Last week, The Cut published E. Jean Carroll’s astonishing account of the “hideous” men she’s encountered over the years, an excerpt from her upcoming book that ends with her detailing a brutal assault by Donald Trump. Carroll is about my mother’s age, and I thought about her stories, and about my own, and about the ways men used to behave with impunity, and the ways they still do. Carroll’s narrative—funny, frank, self-protective—seemed to me to be one of those world-changing moments: A woman was accusing the president of the United States of rape (Carroll has chosen not to use that word, but it fits the act she describes), adding her voice to more than a dozen others. It was appalling. It had to matter.
Then, the next day, the story seemed almost to have evaporated into the ether. It wasn’t mentioned on the front page of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or the Los Angeles Times. The New York Times included a write-up in its books section, which felt so belittling to Carroll and to its female readers that even the paper’s editor has since admitted it should have merited more prominent exposure. Trump responded, “with great respect,” by saying first and foremost that Carroll was not his type—yet another affirmation that the president conceives of women only as objects of desire or repulsion. Everything Carroll was set up to endure—the awful public scrutiny, the doxing, the abuse—felt like it was going to be for nothing. (For example: “Is that really a woman?” someone asked me about Carroll, on Twitter. “Poke my eyes out. My dog would run from that.”)