Thursday, September 20, 2018

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

Over the last week I have started several posts on the Kavanaugh hearings and the various political reactions to the allegations that he sexually assaulted a fifteen-year-old girl when he himself was seventeen and a student at an all-male private school.

I didn't manage to complete any of those posts in one day (because of my still-frail health), but by the next day(s) so much new shit (1) would hit the online fans around this topic that a new post seemed faster than attempting to patch and darn the changes into the earlier draft.  Rinse and repeat. 

For these reasons I am going to do two fundamentals-posts on this topic: This first post begins by taking a few steps back, so as to achieve a wider view on the meaning of Kavanaugh's appointment and the allegations against him.  The second post will zoom in on certain details about the treatment of Kavanaugh's accuser.

Let's begin*.

1.  The purpose of Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court is to guarantee the court a majority which will always rule for the rich over the poor, for the Republicans' interests over the Democrats' interests, and for the interests of the corporations over those of workers and consumers.  An equally central goal of the Republicans is to nominate someone who will help other conservative judges to hold Roe v. Wade down on the bed, strip off its clothes and throttle it dead (2).

That's because limiting the reproductive freedoms of all those sluts is the pound of flesh the white Evangelicals (and other forced-birthers)  in the Republican base demand.  Kavanaugh is quite likely to do that, given his recent legal argument that the government has permissible interests in favoring fetal life.

Besides, he would never have been picked if he was eagerly for all women's reproductive rights, and we all know that.

Therefore, the future optics of his nomination are these:

One day, fairly soon, the Supreme Court will have an all-male majority (3) which will kill Roe.  Just imagine that group photo!  And think of the message it sends.

In my naivete and innocence I used to think that the Republicans don't want those optics, that they might find it slightly embarrassing to have such an important decision made by a group of Justices whose own bodies (4) could never be affected by that decision they would make over the bodies of others.

But since we now have a country ruled by the Pussy-Grabber-In-Chief, I have begun to wonder if the message in all this isn't an intended one: A reminder of who it is that wields the real power when it comes to sex and gender politics.

2.  Women's reproductive rights matter to me most because without such rights men and women simply cannot enjoy equal social, political and economic opportunities (5).

But abortion and contraception also matter for deciding who is allowed to enjoy recreational sex.  If abortion became widely illegal, the physical, mental and financial costs of recreational heterosexual intercourse would go up, because any unwanted pregnancy could result in forced birth-giving (6).

Those costs would rise far more for women than men, given the health risks of pregnancy and giving birth, but they would also rise for men (given modern paternity testing), at least in terms of decades of child maintenance payments if nothing else.

Some in the anti-choice movement seem motivated by a desire to punish women for their sexual license.  I have often read comments by pro-lifers which recommend that if women don't want to get pregnant they should keep their legs crossed.  An unwanted pregnancy is seen by those individuals as the proper punishment for careless female sexuality, and female abstinence as the morally correct solution.

But female abstinence from heterosexual sex would also mean less sex for heterosexual men.  Yet both the 1990s allegations against Justice Clarence Thomas and the current allegations against Brett Kavanaugh are about aggressive ways of trying to get more sex.   There is no conservative pro-life movement to try to force chastity and abstinence on men, not even on conservative male Justices on the Supreme Court.

Instead,  a certain type of (conservative) sexual ideology takes it for granted that all men are ruled by their overwhelming sexual passions and that men are naturally to play offense in a sexual ice-hockey game where women are expected to be the sexual goalkeepers (7).  Men "score", after all, and within that ideology the puck in the goal is the fault of the failed goalkeeper.

I have a hard time making the  point I am trying to make in this section.  The reason may be that I am immersed in the same culture which has produced these sex role expectations:

The culture, in general, and popular culture, in particular,  encourages men to try to score,  but unwanted pregnancies are viewed almost as if they were caused by parthenogenesis.  Men with many sex partners are viewed as studs but women with many sex partners are still often viewed as sluts.  In this ideology sex is something men must strive for, are taught to strive for and cannot avoid striving for, but it is also something women shouldn't treat in a similar manner.  That's because if men cannot help themselves, then women must do all the goalkeeping.  Or bear the consequences.

We get whiffs of this bifurcated culture (8) in the stories around the Kavanaugh debates:  The fraternities Kavanaugh belonged to at Yale (9), the sexist (and truly gross and objectifying) email jokes   Judge Alex Kozinski routinely sent to some of those who clerked for him (though Kavanaugh clerked for him, he may not have known about Kazinski's email jokes),  and the recent statement that it might have mattered how Kavanaugh's female law clerks looked:

A top professor at Yale Law School who strongly endorsed supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as a “mentor to women” privately told a group of law students last year that it was “not an accident” that Kavanaugh’s female law clerks all “looked like models” and would provide advice to students about their physical appearance if they wanted to work for him, the Guardian has learned.

None of these examples are necessarily about Brett Kavanaugh, but they describe the culture he, and other conservative pro-life lawyers and politicians may have swum in. This is the culture that now openly prevails in the White House, too, while the culture that the Republican politicians are pushing for in the Supreme Court would much strengthen the assumption that women must bear the unintended consequences for engaging in purely recreational sex.


*  My sincere apologies for any bad writing or fuzzy thinking.  I'm heavily medicated and my sinuses are insistently green.

(1)  By that word I partly mean what it sounds like:  Attempts to make actual analysis of the allegations more difficult, the usual type of excrement flinging primates engage in, but some of the new daily information also matters for that analysis.

(2)  Now, anyone Trump would have nominated could work for those goals, of course.  That Kavanaugh, specifically, was picked may have been caused by Justice Kennedy's desire to see his "mentee" and acolyte on the court, as a condition for his retirement.  It's even more likely that Trump wanted Kavanaugh for the latter's views about presidential powers.

(3)  Trump could have nominated a fundamentalist church lady lawyer for that seat in the court.  There are several who are rabid misogynists and good capitalists.  On the other hand, Republicans don't really like to see women in powerful public roles.  Choices, choices.

(4)  Because they cannot get pregnant themselves and cannot, probably, even imagine how the fear of forced childbirth, especially if abortion became illegal even in the case of rape, could limit fertile-age women's lives.  (It's also true, of course, that people with money would probably always have access to abortions if needed.)

(5)  At least as long as mothers are universally regarded as the ones directly responsible for the raising and minding of children.  If you think I'm exaggerating in that bolded sentence, consider the evidence of history.

(6)  Or a potentially very dangerous illegal abortion.  By "recreational" intercourse I mean sex not intended to produce a child, but to be enjoyed for its own sake or used to show love, to bond, or to give the participants a short respite from the troubles and toil of life.

(7)  This is a good example of that belief, in the context of addressing the allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted another teen when he was seventeen:

A lawyer close to the White House said the nomination will not be withdrawn. “No way, not even a hint of it,” the lawyer said. “If anything, it’s the opposite. If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried. We can all be accused of something.”
Mark Judge, the person who is alleged to have participated in the assault Kavanaugh has been accused of, once wrote about uncontrollable male passions.

This sexual ideology is extremely common worldwide.  In many cultures women are expected to dress and behave modestly.  If they fail to do so, then any sexual violence they may experience is at least partly their own fault, because of that ice-hockey game ideology and the assumption that male passions are either uncontrollable or do not have to be controlled from inside.  — It's really only certain schools of feminism which have directly challenged the underlying assumptions.

(8) By "bifurcated" I mean the simultaneous acceptance of the idea that "boys will be boys," that men are "hardwired" to push for sex, and of the idea that sexual license in women is very bad, that abortion is murder and that even those contraceptives which women can control (the pill and the IUD) are abortifacients which should be banned.

(9) This reference does not mean that Kavanaugh behaved badly in college, and the article I link to suggests that the clubs he belonged to were fairly tame during his time at Yale.  But they are all-male fraternities which later were accused of some pretty nasty sexist stuff.  I'm pretty sure that they were not discussion groups on the rights of fetuses.