Tuesday, October 02, 2018

On the Kavanaugh Nomination And Women's Reproductive Rights. Or Back to the Basics. Post Two.

(The first post in this series  can be found here.  This second post is about the reactions from right-wing religious leaders to the sexual violence or harassment allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, Trump's most recent nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States.)

What The Godly Men Say

What the godly leaders of right-wing Christianists say  about the allegations against Kavanaugh is fascinating when we remember that these statements come from men who view themselves as the leaders of godly people, of god's people.  They represent the people of light and goodness, while others are viewed as the people of darkness and evil.

Here's Franklin Graham, the son of the famous preacher Billy Graham, on why Kavanaugh is not guilty of anything "relevant:"

Well there wasn't a crime that was committed.  These are two teenagers and it's obvious that she said no and he respected it and walked away--if that's the case but he says he didn't do it.  He just flat out says that's just not true.  Regardless if it was true, these are two teenagers and she said no and he respected that so I don't know what the issue is. This is just an attempt to smear his name, that's all.
Notice something interesting about that quote?  Graham hadn't even properly read Blasey Ford's statement!  According to her she managed to escape from the room when Mark Judge, the other boy in the room, jumped on top of Kavanaugh (who was lying on top of Blasey Ford, holding her down), and the pile came apart.  Kavanaugh was never described as having asked for consent or as showing any signs of respect.

That Graham hadn't bothered to learn what Blasey Ford said had happened tells me so much!  What the wimminz say really does not matter to the Evangelical patriarchs.  In any case, it's much more important to get another forced-birth-and-no-gay-sex Justice on the bench. (1)

Another right-wing Christian leader argues that a rape is not a rape if the victim doesn't scream and shout for help:

Rape is having sex with a woman while she screams for help. No scream, no rape according to Deuteronomy 22:23-24. [Christine Blasey] Ford says Kavanaugh held his hand over her mouth so did she scream for help when his hand was elsewhere? After all, it was in a bedroom of a house; surely, one of the other 4 teens could have heard him scream when she bit his hand. Did she bite his hand? Poke him in the eye? Women know instinctively how to protect their honor: screaming, shouting, slapping, spitting, slugging, and stabbing with a finger, pencil, or hat pin. Since she did not cry out or stab him, I will not believe her without a film of the event.”
Bolds are mine.

The argument that a rape accusation cannot ever be verified if the victim didn't scream or fight back very hard is not an unusual one.  It used to be written into the laws of many countries, and still might be the law in some places.

That those who tried to scream and fight back might then have ended in murder statistics (most likely as victims) is not something the above writer worries about.  But then he thinks women have hat pins at the ready in case they need to poke rapists in the eye!

I love the idea that "women know instinctively" how to protect their honor, especially when most cultures discourage girls from learning how to physically fight, but also because this way of thinking comes quite close to "legitimate" rape (2) and the conservative view that only certain kinds of rapes are real:

The victim must be a young virgin, on her way to church, modestly dressed, and the attacker must not be known to her at all.  Even then she probably should have the hat pin ready for stabbing, and it helps if she lost a limb or two in the attack.

So.  Not all Evangelical leaders are quite this outspoken about the irrelevancy of the allegations against Kavanaugh.  Many argued, before last week's Judicial Committee hearings, that both sides must be heard.  But the majority of the right-wing Christianist leaders are willing to pay handball with the demons if that gets an anti-abortion and anti-gay majority on the bench.

The background for all this can be found in the general attitudes about sexuality and about women's rights in the right-wing religious sects (3):

Sandi Villarreal, a former rape crisis advocate while at a Southern Baptist university, told the Fix that some evangelical leaders reject stories such as Ford’s because they disrupt their entire worldview about gender.
“These men tend to brush off the youthful ‘indiscretions’ — of boys,” Villareal said, “Young women, on the other hand, are held responsible for causing boys to stumble or tempting them into sin by the way they dress, how and whether they flirt, really, by virtue of being a woman.”

And, in the context of the #MeToo movement among the Southern Baptists (4):

Within evangelical culture, as I’ve written previously, the idea that women are “supposed” to be the gatekeepers of male sexuality, that male sexual urges are inherently uncontrollable, and the idea that forgiveness is automatically “owed” to any alleged abuser, converge to create a climate in which allegations of sexual harassment and abuse tend to be seen as minor or, at least, forgivable.

Certainly, the evangelical community is already redeeming its own people accused of sexual misconduct during the #MeToo movement. Earlier this month, former Southern Baptist Convention president Paige Patterson — who left his position as president of the Southwestern Baptist Seminary in disgrace after accusations of sexism — returned to public ministry with a pair of sermons that denigrated the #MeToo movement and focused on the problem of false rape allegations.
Patterson chose as one of his first sermons on his return the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife, i.e., a story about a false rape allegation.  Given that false rape allegations are much, much rarer than those true rape allegations which never result in any kind of sentence to the perpetrator, Patterson's choice tells where his priorities lie. (5)

Forty-eight percent of white evangelical respondents in a recent poll would have Kavanaugh on the bench even if Blasey Ford's allegations were proven to be true.  That's not too surprising, given that the support of white evangelicals for Judge Roy Moore was not affected by the allegations that he, as a younger man, had stalked and groomed (vulnerable) young girls for sex.

None of this is to argue that many white evangelicals wouldn't fervently believe that abortion is murder and that stopping murder matters much more than stopping sexual violence or rape.  But if the Bible is supposed to be their guide in all this it's worth noting that abortion is not mentioned in that book while rape is (6).

Whatever the overall motivations of the above quoted leaders might be, I cannot help concluding that an important motive for them is the defense of the patriarchal power hierarchies among their communities.  Their fight against abortions and their acceptance of sexual harassment and violence neatly fit into the same scenario if that is what motivates them.


(1)   Just think of the fact that over eighty percent of white Evangelicals voted for a pussy-grabbing president over a (gasp!) woman.  They probably would vote for Devil himself if that would achieve the end of all reproductive choice for women.  (This is the women-as-vessels-and-subjugated-handmaids view in conservative Christianity).

(2)   Todd Akin, a Republican representative from Missouri then,  made that argument in 2012 when he was asked whether abortion should be allowed in the case of rape:
“It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.
And the woman instinctively knows how to fight off a rapist without herself getting killed or seriously hurt...

(3)  If you have read my earlier post in this series, you may have spotted that this is the religious version of the sexual ice-hockey game.  It's common not  only in right-wing Christianity but also in conservative Islam.  And probably in other patriarchal religions.

(4)  More can be found in part 5 of this post.

(5)  As an aside, a woman was recently sentenced to two years in prison for allegedly "spreading false news" in Egypt:

An Egyptian woman who made a video alleging sexual harassment has been given two years in prison and a fine on charges of “spreading false news”.
Amal Fathy, an actor and a former activist, uploaded a video to her Facebook account in May detailing how she was sexually harassed during a visit to her bank and criticising the government’s failure to protect women.
Two days after the post, Egyptian security forces entered her home in a pre-dawn raid and arrested her along with her husband and young son, both of whom were later released.
Fathy was subsequently put on trial accused of spreading false news with intent to harm the Egyptian state and possessing “indecent material”. She was sentenced to one year in prison for each charge, and given a fine of 10,000 Egyptian pounds (£430) for making “public insults”.
 In another case a Lebanese tourist visiting Egypt was also sentenced for a similar offense:

Mona el-Mazbouh, a Lebanese tourist who recorded a comparable video during her stay in Egypt, was arrested at Cairo airport and sentenced to eight years in prison in July, accused of “spreading false rumours that would harm society, attacking religion and public indecency”.
Her sentence was later reduced to one year and then suspended, before she was deported to Lebanon in September.

This is how accusations of sexual harassment might be treated in a deeply religious patriarchal society, and right-wing Christianists certainly have such societies as their goal.  The silence of victims is a central part of that plan.

(6) From the standpoint of men in a nomadic herding community a long time ago.  But at least it's mentioned as something deplorable.