Monday, September 24, 2018

How the Kavanaugh Fiasco is a Test of the Ideals of the Women's March and MeToo

by Nomad

Kavanaugh Women

Despite the worldwide marches and the Me Too movement, the Kavanaugh confirmation debacle has shown in stark terms how little has changed when it comes to Republican respect for women.

Women's March

On January 21, 2017, something spectacular occurred. A worldwide protest, the largest single-day protest in U.S. history, as one source said, "to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change."
Women’s March is committed to dismantling systems of oppression through nonviolent resistance and building inclusive structures guided by self-determination, dignity and respect.
In the US, between 3 to 5 million people put on their comfortable shoes and took to the streets. The message: the privileges of a male patriarchy- the old order- would no longer be blindly accepted. Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights. And those rights must be respected.

From Maine to California, American women took that moment to tell the country (and the world) that no matter who was president, women were committed to progress and they would no longer be taken for granted.
The message was: I am Woman, hear me roar in numbers too big to ignore.

A lot of awesome moments happened that day and a lot of things were said. For example, world-famous singer and songwriter, Madonna took to the podium and said:
"Let's march together through this darkness and with each step know that we are not afraid, that we are not alone, that we will not back down, that there is power in our unity and that no opposing force stands a chance in the face of true solidarity."
Actress America Ferrera said:
"The president is not America. His cabinet is not America. Congress is not America. We are America. And we are here to stay."
American writer, TV host, and transgender rights activist, Janet Mock stressed unity:
"We are here not merely to gather, but to move. And our movements require us to do more than just show up and say the right words. It requires us to break out of our comfort zones, and be confrontational. It requires us to defend one another when it is difficult, and dangerous. It requires us to truly see ourselves, and one another."
All in all, it was an inspiring and historical moment. Worldwide participation has been estimated at over seven million. It was a global event with some 137 marches outside the United States.
From Argentina to Croatia, from Iceland to Thailand, women of all nationalities stood up to be counted.

The protests were, in fact, a very public shaming of a misogynist president. In spite decades of evidence to the contrary, President Trump used the Women's March to tweet that he had "tremendous respect" for women.


It was no coincidence that the Women's March took place only a day after the inauguration of Donald Trump, who had a well-established track record of disrespect toward women. Dating back to his early career, Trump has always thought of women as second-class beings.  

In an interview with New York Magazine back in 1991, Trump pretty much explained how he dealt with all women:
"You have to treat them like shit."
Throughout his business career, this has been his overarching principle when it comes to women-folk. In fact, it was something of his trademark.

Recording years earlier, his radio interviews with a long-time friend, shock jock Howard Stern exposed Trump's true nature. He bragged about groping his wife in public and about going backstage when Miss USA and Miss Universe pageant contestants were naked.
He even referred to his own daughter, Ivanka as “a piece of ass,” and he called her “voluptuous” and talked about her figure and her breasts.

And it goes beyond words. Trump has been accused by at least 16 women of sexually inappropriate behavior.  In 2005, Trump boasted about sexual assault as a sign of his male prowess. In his mind, it was something of a proud achievement to grab a woman's genitalia. When you are a celebrity
"You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
Consent is, in Trump's mind, not required. If you can get away with it, why not "move on her like a bitch"? Women let you do it to them.

In the two years that have followed, there's been no contrition or reform. In fact, wife-abusers found a safe haven in the Trump White House.
When it came to light top staffer Rob Porter was accused of assaulting both of his ex-wives and a former girlfriend, Trump accepted his resignation with obvious hesitation. The accusations were depicted as “vile” and a “smear campaign”. Chief of Staff General John Kelly called Porter “a man of true integrity and honor.”

Trump's pal Roger Ailes (“very, very good person” ) and Bill O'Reilly  (“I don’t think Bill did anything wrong”) were both charged with serious sexual misconduct by numerous women.

When it was alleged that Republican Jim Jordan knew about the sexual abuse of student athletes while he was a coach at Ohio State University, Trump rushed to give his support too. Rather than withholding judgment and encouraging an independent investigation, Trump said he refused to believe Jordan's accusers and added that Jordan's innocence was  “100 percent”

Time after time, Trump has shown that he will side with the male accused rather than the accuser. It is his default mode when it comes to sexual allegations but especially when it comes to female accusers.
Admittedly the only exception was when Trump showed up at a debate with the women who accused Bill Clinton.
That, my friends, is about as cynical as it gets.

MeToo and Trump

Last year's Me Too movement underscored the idea that women had had enough of the male patriarchy that made sexual assault permissible.
If silence implies consent, then remaining silent is a form of complicity to a crime against one's self. That had to stop.

TIME magazine named its 2017 Person of the Year for the silence breakers, women who stepped forward to accuse men in high places who like Trump believed their status allowed to do whatever they wanted to women.

To be sure, speaking out about sexual assault was a noble idea.  Yet, the cover image reminded one more of a fashion shoot than the awakening of consciousness. And the prose was perhaps a bit too slick.
This reckoning appears to have sprung up overnight. But it has actually been simmering for years, decades, centuries. Women have had it with bosses and co-workers who not only cross boundaries but don't even seem to know that boundaries exist.
Times, they are a-changing.
They've had it with the fear of retaliation, of being blackballed, of being fired from a job they can't afford to lose. They've had it with the code of going along to get along. They've had it with men who use their power to take what they want from women.
Women are in a rage against the male machine. Mad as hell and we won't put up with any more.
These silence breakers have started a revolution of refusal, gathering strength by the day, and in the past two months alone, their collective anger has spurred immediate and shocking results: nearly every day, CEOs have been fired, moguls toppled, icons disgraced. In some cases, criminal charges have been brought.
There's no denying that justice was served when it came to people like Harvey Weinstein and many many others. As the LA Times reported:
At least 414 high-profile executives and employees across fields and industries have been outed by the #MeToo movement in 18 months, according to data collected by a New York-based crisis consulting firm.
However, trial by social media is also a dangerous thing. After all, anybody, the critics said, can make an accusation. Was it possible that innocent lives were being destroyed?

Still, getting rid of Senator Al Franken and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was, for the Republicans, a godsend. And if the liberals wanted to eat their own, who on the right was going to stop them.

For Trump, it was all a big joke. How could it not be? The idea that Garrison Keillor's entire career could be dismantled by unproven allegations of sexual impropriety (requests for sexual contact and explicit sexual communications and touching) surely must have appealed to Trump's twisted sense of humor.  After all, Trump was accused of the rape of a child and that didn't stop him from running for president.. and winning. 

At a rally in Montana this summer, Trump mocked the movement before crowds of his supporters.
In his speech, he suggested that he would like to test Sen. Elizabeth Warren for Native American heritage, “but we have to do it gently because we’re in the #MeToo generation.”
Interpreters tried in vain to understand what he might be trying to say. It seemed to be some kind of snide attack at the legitimacy of the movement itself. It might have been Trump once again attacking political correctness- always a crowd pleaser in the rough and tumble outback.
Or perhaps it was something else. Perhaps President Trump has never fully understood what the Me Too movement was all about.

But as they say, actions speak louder than words. It's true in this case. On that same day he gave that speech, the White House announced that a fired Fox News executive, Bill Shine would be part of the administration's communications team. Shine had come under fire at Fox for his involvement in that network’s handling of multiple harassment scandals.
Coincidentally, Shine is now coaching Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on how to respond to sexual misconduct allegations.

The Kavanaugh Confirmation Disaster

When the Senate Judiciary Committee first assembled, the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the high court, a conservative majority is - or was- expected to be a formality. The GOP had the majority and, as we all know, might makes right.

Understandably, most women's groups were justifiably alarmed at the prospect of the court revisiting Roe v. Wade, under the intense pressure of evangelical and ultra-conservative groups.  

Even though the majority of Americans now support Roe v Wade, Kavanaugh's appointment is likely to threaten that 1970 court ruling. The strongest proof of that is the fervent way evangelicals have been rushing to Kavanaugh's defense.

Just the other day, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, said that the Republicans ought not to be so "accommodating" to Professor Christine Blasey Ford and that the Senate needs to move "more aggressively" to confirm the most unloved Supreme Court nominee.

Republicans have made no effort to hide their partisan steamrolling of the Kavanaugh confirmation process. The Republican-dominated Senate, said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will "plow right through" the obstacles and confirm Kavanaugh, despite any sexual misconduct allegation. This, before Ford has even had a chance to testify before the committee or her allegations have been thoroughly investigated.

McConnell is only expressing what a lot of Congressional Republicans think. A woman's claims of sexual misconduct mean nothing. We do not even need to hear them. Their allegations are of no interest to the GOP. Women can howl all they want but their opinions are of no interest.

As Tom Toles, a cartoonist for the Washington Post, writes:
Republicans now have a tradition to uphold. They have not spent the past 30 years abandoning every measure of integrity for nothing. It’s now their brand. It’s their standard. It’s, um, who they ARE.
No, it takes time to build a reputation of disgracefulness, and one act of fairness or responsibility could undo that overnight. It is not merely a standard; it is a strategy.
And that strategy requires driving out all dissent and, by necessity, silencing women who demand to be heard.

What Was the Point?

All of this leads us to ask some very painful but unavoidable questions. 
Besides having a nice little "bitch session" against the outcome of an election, what really was the point of the Women's March? Did it signify anything at all? Or was it just a day in the January sun for irate women?

That must be the way the leaders of the GOP now see it. They seem to have absolutely no fear that women will again take to the streets and demand Ford's allegations be impartially investigated.

And what was the true purpose of the Me Too movement except for a cathartic expression of outrage against male dominance? Was it just a "settling of scores" packaged by the media as some kind of triumph of justice- without the protections of due process?

Where is Madonna's "power in our unity" when it really matters? Is it really too much to demand Professor Ford's allegations be investigated by the FBI or any independent agency?

If ever there was a  time for solidarity, this is it. When Kavanaugh dons his robe and takes his place on the highest court in the nation, it will be too late to ask how such a person was ever permitted to dictate terms to the next generation of women.