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The Jared Porter story isn’t unique to the Mets

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The thing about cultural misogyny’s cultural.

Construction of the New York Mets’ new ballpark, Citi Field, Photo by Ron Antonelli/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

It’s very easy to be #lolMets about a lot of things that happen to that club in Queens. Luis Castillo dropped the ball, Carlos Beltran was as manager hired in the midst of a sign-stealing scandal, etc. It would have been very easy to label the Jared Porter story as the same kind of thing — the Mets do weird things, now they hired a wunderkind who harassed a female reporter in such a disgusting way.

But it’s not a #lolMets story. It is, unfortunately, a deeply unsurprising one, and a grossly common one. I was disgusted when I read the ESPN story, but I can’t say I was surprised. There are men like Jared Porter working for every team and publication, in every industry and university. I’ve known men who behave like Jared Porter did, and I take no pride in saying that I probably have behaved like Porter did, somewhere on the spectrum of unwanted attention, at some point.

That’s what cultural misogyny is. That’s what it means to say we live in a patriarchal society, that the default position of male entitlement extends to every man, and permeates every element of our professional and personal lives. And that’s why we can be reasonably confident that there are people working for the Yankees, on the field and off, who behave this way.

We tend to have a very specific idea about what we mean by abuse, and especially systemic abuse. Larry Nassar, Jerry Sandusky, Bill Cosby, all fit in that idea — powerful men committing horrific acts of physical abuse, and a system designed to protect them, discredit the stories of the protagonists*, and only ever brought down by major action.

*The concept of the protagonist comes from a course I’m taking right now, and the particular complications of survivor language. There’s considerable debate around calling people survivors of, or victims of, abuse. A nice alternative is the idea of the protagonist, as this allows that person to decide and drive their own narrative about their own experiences.

Of course people like Nassar and Sanduksy are abusers, but they’re not the only kind. Abuse, harassment, cultural misogyny and homophobia manifest in a bunch of different ways, most not as blatant as we tend to think. Research on the abuse women face on dating apps highlights this. 60% of women under 35 have faced the exact same kind of harassing messages on a dating app that the protagonist in the Porter story did. 20% have received threats of physical violence. ABC — Australia, not America — did a deep dive on the experience of one woman in particular.

Some of the men on dating apps, that catcall from the street, or leer at women in boardrooms, are exactly the kind of men we would think; the gross, maladjusted, incel type. But a lot of them aren’t. A lot of them are high-performing people, the exact kind of prodigy Porter is. If nothing else, Porter is a fine evaluator of baseball talent. He’s also a harasser of women. Both of these things are true, and until we understand that, any systemic change to root out harassers and abusers will be perpetually reactive, not proactive.

It’s only by understanding that the bright, promising men in our lives are just as likely to be predators that we can design new systems to better protect women, trans and nonbinary people, incentivize good behavior and reward it. This is an organizational challenge — how do you know how the Yale graduate with a good command of Python and a noncontroversial, bland Instagram interacts with women he has power over, or a nonbinary person he wants attention from?

But this is also a problem at the individual level. How do your friends behave at bars or concerts around women? What do you do when a woman you work with makes a suggestion, especially one that you disagree with? A great litmus test is how you respond to those sensitivity workshops your employer makes you take, or, if you’re an employer, what training you mandate for your employees. Your openness, or your derision, to that kind of everyday situation depicts cultural patriarchy perfectly, and what you’re willing to do to uproot it.

Jared Porter is out of baseball, for now at least — one of the fun things about cultural patriarchy is how it uplifts men even after they’ve been caught. It’s a good thing, broadly, that we know what a creep Porter is. But the hard part is yet to come, because there are Porters in the Yankees’ employ, and the Blue Jays’, and the Rays’, and every other club in baseball. We know that people like this exist, and the question now pertains to what baseball broadly is willing to do about it as an entity, and what all of us on an individual level are going to do about cultural patriarchy in our own lives.