to shake, and block the advance.

            I understand that that isn’t how Griffin and Coopers relationship works, and that’s totally their business. What they do in private is fully up to them, I don’t care if they have naked tortoise races while huffing on hookahs, they get to define their relationship however they want. However, many people, if not most, watching their public interactions as host of an entertainment show, don’t know the context of their relationship. I didn’t. I was floored when I saw what they were doing. All I saw was someone saying no to having their genitals fondled, and someone else going for the genitals anyway, and saying “oh come on, you know you want it.” The exact same words that thousands of rape victims have heard when telling someone to stay away from their genitals. Even people who were close to their attackers.

            It is the normalization – celebration – of that behavior that I object to. That these two people who were, in that moment, pretty much defining a national celebration, chose to do so by reenacting something that thousands of people recognized as harassment and / or rape. Not okay.

            Are there things they could have done to make it okay? Maybe. Maybe one or both of them could have said, “she does this all the time, she’s like my annoying kid sister, it’s actually okay with me…..” I don’t know. Even that wouldn’t be okay, because it would still be saying, “It’s okay for people close to me to violate my boundaries even when I say no.” Again, if that’s what they do in their private lives, fine. But to normalize it out to the world as if this is acceptable, an acceptable way to respect the bodies and boundaries of others, no, not okay.

            And yes, I did walk away from a large portion of my family because precisely this kind of teasey behavior takes place in my family, and I did not want it normalized for my then 3-year-old daughter. I saw it from her eyes, what it looked like in terms of defining how people are allowed to treat us, and I walked away.

            I grew up on the Stooges, and I loved them. They did look different to me when I watched them as an adult. And I’m not sure how I’d feel about my kids watching them. They don’t, currently. But I do know that it’s different than this. It is a whole ridiculous slapstick world in which lots of things are not as they are in the real world. It’s the difference between Kansas and Oz. In The Wiazard of Oz, Kansas is black and white, recognize it as similar to the world in which we leave. We know we are in a fantasy when suddenly everything is technicolor and bizarre. That separation from reality to fantasy helps us make the theoretical leap to know that thunderstorms in the real world don’t mean that houses will fall on us if we go outside. (If we happen to be witches, I suppose.)

            The Three Stooges are Oz. We know they aren’t real, and that real people don’t behave like that. (Though I’m still not sure I’d like my kids watching it.) New Years Eve live form Times Square with Cooper and Griffin was real. Very real. And their behavior was an exact mimicry of the real offenses that happen against people’s bodies all the time. And we are told, in the real world, to laugh it off, loosen up and toughen up. And that’s a big problem. So no, what they did is not okay. Nor is it analgous to The Three Stooges.

            • The one thing I’ll say here is that I don’t think Griffin and Cooper were intending on normalizing the behavior, I think she was mocking and playing off the fact that “you know you want it” is wrong and outrageous and that what she was doing was outrageous and clearly (to her, to them, to me after watching it) calling out a ridiculous act, a piece of low comedy, of bawdy vaudeville and acting obnoxious. The up and down nearly seemed choreographed to me and the plastic paper (No swearing) seemed like a prop, because duh, she knows she can’t swear and she took her clothes off last year, so that’s a joke on “Kathy, don’t go there this year.”

              I get what it is symbolizing to others, I get that there is a range of reactions from projection, to anger, to seeing something very different, to lack of context, but I can’t see eliminating humor (from low to high, from satire to farce, from physical to cartoon). Maybe it’s just my bias and education around it, but humor serves a purpose in human life, and has for thousands of years. It points out flaws, it highlights hypocrisy, creates quick layers of education (even if sterotypical), provides maps to cultural dynamics, it speaks truth to power in ways the power can’t object to, it let’s us blow off steam because life is painful (referencing the Stooges). We all fall down, we all get so frustrated we want to let steam out of our ears, we all look stupid at times.

              And actors have used comedy to tell stories of all manner outrageous and political for thousands of years.

              I get that sexual harassment of men is often treated as a double standard. I see here some other story, another message in part pointing that out. How outrageous that the ugly Kathy Griffin (desperate for sex, a role she plays) would plead and harass a gay man (one of her most loyal markets, the gay market), she’s doing a kind of drag that gay communities (in general) respond to.

              I’ve seen her live several times, and most of her audience are gay men and straight women.

              Anyway, my few cents, doesn’t mean that men should be sexually harassed, but the lens with which I saw this (not that I can’t see it the other way) was through a lens of comedy, watching very skilled and honed performers perform. And probably being giddy and silly.

            • I can see it from both Alyssa’s and Julie and Marcus’s point of view. But I think this whole thing turns on gender and sex. If the relationship was the same and Cooper did it to Griffin, the title of this article wouldn’t be phrased as a question. It is also true from that it is not necessarily transgressive comedy if Cooper does it to Griffin, in fact it is not comedy at all. The Three Stooges grabbing each others’ crotches would not be funny either. So I think we have to deal with the fact that this can be mined for laughs…successfully. Because a woman did it to a man.

            • Whoops, Julie, my post was written before reading your last one, though it ended up posting after your appeared. Looks like you addressed the comedy and the gender references. Didn’t mean to be redundant.

            • It depends on how Griffin reacted to Cooper. If she was like OMG THE GAY SILVER FOX IS HARASSING ME! loud and so forth, then we’d see it differently than if she shied away (something she doesn’t do) or if we read later that she was pissed. Hell, I’d think it was more transgressive and an interesting cultural commentary if Cooper got sexual with Kathy, though I suppose it would depend how. Honestly, if I saw that I’d be more confused because Cooper is playing the “straight man” no pun intended to Griffin’s Unruly Clown. Just like if it was say, Galifinakis as the unruly clown and someone perceived as more serious as the straight foil.

              Kathy’s entire brand is inappropriateness, rude, D-list, unruly vulgar woman etc. She’s been doing that for decades.

              I know I’m too in context because it’s something I study and observe, but that’s what I’ve seen after watching it several times.

              I do see that other people see other things. I get it, I do.

            • What’s weird is that in all of it I didn’t see anything happening as sexual at all. Like nothing she did seemed to carry real sexuality with it. Or the underwear bit fromlast year. She is doing a “grotesque” send up of sex and portraying her as actually really un-sexual while being sexually vulgar. Kind of like the Greek comic vulgar character of Priapus, an actor would play him with a huge phallus and ugly mask. It’s like…SEX! but not sexy at all, and played for vulgar comic effect.

            • Yeah, Julie, I hear you. I think none of us who post to this blog can really decontextualize ourselves fully, we are probably more aware of all the crosscurrents than the average viewer. I certainly can’t take it out of the context of my experience outlined above.

              But I do worry about the average viewer, especially if they have experienced this at some point and realize later, “holy shit I was not ok with that and I didn’t react the way should have,” which I hear time and time and time again from women who experienced goofing around that goes too far sexually. Or specifically from men like me who have been groped and then found themselves at an utter loss to explain it, and then see it mimicked and accepted and chuckled about on national TV.

              But again, I can’t decontextualize myself from that, and I will own up to it.

            • I hear you. I have deep empathy for you and others who have been treated badly and not believed. I can easily see this as a trigger.

            • Alyssa Royse says:

              Whereas I can’t get to the place in which her talking about his genitals, asking if he wants a blowjob, repeatedly grabbing at and pretending to put her mouth on his genitals is free of sexuality. Is it “hot” and “sexy?” No. But is it sexual, yes.

            • Alyssa Royse says:

              It is the average viewer I worry about too. And not because of triggering (though, hello!) but because I don’t trust the average viewer to understand that this is not being condoned as an acceptable behavior pattern. Especially since it IS being condoned as an acceptable behavior pattern by virtue of their hosting such an event.

            • Alyssa (and Bob) – What I think I hear you saying is that the Griffin/Cooper bit brings up really negative feelings for you, due to a combination of past traumas, or maybe even just different comfort zones about what kind of touch and teasing is or isn’t okay with you. I respect that and sympathize, especially if it stirs traumatic stuff for you. The thing about triggers, though, is that the triggering action or person can be much more benign than it feels to you. That doesn’t diminish your response, but I don’t think it’s all that helpful to rail at the world for having so many damn triggers. Let me try another example to illustrate…

              I have a pretty good acquaintance with infertility, and the emotional difficulties that go along with it. I know this from direct experience of myself and my wife, as well as from interacting with hundreds of other people (mostly women, since men don’t seek out as much support). There’s no one reaction that every infertile person has, but there are many common themes that come up again and again. One is that infertile people generally, but in particular women who have been trying to get pregnant or carry to term for years, often find it difficult to be around other pregnant women, whether it’s strangers in public, or a sister or dear friend. I have seen the reactions many times over, and it’s not unusual for it to be framed not just as painful, but as though that pregnant person is doing it to spite them. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “She only got pregnant because she know I was trying to,” or other statements that make *other women’s pregnancies* somehow about them. Even though that heartache is genuine and reasonable for the circumstances, it wouldn’t be reasonable for infertile people to expect all the ferties of the world to stop getting pregnant as a courtesy. Though the ferties trigger the pain, they aren’t the real source – the infertility is. On a thinking level, no one wants everyone else to stop getting pregnant, but on a feeling level, I think it starts to feel like everyday ordinary stuff is cruel and part of the problem, so you just wish everyone else would stop seeing it as ordinary, because to you, it’s anything but. (That’s general “you”, not you Alyssa.)

              I sympathize with people who found Griffin/Cooper triggering, but don’t agree with an analysis that says the problem was with Griffin/Cooper, or that because some people were triggered, there must be a negative ripple effect throughout the culture that everyone feels. I can’t conceive of any way to verify with a measurement, but I honestly can’t imagine that the low farce Griffin engaged in with Cooper will cause a single additional instance of sexual assault or rape (regardless of gender) than if she hadn’t done it. Fewer sensibilities would have been offended if she hadn’t done it, but that’s true of a lot of comedy or art in general.

            • Alyssa Royse says:

              I was not triggered. I think of that as a very specific trauma response. I was – and still am – concerned that this kind of using sexuality and sexual transgression as a joke feeds a culture that allows us to take people sexuality and sexual boundaries as a joke. So that “no means no” has no meaning, because a lot of times, it’s “okay” and “funny” to ignore “no.”

              I am fine with all manner of sexuality, and a lot of it can be funny. I am a very bawdy person, in general. But I do not think it is okay, in a culture with a fairly serious rape problem, to make jokes about “going down” on people even after they have said no. I think it harms us.

            • Thanks Marcus, I don’t think of it as a triggering thing, nor do I see it in black and white terms of right/wrong, ok/not ok.

              My main issue with it is how the general public accepts it because it is a woman doing it to a man. It is not any less right or wrong, but as far as comedy is concerned, it is somehow more funny. It is not just a double standard, it is a double standard composed of two standards as far apart from each other on the spectrum as they could be. I’m guessing but I bet that 95% percent of the population thinks it was funny, or just doesn’t care that it happened. Switch the genitals and the same high percentage of people think it is not only not comedy but a crime has been committed, lawsuits filed, FCC involvement, careers ended for the same act. Same transgression. Same joke..

              Then it is 95% of the population having this conversation, approaching Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake levels, not just us here on GMP.

    • wellokaythen says:

      Dang it. I change my mind. Marcus’ post was much more reasonable and sensible than my earlier one was. I think much of the interpretation boils down to what Cooper, the alleged victim, thinks or feels about her behavior. He might choose to look at the larger context or not. Whether or not something counts as harassment depends on how the target of it feels about it. At some level there needs to be some appreciation of the alleged victim as a person.

      (This doesn’t mean every allegation of sexual harassment is automatically true, just that if you think harassment has happened, let’s ask the supposed victim first. See what he says. The person to ask first is not the public, but Cooper himself.)

      • @wellokay – I never thought I’d see the day, so I feel like I should go mark the date on my calendar as “The Day I Changed Someone’s Mind On GMP”. Thanks for making my day. :)

  8. “Would this be sexual harrassment if it was “any two different people?” In most cases yes, but stripping away all relevant context and making believe it’s the worst possible context involving two random people is a good way to turn lots of benign interactions between friends into outrageous acts.”

    I would TOTALLY agree with this if it weren’t on national television. But I think that media sets a standard in a way that holds it to a higher standard than how you or I would behave with our friends in private.

    • That ‘higher standard’ is what has given us Here Comes Honey Boo Boo; the media is about consumption and whatever will keep the people coming back for more, whether it is because of shock, anger (especially the righteous kind,) fear, or ridicule.

      • Alyssa Royse says:

        You are right. What I should have set was media SHOULD set a higher standard. It certainly does not on a regular basis.

        Or perhaps a more nuanced point that media, for better or worse, does set a standard that society seems to follow. I’ve written about why Kim Kardashian bothers me in that light, Honey Boo Boo does to, and why, as such, the behavior between Griffin and Cooper does too. Popular media informs our culture to too great a degree to not pay attention to what it teaches us. In this case, that no doesn’t mean no, and that pushing through someone’s boundaries to get what you want is funny. it’s okay. We all need to lighten up a little.

        I disagree.

        And it would not have been hard to write a truly funny piece about Kathy Griffin needing to unwrap a good Christmas Sac. It would still have been bawdy and tasteless, but she would have mocked herself, not someone else, and not ignored “no” while charging through someone’s boundaries.

        • Not that I disagree with the theme and thrust of the piece, but Griffin’s humor is often focused on how obnoxious and boundary-less she is with other people. And herself, she does mock herself a lot, but part of her schtick is being pushy with others.

          I agree a great deal with Marcus, and I do also see how if had been the opposite direction people wouldn’t like it.

          But. Comedy isn’t always pretty, in fact, a lot of humor comes from pain and anger and observation and turning traditional roles on their heads (as in a straight woman harassing a gay man). What matters to me is at what level of intelligence are the comedians operating and is there context for the work.

          I’m a comedian and actress and I value what comedy offers from the sacred to profane. I don’t have time today to break down humor and what I see as culturally approved places to do transgressive work, etc but I don’t see a huge amount of problem with the character of Kathy doing obnoxious and desperate comedy with the character of Cooper (clearly their history and relationship allow for this particular kind of play to happen and the set ups and duality/opposition are very very old comic forms, like from the middle ages).

          While I do think it’s more important than ever to offer mediated images of healthy boundaries, healthy interactions, I’d really like to see that in dramatic shows as well, in commercials, and news images because comedy is always going to utilize generalizations and transgressive counterpoint to what’s going on in the world. It always has.

          • I agree with most of what you say Julie but there is a matter of degree here. It is not that if it were reversed “people wouldn’t like it,” it would if Anderson Cooper buries his face in between Kathy Griffin’s thighs on live TV it would be that Anderson Cooper never works in TV again and CNN would have a a team of attorneys working all day on New Year’s Day to figure out how to limit their liability. Even if as Marcus points out their working relationship allowed for that kind of interplay.

            It is also worth noting that if Kathy Griffin didn’t immediately object to him doing that on live TV that she too would be excoriated by some segment of the population. We fuss with stereotypes at our own peril.

            Reminds me of a story I heard about an FTM comic who described his stand-up work when he was a lesbian as edgy, funny, and transgressive but after he transitioned the very same work just made him look like an asshole. Forgive me for not having his name handy at the moment.

            • Agreed Bob.

              It seems that historic interactions only count when they are useful. If this were reversed I’m sure many would have no problem pointing out how men have felt privileged to take freedoms with women’s bodies and Cooper being gay would certainly be tied into it (and this post would probably get backlinked to that post a few weeks ago about gay men’s sexism against women). Meaning that the violation would be readily acknowledged.

              But would those same people be so quick to acknowledge the history behind women taking freedoms with men’s bodies (and Cooper’s homosexuality would certainly tie into the way its culturally acceptable for straight women to treat gay guys like fashion accessories)?

              Im not convinced they would.

            • I think the combination of people and their context would play into it. A comic like Zach Galifinakis (who is known for being weird, surreal and odd boundaries) and say, someone from the View (if they knew each other)..I can see him doing ridiculous things and not getting in trouble for it. But again, if they were strangers, if they’d not done shows together. What I think is coming up for me is that the intersections of context, race, gender, history …all play into how people react or don’t react.

              I’m not saying it’s a good thing to play act sexual bullying, I just agree more with Marcus here and I’m owning my own context as an actor/comedian.

            • I think we mostly agree here. It’s just that it seems to me that this context you speak of is selectively acknowledged, along the lines of “Does this support my side?” to be exact.

              I’m sure that you, if you saw Galifinakis does similar actions on national tv with a gay women that he was not a stranger to, would take all the contexts into account. I’m not convinced that everyone would.

            • I don’t know how I’d react. I”m in the process of looking through video now to see what I can find. I’m a little ticked that you think I’m trying to “side” things, rather than look at comedy and how it works. I’m well aware that there are a lot of people in the world who wouldn’t get or see or think about context, and that have no education around comedy, it’s history and dynamics. Most people think comedy is just…funny, but don’t see the structures, cues, etc that go into making comedy actual work, or the reasons comedy is part of the human experience.

              And I’ve stated repeatedly that mediated images of sexual bullying is no good. I think that comedy is a weird pocket because within it nearly nothing is aimed at being nuanced, subtle, realistic etc. That’s drama and non fiction.

              Anyway,

            • No Julie I wasn’t trying to say that you would try to “side” things. In fact my last paragraph says that you would take all contexts into account. As I know you would not try to dicount certain contexts just because it tip the scales of the interpretation of an incident a certain way.

              For example I know you while you acknowledge male privilege I know that you wouldn’t try to say that Cooper’s male privilege means that this is not harassment or that having male privilege somehow means that these things don’t happen on an institutional scale.

              Sorry for the confusion.

      • wellokaythen says:

        “That ‘higher standard’ is what has given us Here Comes Honey Boo Boo;”

        Hey now. I’ve only seen a few episodes, but does Mama ever sexually harass Honey Bear?

        Besides, some of the most important examples in our lives are the negative examples. There is something to be said for entertainment that holds a mirror up to show us the worst parts of ourselves. Unless we’re now supposed to go back to the superbland TV shows from the 1950′s?

  9. John Anderson says:

    I guess I’m the just the eternal optimist or maybe I’ve just been conditioned to believe the hype. My biggest disappointment was the reaction this got on many “feminist / progressive” websites, which actually approved of this “humor” or thought it entertaining. Many of these websites even criticized a particular website for publishing articles they termed as rape apology.

    You would think that a guy who looked at feminism and rejected it because I determined that it wasn’t actually interested in fighting the abuse of men, would not be surprised at the reaction, but it still feels disappointing. It’s one thing to ignore rape culture and the abuse of men. It’s an entirely different thing to actively support it.

  10. It’s definitely harrassment. What I wonder Is if it was a *gay* woman would it be even more objectionable? For some reason it bothers me more because Cooper is gay.

    One quibble: Kathy Griffin didn’t play George’s assistant. She played an annoying friend of George’s fiancée who based a comedy routine on Jerry.

    • “For some reason it bothers me more because Cooper is gay.”

      Maybe, along with the recent “Gay Mens Sexism and Women’s Bodies” article, we need a “Women’s Sexism and Gay Men’s Bodies” piece?

    • wellokaythen says:

      The fact that Cooper is gay, she knows he’s gay, and she says “you know you want it” is kind of an anti-gay joke, isn’t it? It’s like she’s teasing him by saying “you’re not really gay.” If it’s harassment (IF!) it’s not just sexual harassment, it’s sexual harassment with an anti-gay flavor.

      • I just thought of this: if, say, Adam Carolla (to pick an equally annoying male comedian) did the same to Rachel MAddow he would never be allowed on TV again.

        • I’m having a hard time picturing Adam Corolla being especially appealing to the lesbian demographic, but if he was, and he pretended to motorboat Maddow during a New Year’s countdown gig, and it happened after several years of making her laugh and squirm as “the straight man” at similarly vulgar actions during the same gig…he might not be allowed on TV again, but I still wouldn’t consider it sexual harassment.

          On the other hand, if Griffin had crashed the Situation Room on election night to grab at Wolf Blitzer’s crotch and pretend to fellate him while he was about to call the state of Ohio…that would strike me as something other than, “There goes Griffin with her raunch again.”

          There’s more to the context than female comedian, male news anchor, so just flipping the genders doesn’t create a comparable situation. Griffin delivered the kind of humor she is known for, to a friend/co-worker who is very familiar with it and has shown every sign of enjoying it. On top of that, it’s well known a big part of her fan base are gay men, and she knew Cooper was gay well before he came out publicly, so the idea that either one of them would interpret her “overtures” as serious attempts to have her way with him sexually just doesn’t hold up. It’s not hard to believe many viewers would lack enough of that background to interpret what was going on as harmless, but they both knew she was only playing at it, in a send-up of the real thing.

          • So because Griffin has gay male fans (whom she condescendingly refers to as “her” gays) it’s all okay?

            • You know how Chris Rock can use the N-word in his routines and it’s “okay”, but Jeff Foxworthy can’t? It’s kind of like that. The point of bringing up her gay following, though, wasn’t to prove you should find her funny, just like you might not laugh at any Chris Rock routines that involve the N-word. The point is that Cooper and much of Griffin’s audience expect and enjoy that kind of comedy from her, so that made it different than if the person grabbing at Cooper’s sack had been…let’s say Chris Rock or Jeff Foxworthy. “All okay” makes it sound like this behavior would be fine in any context between any people at any time, which I already said it wouldn’t. But *this* time? I’m okay with it, insofar as “okay” means not thinking it constituted sexual harassment, per the question asked by the article.

          • wellokaythen says:

            “On the other hand, if Griffin had crashed the Situation Room on election night to grab at Wolf Blitzer’s crotch and pretend to fellate him while he was about to call the state of Ohio….”

            It’s probably wrong that I find this example hysterically funny, isn’t it…..

            Then again, it would largely boil down to how Wolf felt about it. Journalists spend long hours covering elections, with a lot of mindnumbing facts and figures crossing in front of their faces. I don’t assume playful faux fellatio would be always unwelcome.

            And don’t tell me there was no fellating going on when people called the vote in Florida in 2000…..

            • “Journalists spend long hours covering erections, with a lot of mindnumbing facts and figures crossing in front of their faces. ”

              That was totally inappropriate. Shame on you!

            • You know the old cliché about guys thinking about baseball stats to delay climax? Do you think Wolf uses polling results? “Ohio, Ohio…too close to call…too close to call…precincts…reporting…polls are tight…too close to call…tight pole…I’m…this just in…I’m calling it — Ohhhhhh Hiiiii Ohhhhhhhhh!”

              To any Wolf Blitzer fans out there: you’re welcome.

            • lolololol

  11. Alyssa Royse says:

    Drew, Joanna and I actually talked about that in this incident. And I decided to look for more examples and just leave this one simple. But such a piece is on our radar, for sure. If you can think of points / examples, let me know, because I do think it’s important. Although hopefully we realize that it boils down to – “all of our bodies and boundaries need to be respected.”

  12. Okay, the matter is on Wikipedia, with this story as the reference. It is ‘notable’ in my opinion. Maybe others will cleanse Wikipedia, but it will remain in Kathy’s “record”.

  13. The context matters, but does everyone know the context? If you deconstruct the thing you have a woman behaving in a sexually harrassing way toward a man on a nationally televised show. Add the context and you have a “bit” where a woman behaves in a sexually harrassing way toward a man on national television. So there’s that.

    I suspect that this performance would be perceived differently if the sexes were reversed, and especially among people who identify themselves as feminist. I don’t see that as a “gotcha” or an indictment of feminism. I do see it as a reflection of the persistent idea that men are indiscriminate fuck machines just waiting to have their switch flipped. How’s that working out for most of us, men and women?

  14. John Anderson says:

    I’ve tried to put it in terms of a bachelor party at least in my own mind. Bachelor parties are really for the friends of the bachelor and are almost always embarrassing to the bachelor. There is a lot of social pressures on these guys to play along, but I’ve stepped in for the best man on one occasion and the groom on another. The groom got intentionally drunk before the entertainment came. The best man just punked out. Neither faced any social repercussions excepts for some teasing now and then, but I wonder what would happen if they quit during the show. They also didn’t refuse the party. I’m guessing that it’s not easy to disappoint even your closest buddies. It wasn’t until it got down to the moment of truth that they punked out. One guy couldn’t even do that and got drunk.

    Now what if it was on national TV. Would I just play along? If I didn’t see a way out of it, I think I probably would. I think he tried to stop it as much as he felt he could without ruining his career or Kathy Griffin’s. Sometimes people we care about do things that hurt us or are wrong. I think we sometimes forgiven them because we value the friendship more. That doesn’t make what they did right or good.

  15. Alyssa Royse says:

    For what it’s worth, even if we don’t come to agreement (which is totally not necessary) I am THRILLED that this conversation is taking place, and remain floored by the quality of the comments. Without exception. These are the conversations that increase understanding and change the world.

  16. John Schtoll says:

    I highly doubt you would ever see this thing happen with the genders reveresed, WHY???, because the male comedian would know or believe his career would be over.

    Take “THE VIEW” incident where the women made fun of the man who had his penis cut off by his wife. Can you even conceive of any male hosts of a TV talk show doing the same thing. I can’t, not for a milisecond. they know full well the show would be cancelled and they wouldn’t have been able to recover. “THE VIEW” on the other hand issued a rather unapologetic apology and just moved right on like nothing had happened.

  17. When I first saw this article, Kathy’s conduct looked pretty bad to me. Andersen’s discomfort seemed real to my (admittedly untrained) eye. But after watching some of the other New Years performances they’ve done, that actually appears to be part of their dynamic, and it was no longer clear to me if Andersen was just acting for the camera or genuinely uncomfortable. As outsiders, we really aren’t able to know how he feels about it – we just have to hope that if that genuinely bothered him that he’d be able to do something about it.

    As a performance, the question really hinges on whether it normalizes the attitude that a mans boundaries aren’t important. I’m not so sure that it does, Julie Gillis makes a point here about comedy sometimes being a transgressive counterpoint, and it does seem that part of what makes this funny is precisely that her behavior isn’t acceptable.

    Whilst checking out some of the previous New Years performances on YouTube, I also came across a very recent interview with David Letterman. In it, he asks her “Let’s say a man on television did that to you, what would the reaction be?”. Her reaction isn’t particularly serious – but here’s the thing: that question is being asked, not only on websites that focus on these kind of issues but on mainstream TV shows like Letterman. The interview can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=vy8gbFAt5JI

    That, to me, seems like a very positive sign.


    • When I first saw this article, Kathy’s conduct looked pretty bad to me. Andersen’s discomfort seemed real to my (admittedly untrained) eye. But after watching some of the other New Years performances they’ve done, that actually appears to be part of their dynamic, and it was no longer clear to me if Andersen was just acting for the camera or genuinely uncomfortable. As outsiders, we really aren’t able to know how he feels about it – we just have to hope that if that genuinely bothered him that he’d be able to do something about it.

      While we can’t know exactly what Cooper was feeling about that situation unless he goes into it there is still the implications that go beyond the who in the situation but also the what.

      Just saw that clip and her answer was, “If it was Cooper I’d do what every gay guy and straight woman would do. Unzip.”

      I suppose the fact that Letterman asked the question could be taken as a positive sign but given how quickly it was dismissed (because she gave her joking answer and they went on to the next topic) how positive is it though?

      I’m all for context and recognizing how such situations can be funny. But if the issues behind these situations aren’t actually being talked out then these jokes will continue to be justified. It’s almost like the fact that come comedy can be made about the situation is more important than actually addressing the situation, therefore the issues can’t be addressed because that would mean one could no longer pull comedy from them or something.

  18. If this freaks people out, please never see a Borat movie because you will have a heart attack…. It was a joke between two consenting adult friends. Its Kathy Grffin people what do you expect. If Mr. Cooper was totally against what she does or how she jokes about inappropriate things then he would have never accepted to do the show with her. Comedy is just that, fictional reactions to things that are usually inappropriate , that are also so out there that we just have to laugh because any sensible human being would understand that you just dont act like that in real life. Seriously, I promise that in a real sexual harrassement incident the reaction of the afllicted person would not have been anything like Mr. Coopers. Chill out people.

    • @marlen “Seriously, I promise that in a real sexual harrassement incident the reaction of the afllicted person would not have been anything like Mr. Coopers. Chill out people.”

      My point made in earlier comments and echoed by a few others is that when it happens to men, from a woman, that is often EXACTLY what it looks like. You feel you need to play along with the joke, you feel you need to not make waves, you feel you need to man up and take what every man must dream about.

      I am not saying he was harassed, but I AM flat out saying that THIS is EXACTLY what it often looks like when a man is groped, harassed, assaulted, molested by a woman.

      • Alyssa Royse says:

        It’s also exactly what it looks like when a lot of women are harassed and don’t really know how to respond. Especially in settings that are “Playful” and male dominated, like tech and gaming which is what I am most familiar with. And then we hear things like “they didn’t really protest” and “chill out, it was only a joke.” This normalizes that behavior. It goes well beyond the personal relationship of Cooper and Griffin.

        • Yes.

          This gets dangerously close to “You were bothered by that? Geez you need to lighten up.” or “It was a joke, it’s not that serious.”

          Even if Cooper himself wasn’t bothered by it (and it’s entierly possible that he wasn’t and was just playing along) without his reaction being clearly communicated we see that it will get the same treatment regardless. And that in and of itself is a problem.

          I know a few folks above have mentioned that the inappropriateness is part of what makes it funny. Well if “this is not real harassment, just comedy” is not being separated from the actual harassment there will be a problem is reacting to both as “It’s just a joke.”

          • @ bob, Alyssa, & Danny – As far as I can tell, I agree with all of you that Griffin’s behavior would be out of line – perhaps even sexual harassment – if it occurred between two random people in any ol’ workplace. However, I think performances, whether the comedic kind or another, are not to be taken at face value, and quite commonly, depict interactions that the audience is expected to know have some purpose other than to normalize whatever the behavior is.

            You’ve heard of “suspension of disbelief”. Well, I don’t suspend all of it. When I watched The Godfather, I suspended enough belief to understand that in one part of the story, a man was persuaded to do something he didn’t want to do by having the bloody head of his prize racehorse left in his bed. I did not, however, become incensed that the film’s producers would kill an innocent horse like that, and worry that such un-refusable offers would become commonplace in real life since the movie normalized that method of persuasion.

            Kathy Griffin, behaving in character doing an on-camera New Year’s gig with Cooper, was *performing* – as was Cooper. The fact that it happened to be on CNN doesn’t change that, though CNN might want to consider how brand-appropriate that broadcast is. I don’t think it was scripted, or that they discussed and practiced the crotch-grabbing stuff, but even in improvised performances, I don’t think it’s reasonable to strip away so much disbelief that you treat everything that happened as though it really, truly, happened. Yes, I saw it and heard it, too, but if I can believe the bloody horse head was a prop in The Godfather, I can also believe that Griffin appearing to sexually harass Cooper wasn’t *really* harassing him, and he knew it.

            So to me, yes, this particular interaction (but not all that resemble it) was just a joke. If it normalized anything, it wasn’t sexual harassment or that women can do stuff to men that men can’t do to women; what it normalized to me was the everyday observation that friends can tease each other and cross boundaries that strangers can’t, and that what happens in performances isn’t to be taken as literal instructions about what kind of behavior is acceptable.

            • You’ve heard of “suspension of disbelief”. Well, I don’t suspend all of it. When I watched The Godfather, I suspended enough belief to understand that in one part of the story, a man was persuaded to do something he didn’t want to do by having the bloody head of his prize racehorse left in his bed. I did not, however, become incensed that the film’s producers would kill an innocent horse like that, and worry that such un-refusable offers would become commonplace in real life since the movie normalized that method of persuasion.
              For the record there isn’t an already present issue of prize race horses being murdered and not taken seriously (or else PETA would have been all over it) but I can see where you’re trying to take this.

              So to me, yes, this particular interaction (but not all that resemble it) was just a joke. If it normalized anything, it wasn’t sexual harassment or that women can do stuff to men that men can’t do to women; what it normalized to me was the everyday observation that friends can tease each other and cross boundaries that strangers can’t, and that what happens in performances isn’t to be taken as literal instructions about what kind of behavior is acceptable.
              What I like about this right here is that you are explaining what that situation meant to you. And I can respect that if for no other reason you have your experiences, I have my experiences, and everyone else has their experiences. Experiences that will affect how one responds to this.

              I also get that we are talking about people that are established friends and not strangers.

              Now let me ask you. Well I think I know what you would say but I’ll ask anyway.

              Should this suspension of disbelief be applied to all such situations or only certain ones?

              If this were Dane Cook and Ellen, would the suspension still apply?

              That’s what I’m trying to get at (I think). It seems like such contexts are being selectively applied depending on the desired outcome.

            • For the record there isn’t an already present issue of prize race horses being murdered and not taken seriously (or else PETA would have been all over it)

              Interesting add-on to this. I figured PETA probably wasn’t doing their thing when The Godfather was out (early 70′s), but after your comment, I googled to see if I could find any comment from PETA then or later about that scene. I didn’t (but my search wasn’t exhaustive), but I did discover that it appears the horse head used in the scene was real. I’m not going into deep fact-checking on this, but apparently the director’s commentary on the DVD says it was obtained from a dog food company, not killed specially for the movie. I suspect PETA would still object, but I still don’t see the scene as having normalized decapitated animal heads as a means of persuasion.

              To take a couple of thematically related examples, though, how about the movies “Nine To Five” and “Disclosure”? The former is a comedy in which Dabney Coleman’s character harasses Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin, who end up holding him captive. The latter is a techno-thriller (or at least tries to be) in which Demi Moore sexually harasses Michael Douglas. When I watched either of those, I had enough suspension of disbelief to buy into the harassment premise of each film, but I did not feel like either one was condoning or normalizing harassment by making it the subject of entertainment, nor did I worry that the actors were true victims (or perpetrators) of sexual harassment just from having played those characters.

              What I like about this right here is that you are explaining what that situation meant to you. And I can respect that if for no other reason you have your experiences, I have my experiences, and everyone else has their experiences. Experiences that will affect how one responds to this.

              Likewise.

              f this were Dane Cook and Ellen, would the suspension still apply?

              I’m not aware of them having the kind of prior personal relationship or reputations that apply to Griffin/Cook, but I’m inclined to think that yes, I would still apply some disbelief (as opposed to suspending it) if for the sake of a bit, they went for laughs by making each other squirm in ways regular people in regular situations can’t. I’ve seen a lot less of Cook than I have of the other two, but it’s hard to picture Ellen in the same sort of exchange because it’s so far out of character for her, and I would expect a fellow performer and friend to know that.

              Basically, I’m not taking a position that women can’t harass men, or can’t harass gay men. I think that can happen, and is bad when it does. I don’t think pretending to do it for a comedic hosting gig, or in fiction (like those movies) is the same as the real thing, or that it sends a message that the real thing is okay; like the real thing, I believe this regardless of the gender mix and which way the harassment flows.

    • wellokaythen says:

      I suspect when it comes to who has more say over the cameraman that Cooper has way more pull than Griffin. If Cooper wanted it to totally stop or at least cut to someone else, I’m sure there were things Cooper could have done to signal the cameraman or booth to go somewhere else. It looks like he was too busy laughing.

  19. @marlen,

    I’ll have to remember that. When someone feels that some important line has been crossed, if I disagree I’ll just tell them to “chill”. Cool idea.

  20. Does your website have a contact page? I’m having problems locating it but, I’d like to shoot you an email.

    I’ve got some suggestions for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great blog and I look forward to seeing it develop over time.

  21. Christopher says:

    Ok. There is a LOT going on in this article so I am going to have to break it down to you and make in very plain and simple. I don’t think any of you realize what it is you are bitching about and the core of the friendship between Kathy and Anderson Cooper.

    I am a major fan of Kathy Griffin and her comedy. As a gay man, that woman has done a LOT to bring awareness to many issues that have plagued our community. She will never be stereo-typically called a ‘Lady’ or ‘Proper’, but she is damn deserving of the term ‘Broad’ and she has even mentioned it in interviews. Her abrasiveness and bawdy character will never give you what the original writer of this article is bitching about: an apology. She has NEVER apologized for her jokes, she has never apologized for what she does that is outrageous or offensive, and that is a policy she has stood by.

    Kathy and Anderson have been friends for YEARS. Well before he was on the networks and the reporter he is today. You bet she knew he was a Vanderbilt then, and she knows he is a Vanderbilt now. In fact, it was during one of those New Year’s broadcasts that you’re bitching about in this article that his own mother Gloria called to wish him a ‘Happy New Year’ and personally wanted to wish Kathy one as well. Ya know what? Anderson is more unnerved that Kathy comes to New York, shops with his mother, goes out to lunch with Gloria, hangs out with her and gets stories out of his mother that may worm their way into her act. Basically, she’s got the Mom and the ‘victim’ himself as friends. What you see before the camera is a very different relationship than what Anderson and Kathy have behind the scenes. If he is out of town while she has a show in NYC, she has been known to stay at his apartment while he is gone. They’re close.

    You will never get an apology and honestly if she even caught wind of this article, you would probably end up in her act as she would cherish reading something like this in front of her audience about you whining about her behaviour when she has a gig with one of her close friends. It is moments like this she lives for and as she told Elizabeth Hasselbeck when Elizabeth opened her pie-hole. It’s on Youtube: “Actually it’s moments like this that I live for, so bring it!”

  22. Alyssa Royse says:

    Thus cementing my opinion of her. If she is unable to step back and see how one small part of her act may be a problem in a way that many survivors of sexual abuse – not to mention people who are fighting to end it – can see very clearly, then she has, and is, a serious problem.

    I am not talking about her general style, or even her overall impact in the world. She’s not my cup of tea, but who cares? And I believe she’s done great things for the LGBTQ population, for which I applaud her. I would think she wouldn’t mind doing the same thing for legions of people who are sexually abused by not perpetuating the idea that “no means try harder.” She could give up – or address – this one little schtick and help create a world in which people realize that no one gets to touch your body if you tell them not to. It’s not funny. It’s sexual assault and it happens all the time. Making a joke of it doesn’t help.

    If she lives for people to criticize her mocking of rape, then that is just sad.

  23. Christopher says:

    Guess what Alyssa? I myself am a sexual abuse survivor. I was molested several times by a male babysitter. I was also nearly sexually assaulted twice in my adult life. Growing up I also got my ass beat by my father continually…and I am still here. I function and I have a wonderful life.

    To quote you:
    “Even if she doesn’t think she needs to apologize to Anderson Cooper, she sure as hell needs to apologize to the legions of women who have been fighting for generations to end this kind of behavior in the workplace. At the very least, Kathy Griffin needs let us know that she knows this kind of harassment isn’t funny when it happens in the real world. I may be dreaming here, but an acknowledgment that this brand of comedy is what feeds rape culture in the real world would be awfully nice.”

    Interesting that this is a website called goodmenproject.com and nothing in this statement says anything about the trauma that men have endured themselves as sex abuse victims or even sexual harassment be it from men or women. It does happen you know! As a survivor of sex abuse, I will say I am happy to know that there are people out thee raising awareness of the issue like you are doing, but please do NOT speak for me or thousands of others who do not have the same hangups that you have, be they men or women.

    I don’t go around demanding an apology and spark outrage because we live in a society that may or may not understand or have open discussions on the repercussions of what those instances may have on a human being. The schtick is part of her act, plain and simple. If you continue to allow yourself to get upset every time the word rape is mentioned be it in slang or the clinical term, then I believe you have allowed the terrorist who may have harmed you (and I am going out on a limb here because I don’t know you) to win.

    I also am HIV+ and have been for nearly 11 years, and I still laugh when I hear comedy from Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman, Lisa Lampenelli, and other comedians who have made extremely tasteless jokes about AIDS. Why? Because no matter what, I need to laugh. That burning of my cheeks when I know a line has been crossed in comedy falls away because I have let go of things that have happened in my past. Rehashing it over and over and over and over in therapy would turn me into Christina Crawford (who may be a spokesperson for child abuse even when her claims have been disputed heavily over the years).

    The outrage my own ‘community’ of LGBTQI (and whatever fashionable consonant is going to be added next week) over life is just insane. The whole Ron Howard issue of using the word ‘gay’ in the trailer for ‘The Dilemma’, so GLAAD got it removed. Then they wanted him to remove the whole line in the film because they said it was hurtful. Glad he didn’t, because Ron Howard has to answer to no one. Where was and is all of this outrage on ‘Will & Grace’ for all of the heterosexual bashing that went on in that show in addition to the multitudes of different analogies used to describe people in the LGBTQI community? Even more annoying is listening to Christian people bitch that we need to put the ‘Christ back in Christmas.’ in one sentence and then hear them lie to their children about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.

    Sorry if I am getting of track here, but I just get so annoyed when people demand an apology every time they get offended because someone said something that they didn’t like that was said by a celebrity or a comedian. I also think is is the most affected horseshit imaginable when people decide what is appropriate for comedy, satire, or even humor because they have issues they haven’t dealt with. It isn’t the job of entertainers, comedians, or Kathy Griffin to blow sunshine up your ass because you’re so uptight about the concept of sexual assault. I’m sorry that you have to go through life being that damaged and hurt by it if it happened to you and God knows I wouldn’t wish my childhood or the crap I had to endure growing up on anyone, but there comes a point in a persons life when you have to move on and live your life and realize that the only person who owes you anything, is yourself. But to get all in an uproar over something and insist on an apology because you feel you are owed it by someone who you don’t even know, I worry about the sanity of people like yourself.

    If you read Kathy Griffin’s book ‘Official Book Club Selection’, there is an entire chapter devoted to her brother Kenny. Kenny was someone she looked up to when she was growing up, but Kenny also a problem as she has been quoted if you google her name and his. Here is something she has said about him:

    “My brother Kenny who is now passed away and was a pedophile and went to prison and obviously wreaked a lot of havoc on my parents and the family…had an extremely profound impact on me. Maybe in some ways, the most influential relationship of my life. Meaning, when you grow up in a house with someone with that, I don’t know if you call it energy, but he was violent. I saw him beat his wife right in front of me. You know, he was a pedophile. He was extremely sexually inappropriate with me ever since I was a teeny kid. It kind of shapes the way you see the world. For me, it is definitely tied into my trust issues I have with guys. [...] In a way, it maybe even contributed to me having a really dark sense of humor.”

    I myself have a very dark sense of humour. Would I have it had I not been molested or beaten by my father? I don’t know. But I highly implore you to just take things with a grain of salt sometimes…and perhaps if you and your family are ever in Portland, I can buy you a cup of coffee and I PROMISE to not bring this up again :)

    Happy Spring!

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