So What If Mackenzie Phillips Has a Book Deal?

My post about Mackenzie Phillips and the public reaction to her recent revelation that her father John Phillips raped her has been linked pretty widely at this point, and as a result I have received some rather obnoxious and outright disgusting comments (and emails). That’s not a complaint, at all — thank you for the links, everyone! — rather, it’s just a very sad aspect of blogging, a part of the deal. A lot of what I’ve received is the usual — she’s lying, he’s innocent until proven guilty, it was a long time ago so we should just drop it, etc.

But one set of responses is particularly prominent in this case. I find it fascinating, and it’s a subject that I haven’t personally seen addressed elsewhere. A whole lot of people are really, really focused on the fact that Mackenzie Phillips has written a book about her life, including in large part the abuse she faced at the hands of her father — meaning that she will make money off of talking about what he did to her.

This group of people, for the most part, don’t seem to directly deny that the abuse took place — they engage in a lot of rape apologism, yes, but not outright denial. Unlike most cases where a famous man is accused of rape and hoards of people respond “lying bitch, she’s just out for his money,” most people who bring up the fact that Mackenzie Phillips is being paid to tell her story aren’t accusing her of lying for a paycheck. They just really, really hate the fact that she’s making money from this awful situation, from her trauma, period.

But I ask you: What is so wrong with that?

Really, I would like someone to carefully explain it to me.

Because it’s a question that most people defending her against the allegation of monetary motives don’t tend to ask directly, in favor of denying the charge outright. And it’s a question that a lot of people pointing out the monetary aspect don’t seem to answer, but merely assume will be universally understood. After explaining to me why it was appropriate to question whether or not Mackenzie Phillips did the right thing by telling her story, and indicating that the abuse itself wasn’t really all as bad as I thought, one unfortunate email stated:

Plus, let’s face it, she’s going to make a lot of money off this.  Period.

What exactly this was intended to indicate, I can’t quite say. That her monetary compensation for the book makes the abuse less heinous? That it’s okay to question her motivations because of the money? That the way people are treating her is acceptable because, hey, she’s getting paid? The writer didn’t elaborate, so I don’t know for sure. But I do know that the statement is disapproving and dismissive of her experiences because of the money involved, with an air of superiority attached. Because of course there’s something unsavory about making money by telling the world that your father raped you. Right?

I for one don’t think so. And I think the view that it is unsavory says a lot about how we expect rape survivors to “properly” behave and respond to the trauma inflicted upon them in order to be given sympathy and to be taken seriously. It also allows, of course, for people to ignore the far more unsavory nature, to say the very least, of the fact that someone raped the woman in the first place. Here’s the thing, folks: a woman wouldn’t be able to do something horrible and unladylike like making money from telling her story about being raped if only someone hadn’t raped her.

So why do so many people feel as though a survivor does not have the right to own her trauma, and to address it as she best sees fit? Why do so many people feel as though rape survivors have no right at all to find some small way to actually turn a situation they never asked for on its head and receive some sort of comparably pathetic benefit? Why do people think that a person’s suffering — but of course, only a certain kind of suffering — is not worth some form of compensation, especially when those providing it (publishers, book buyers) are doing so willingly? Why do they feel that telling one’s story, helping other people in the process, and putting up with the attacks it induces, doesn’t count as work? Obviously a vast majority of rape survivors will never get the opportunity to tell their story in a large platform and receive compensation for it, but I don’t see why someone with such a privilege should be expected to pass up the opportunity, seeing as how we never complain when a famous person gets any other kind of book deal.

The thing is that people tell tragic aspects of their life stories and get paid for it all the time. A really good chunk of the memoir genre is based entirely around that. People who have suffered through war crimes and other human rights atrocities have written books. People who have survived cancer write books. People who have lost a spouse or child to tragedy write books. People who have recovered from drug addiction write books. Celebrities write books just because they’re celebrities, and tell about their negative life experiences. And so on, and so forth. These people also regularly appear on Oprah and other such talk shows. And yet, I’m not remembering anyone saying “yeah, he had this awful disease and lived through it — but come on now, look at the money he’s going to make from his book,” or “sure her entire family was killed by a militia, but let’s face it, she’s going to be set up for life when this is said and done.” Because such statements are clearly offensive and absurd.

I’d like to hypothesize that what this is about is maintaining a certain, monolithic and vulnerable version of a rape survivor. Sure, people admonish us to claim the label survivor and to “stop being a victim,” but at the same time, they want us to stay meek and quiet. Rape culture, of course, thrives best when no one talks about it. Honestly, I think that from a lot of people, that’s exactly what telling someone to “stop being a victim and start being a survivor” actually means — shut up, if you do ever talk about it make sure to turn into a puddle on the floor, and when dealing with the rape, sure as hell don’t show any signs of self-sufficiency.

This view is reflected, I believe, in this comment (which was not published):

I do believe that she is sincere in her desire to help others, however, because she is a product of hollywood, she also writes a book and is due to appear on the show celebrity rehab in Jan. It does appear to have a self serving dimension to it.

And how dare a rape survivor actually respond to her trauma in a way that is self-serving? How dare a woman serve herself at all? How dare she do anything other than help others for 100% selfless reasons? And how dare someone respond to abuse in such a way that might benefit them?

In this world, this misogynistic rape culture we live in, all of this is in fact seen as quite the sin.

But I hope it goes without saying that it shouldn’t be. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the fact that Mackenzie Phillips is making money off of this book. Though an option that is not available to most, I imagine that it’s a small way for her to take back some of her power in this situation. I imagine that her recovery up to this point and what she has endured in this past week is a hell of a lot of work. I think we need to stop minimizing that. And I believe that writing, at the very least, is certainly labor worthy of pay.

I also believe that when discussing the fact that Mackenzie Phillips was raped by her father, taking the time to be appalled about how she is paying her bills is supremely fucked up, and yet another way of attempting to minimize the harm done by rape (see, it’s not all bad!) and trying to turn the conversation back to the victim’s behavior rather than the rapist’s. I think it’s just a slightly more subtle way of calling her “a whore.”

A woman has a right to her story. Every person has a right to their story. And whatever they choose to do with that story, whether it’s plastering it on a billboard or never telling a soul, it doesn’t change the truthfulness of the story, it doesn’t right the wrongs committed in it, and it doesn’t change the fact that the decision about what to do with the story was inherently and rightfully theirs to make. The fact that so many people automatically assume otherwise just shows us yet again how little respect and credibilty are afforded to those who have been raped.

0 thoughts on “So What If Mackenzie Phillips Has a Book Deal?

  1. Pingback: A-fucking-men and a half « Chicks Dig Me

  2. mary

    I believe the “haters” and senders of hostile emails were covering up for their own guilt and anxiety. Mackenzie has opened up PANDORA’S BOX of Incest and society will not be easily able to shut this up any time soon–thank the gods of justice!
    Women and girls owe Mackenzie….as for the unenlightened journilistic hoi polloi, they will have to cover this as it’s “juicy” to them 24/7. So, let’s keep throwing red steaks at those beasts of prey.
    Roman Polanski who raped a l3-year old is another creep whose victim is “forgiving”. Let’s bring those pedophiles to their real Home–JAIL! and toughten up the tourist-sex laws so we can put the gentlemen who go holidaying in Mexico, Africa, etc., for underage “fun” in Jail! Enough.

    Pandora’s box has been opened and can never be shut again…Mackenzie has cracked it open

  3. Jennifer Drew

    Apparently it is acceptable for men to write accounts about their ‘heroism’ in battle, overcoming serious illness; ghosting a book because of their celebrity status but never, never should women write and have published a book which details how a so-called respectable father raped his daughter.

    Women rape survivors like women survivors of childhood intra familial male sexual violence are supposed to remain silent and hide the man’s crimes. Not too long ago the issue of father/daughter rape was considered too horrible to even discuss within so-called ‘respectable society’ – until that is Louise Armstrong, Florence Rush and other feminists aired patriarchy’s dirty little secret.

    So what if Michelle Phillips will gain financially from her book, good for her I say because despite claims to the contrary, female survivors of men’s sexual violence do not ‘get over it within a very short time.’ Certainly women rape survivors do survive and thrive but not without many struggles. But then, given our misogynistic society is determined to once again hide the fact many men do in fact rape their female children and to a lesser extent their male children, it is not surprising women rape survivors who do speak out in whatever way they feel most appropriate are immediately demonised and the male rapist’s accountability becomes invisibilised.

    One need look no further than Polanski who horrors – has been arrested because he fled the US in order to escape being sentenced for raping and sodomising a 13 year old girl. Polanski committed his crime some years ago but that should not mean his crime can be trivialised and reduced to ‘unlawful sex with 13 year girl.’ Euphemising and hiding male sexual violence ensures men’s war on women’s and girls human rights continues unabated and largely unnoticed and unchallenged.

  4. madaha

    hear hear!!!! It is all about people being threatened by a woman speaking out. It is insidious and pervasive. It makes people uncomfortable, including other women. WELL TOO BAD!!! Revolutions don’t happen when people shut up to please others. Screw that.

    And hear hear to the part about how it is ok for women to “serve themselves” YES!!! Women are smacked down so much because they might have any self-interest at all. That’s got to stop.

  5. Julian

    And of course where is men’s outrage at the fathers, older brothers, male cousins, uncles, grandfathers, step-dads, neighboring fathers, priests, doctors, dentists, non-family pimps, predators, procurers, prostitutors, traffickers, sex slave holders and other men who turn girls and women into pornography FOR PROFIT?

    Cat got your tongue when THAT happens, boys?

    To all the allegedly non-incesting males, the allegedly non-raping hetero husbands and boyfriends, to all the guys and dudes who feel just fine contributing many millions to those profiteer-pimps by purchasing that “product”: your pro-rape behavior, gross misogyny and racism, and rampant male supremacy is showing. So zip up… the change purse. And stop contributing to the sexual violence against women that you think is just so awful to speak about. (Oh, and shut the fuck up too.)

    As I wrote a few years ago:
    “Larry Flynt’s corporate-pimp speech is spoken with a patriarchal accent, somehow through a vagina. Exactly how is it that a woman’s open vulva became his mouthpiece?”

    So when women get men, including their voices, out of and away from their bodies, and instead speak their own truths, THAT should not make money in a capitalist society where everything is supposed to be for sale? Only the rapes and rapists should generate income?! Only the women should be “for sale”???

  6. Anna

    I was thinking about this on the bus today.
    This might be triggering, so, um, feel free to amend or delete as you wish, Cara – my language is quite clumsy and in places unpleasant.

    I didn’t quite (and still don’t) know how to phrase it but it’s almost if when people acknowlege that a rape MAY have ACTUALLY REALLY HAPPENED then.. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain. They’re just seen to be behaving ‘improperly’. Like.. there’s a way you should act when you’re a victim, and making money out of it isn’t it, and by doing so you’re moving yourself a bit out of ‘this is proper rape victimhood, I didnt ask for it and I’m destroyed by it but healing quietly’ into that other place of knowing eyebrow-raises and ‘not proper rape-victim’.

    So.. it makes your tale harder to believe; people think you’re already getting attention and sympathy from it, now you want money too?! Silly woman. Go and sit in the corner quietly and look sad and scared and all the things that mean you don’t make a fuss and you’re easier to deal with, fitting neatly in mental stereotype of ‘rape victim’. You didn’t just lose your honour, you’re making money from it! I think it’s maybe tied up with very very old notions of prostitution, almost.

    Did that make any sense? It’s just a feeling I get.

  7. Kristen

    I’d guess the answer is also about shame and shaming.

    Women that have been raped are “dirty”. They’ve been “defiled”. They’ve been “tainted” by the rape. I mean how many women admit that they’ve been raped with the same matter of factness they would of being mugged. All that victim blaming seeps into our unconscious and makes women feel that the rape somehow damaged our worth as a person.

    I think it’s that implication of “taint” that is causing all of this idiocy. Society thinks she should feel shame. She should be trying to hide what happened. So how dare she profit from being damaged goods?

    Its sick. Just plain sick.

  8. SunlessNick

    I mean how many women admit that they’ve been raped with the same matter of factness they would of being mugged.

    For that matter, how often would we use “admit” about being mugged?

  9. Kim

    I just found this site today while searching for something else (I can’t even remember what it was now). Thank you for your insightful post! If I could send an email to Mackenzie Phillips expressing my support I would. She has EVERY right to tell her story however she chooses. And her ability to “make money” from the telling of her story is meager “compensation” for enduring incest. Everyone also seems to forget her revelations that in addition to incest, her father TAUGHT HER TO SHOOT UP DRUGS!

  10. pjrcdn

    Mine was one of the posts that was “moderated” out of existance. Now I see why.
    You deleted it so that what was actually said by me and it’s context, so that you could take what was said, and distort it and project all of your preconcieved notions on to what was said.

    I for one resent this. I can understand bloggers moderating opinions that they don’t agree with, however to delete posts then respond to them in such a manner that does not give the orignal posters a chance to respond or clarify is not playing fair.

    My email was in no way hostile or ‘Women hating’. I posed my remarks in a respectful way.

    You can live in your little bubble all you want, but reality is not quite as black and white as you present it.

    Yes, Mackenzie Phillips was raped, but what do you make of the times she consented to the sex when she was an adult? What would the law make of it. To maintain she was raped and leave it at that, neglects to take into consideration the totality of incidents and allows you to avoid some rather uncomfortable questions, while labeling those who do not agree with 100% as being ‘hostile’.

    And just to be clear, I am not excusing the rape that occured but to pretend that is all that occurred is ignoring a reality, one that Mackenzie Phillips tried to address by using the term “consentual incest”

    I never said in my post that Mackenzie Phillips did not have the right or should not have the right to ‘go public’ with her trauma and suffering.

    I also pointed out that what happened to her and who she chose to respond to it were the products of the hollywood culture she was raised in. I did not excuse that culture or minimize what had happened to her or excuse John Phillips role in this.

    You might want to take it into consideration that if you respond to people you might want to give them the opportunity to respond back with out censoring them, it is just common courtsey…beyond that, there are other valid points of view besides your own.

    BTW, I am a women, and I am sure that you will immediately classify me as a self-hater too…

    I am sure this post will be moderated too, so that you and all that agree with you can continue talking to yourselves…

    1. Cara Post author

      I’m allowing pjrcdn to defend herself here, as she requested, while noting that nothing I did falls under the word “censorship,” that I did not claim she said many of the things she thinks I claimed she said, and also that I have no idea what email she’s talking about, as I only received the comment. Oh, and that I never named her and she has chosen to identify herself.

      I wouldn’t otherwise approve anything that in any way indicates that an incestuous “relationship” which continued after being instigated through years of grooming and many rapes is anything other than abuse, and I won’t from here on out. Period.

  11. mai'a

    the thing is that we need rape survivors to tell us that rape isnt that big of a deal. & when survivors dont tell us that. then they are obviously still have issues. or havent worked through their anger. or are holding onto the past.
    ive been thinking about this a lot lately. about how whoopi goldberg says there is a difference between rape and rape rape.
    thats why we have to keep bringing up how polanski’s victim has forgiven him.
    why i have had to drop friendships with survivors who claim that violence against women isnt that big of a deal.
    i mean a good rape survivor. forgives her attacker. moves on with her life. closes that chapter of her life. and doesnt bring it up except in very rare and socially acceptable circumstances.
    what i am thinking about is how so much of this perverted common sense thinking comes out of the fact that our experience within our own bodies is supposed to be ignored.
    im not sure if this makes sense. but people who have been tortured or been through war or even grew up in a violent neighborhood. this isnt considered horrible because of how it felt in their bodies. it is horrible because of the difference between what our society has determined a person’s has a right to. and what that person actually experienced. and this concept of ‘rights’ is just that. a concept. an abstraction.
    so americans should not be tortured. white boys shouldnt be poor.
    but mackenzie wasnt denied any of her rights. she lived the life of a rich hollywood daughter. yeah its horrible what she went through.
    but ppl who write a book and make money off that book. that is okay because they have been denied a right. and are now making up for it.
    she wasnt denied any rights. she just had bad sexual experiences with her dad. it is this assumption. that her suffering in her own body and mind is whining. because she is choosing to identify with her what her body went through. rather than just changing her attitude toward her past and her body. that is the rub. we identify with abstractions, with rights. and not with what our own bodies and minds have endured. and so we as a society cannont allow others to say this hurt me. even though i had no rights that should have protected me.
    a good survivor. would have learned by now to forgive and be grateful for the experiences. not acting like she was denied her basic rights.

  12. Kristen

    “what do you make of the times she consented to the sex when she was an adult?”

    I would think that you have a fucked up definition of the word consent and lack the empathy required to understand how consent might be impaired by years of grooming.

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  14. Linda

    Don’t despair! Now we know who the rapists are and who has been raped and who identifies with the rapists just by reading their comments here. It is a sad fact that there are people you should never be friends with nor allow near you your children etc. This is the reality. They are not mature loving people with the capacity to feel and empathize. But it is wonderful to know there are decent people out their who care enough for others and respect and believe them when they have been harmed. Those who can’t empathize are dead in their hearts and minds. They are less than human without a soul. I think it is a good thing we are defending Philips and others who have been deeply harmed. We are the courages ones. Thanks for the opportunity to share with like minds.

  15. Linda

    “Consent” is when you knowingly and have the freedom to accept responsibility for your behavior and choices. You would not say the Jews or Blacks consented to being enslaved, killed and raped. These people were adults as well. You need to study and understand that “choice” is not possible when you have been traumatized, brainwashed and manipulated and raped as a child or seen your family murdered and tortured as the Jews and Blacks have as well. Unless you are AWARE of what has happened to you and you have healed from the trauma, you are not consenting. If not you are just acting without thinking and FEELING. It is repression and a defense to just go along with whatever abusers ask of you because you fear for your life. The body reacts to abuse by shaking and becoming cold, going limp, etc. Your mind snaps and goes blank. You are somewhere else. You believe everything is OK or you will lose your mind. You think you are crazy. You must be under the impression that Philip’s father was a nice guy. He was a sociopath. He had no capacity for love. All his actions were for self gratification. He was the crazy one. he is an abuser and killer of souls. Mackenzie like many women and men will repeat the abuse over and over again not because they “like and enjoy being abused” but because they are still in the moment a child and an abused person with out control over their lives. It is sad and very serious. People in this crisis state can’t be trusted to care for their own children since they may place them in a rape and abusive situation. It is not as simple as some of you make it. Perhaps you should check out your own behavior and why you react the way you do by defending rapists. Maybe you are a victim and don’t know it yet. But it will come to you one day. I only hope that you have caring people who will defend and support you when you need them. Good for Mackenzie for writing a book. I bought it and hope she can do others a good deed while making money. Being traumatized doesn’t allow you to hold a job and make money. It is a very slow and traumatic process to heal from abuse. Some may never work or being able to have sex and a loving relationship. Some people may never recover. It is a deep and profound loss. It is crippling and destructive to the self and identity of the person. So please don’t write about “consent” and what you don’t know and understand. You just make yourself look ignorant.

  16. Linda

    Let’s all make a promise NOT to buy anyone’s CDs movies etc if they include raping a child or man or woman or abusing anyone. Think of all the shows and records and cds you paid for. Think of all the recording stars and actors such as peter Fonda promoting in a movie having sex with a minor, Ringo star singing about having sex with a minor and how about the Vagina Dialogues with the reference to a “good rape”. The list goes on and on! Enough with promoting and paying for rape people. Everyone is guilty of it. Stop it!

  17. sarah

    I’d really like her to take the proceeds and get some counseling and closure for a time in her life when nothing was how it should have been. It was the 70’s. There were drugs and free bulls..t everywhere. And when you have power, you can exploit it. Her dad exploitted the times, the drugs, her and her drug use. She has to live with those facts and realities.
    It’s putting yourself in her shoes at those times, in that scenario of her real life.
    It had to suck if half of what she remembers is true – and I am not creditting or discreditting her.
    We more need to be concerned that this kind of thing happens and it’s fall out for the children – OUR children. Imagine if she was your daughter and you were dealing with her damages. Cuz she is damaged no matter what anyone says. And no amount of money will fix that part.
    It’s one day at a time with our own children and making them feel that they are valuable, and that their bodies are their temples.
    I tell my kids, boys and girls, that all the time.

  18. Carolyn

    I have been appalled at the vehement ugliness of the comments about Mackenzie Phillips in general. How brave of her to come out and share her experience. Whether she did it for money or not is immaterial. It is her trauma, her story, to do with it as she pleases. If she finds it cathartic to write a book, and happens to make a few bucks on it so what? Are you jealous your daddy didn’t fuck you up so you could write a book? This woman NEVER stood a chance! Psychologically she was screwed from the start. She was so entrenched with her own pitiful version of Stockholm syndrome that she could not have done anything else without the help of a SANE influence in her life to guide her. Her entire life was chaos. The dynamics of her life with her dad are very common btw. I counsel juvenile sex offenders. I am constantly in meetings where I am the ONLY one who has not has sex with a parent.People, it SERIOUSLY fucks you up! Every decision you make after the original sexual contact is filtered through that paradigm of the feeling of needing to love your parent to survive.The warped sense that your parent is supposed to take care of you, and to do the right thing. Do people ever stop wanting a parent who loves them? Once that is warped and tainted, as in Mackenzie’s case, it can go anywhere.
    For the love of God people, get your head out of your asses and try to have an ounce of compassion. You have no idea how close to home this issue hits for you. People in her situation are EVERYWHERE. They look just like you and your kids. They go to your church, shop at your grocery, and walk their dogs on your street.

  19. Yikes

    Anyone who believes that it is anything but an excruciatingly painful process to write one’s story of rape or incest needs to seriously rethink their understanding of the healing process. I have been writing my memoirs of extreme childhood sexual and emotional abuse for twelve years. If Ms. Phillips has access to the world of publishing there is absolutely no connect to a minimization of her pain. It takes raw guts to tell one’s story to anybody, much less to the entire reading world. By voluntarily subjecting herself to the inevitable downplay and invalidation of her story by this misogynist culture she’s doing a great service to the multitudes of victims out there who cannot speak their own voices. Walk a mile in another’s moccasins then tell
    her all about it!

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