Thursday, September 27, 2018

My Impressions on Kavanaugh's Answers In Today's Judiciary Committee Hearings

1.  Shouty McShoutyface. 

That was my first impression on Brett Kavanaugh's performance in today's Senate Judiciary Committee hearings:

Had Kavanaugh's first name been Brenda, say, that behavior would have been interpreted as evidence that women are too emotional* to serve on courts.  But it will serve Brett well among the Republican base.  Trump loved it, I hear, and probably so did all the Breitbart-readers.

I, on the other hand wonder if someone that angry could ever evaluate cases having to do with sexual violence, say, with the kind of neutrality and objectivity we ideally would wish to see in Supreme Court Justices. — How has Clarence Thomas decided on cases having to do with women's rights?

Or perhaps Kavanaugh is supposed to represent a particular political faction on the court?   Such as capitalists and fratboys and the fundie patriarchs?   He comes across as a very political operative.

2.  Why did the Republicans questioning Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh hire a female prosecutor as "an assistant?"  Or as an apron, but only for the first part of the cooking show. 

It's because eleven Republican men questioning, probing and doubting Blasey Ford's testimony would look a little bit weird, even perhaps to Republican women.  As if only their men are to decide which claims are credible.

But then if Kavanaugh gets the SCOTUS job, he will be the swing vote to decide on the proper use of women's wombs in a majority decision made out of all men.  Besides,  there are too few women among the powerful Republicans, what with the American Taliban values the party celebrates.

That none of this much matters is an interesting sign of these supposedly #MeToo times.

3.  Whose pain matters?   Kavanaugh expressed great anger at the way he and his family have been treated, suggesting that the questions about his past have destroyed his family.

And that is horrible.  But Blasey Ford's family hasn't exactly been paraded around on rose floats, either.  She has faced death threats and had to move, and I'm fairly certain that coming forward is not going to improve her life or her career.

My intention is not to belittle the pain Kavanaugh and his family have probably felt, but to point out that the families of people accused of all types of crimes feel similar pain, both when the accused persons are found guilty and when they are not, and that victims of sexual violence coming forward to tell their stories face largely negative consequences from doing so.

This has changed  a little because of the #MeToo era, but anyone accusing a famous person will face insinuations about the reports being false and will have her whole life turned over.  And for what?

Perhaps so that others can have justice?  Is this where these particular hearings are heading?  And who is it who is going to get justice?  Is Kavanaugh entitled to a seat on the SCOTUS bench, for example?

I have written very little* about the pain many survivors of sexual violence are experiencing while following the Kavanaugh debates.

Sexual violence can destroy the families of the victims.  It can destroy their dreams about future, their professional careers,  their mental health and their ability to create loving sexual relationships later in life.

But it is my impression that many still worry more about destroying the future lives of those falsely accused of sexual violence than about destroying the future lives of those sexual violence victims who get no justice and are not believed.

4.  The Renate Alumni.

This is a reference to Brett Kavanaugh's high school yearbook page.  He was listed as a "Renate Alumnius:"

The word “Renate” appears at least 14 times in Georgetown Preparatory School’s 1983 yearbook, on individuals’ pages and in a group photo of nine football players, including Judge Kavanaugh, who were described as the “Renate Alumni.” It is a reference to Renate Schroeder, then a student at a nearby Catholic girls’ school.
Two of Judge Kavanaugh’s classmates say the mentions of Renate were part of the football players’ unsubstantiated boasting about their conquests.

“They were very disrespectful, at least verbally, with Renate,” said Sean Hagan, a Georgetown Prep student at the time, referring to Judge Kavanaugh and his teammates. “I can’t express how disgusted I am with them, then and now.”
Any woman knows that the above is slut-shaming.  It doesn't matter for that purpose whether the girl mentioned even knew any of the boys who participated in it.

Slut-shaming is not just a sadistic thing that some immature minds find deliciously funny.  It's also a form of bonding** among the small group of boys who participated in it, and a way to destroy a young girl's reputation. 

It's also another sign of the conservative ideology about sex***: Men are supposed to be on the offense in this ice-hockey game, while women are supposed to be the goalies.

A goalkeeper who repeatedly fails has awarded a giant victory to the boys, and that victory is worth crowing about.  Which is what these boys did.

And at least as as young teenager, Kavanaugh bought into that traditional sexual ideology.  This does not bode well on how he might rule on topics which have to do with women's rights.

Well, that is my take on the Renate Alumni.  But Kavanaugh argued differently in the hearings today:

One thing in particular we’re sad about: one of our good — one of our good female friends who we would admire and went to dances with had her names used on the yearbook page with the term “alumnus.” That yearbook reference was clumsily intended to show affection, and that she was one of us. But in this circus, the media’s interpreted the term is related to sex. It was not related to sex. As the woman herself noted to the media on the record, she and I never had any six — sexual interaction of — at all. I’m so sorry to her for that yearbook reference. This may sound a bit trivial, given all that we are here for, but one thing I want to try to make sure — sure of in the future is my friendship with her. She was and is a great person.
On the other hand, the New York Times tells us something different:

Michael Walsh, another Georgetown Prep alumnus, also listed himself on his personal yearbook page as a “Renate Alumnus.” Alongside some song lyrics, he included a short poem: “You need a date / and it’s getting late / so don’t hesitate / to call Renate.”
So the yearbook reference was clumsily intended to show affection, that "she was one of us?"  I very much doubt that.  She was slut-shamed, and Kavanaugh is not telling the truth here.

And the woman in question seems to agree with me, as she withdrew her support for Kavanaugh's nomination after finding out about the yearbook.


*  The reason is twofold:  First, there are many, many people already doing the necessary writing.  Thus, and second, what I could offer in that area would just be replicating the efforts of others. My comparative advantage is in more analytical writings about the topic.  But yes, my jaw hurts from all the clinching I have practiced in the recent past and memories sometimes overtake me and bring pain back.

** That male bonding aspect is relevant in much of the bad sexual behavior of some young men (such as street harassment of a woman by a small group of men).  It may even be an aspect of gang rapes, where the role of the rape victim is not that different from the role of a spittoon, though she might be treated with less care.

*** Much more on that can be found in part 2 of my earlier post.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Meanwhile, in Alaska, A Travesty of Justice

The contents of this post include sexual violence.


This is what happened in Alaska in 2017: 

A woman was looking for a ride at a gas station.  A man offered her one, but did not drive her to her destination.  Instead, he told her that he needed to pick up something first, drove the car to a dead-end street in a residential area, and asked her step out of the car while he was loading something in the back.

He then pushed her to the ground, told her that he was going to kill her and then strangled her with both hands.  She lost consciousness.

When she regained consciousness, she found that he had ejaculated on her.  According to the detective in the case:

"The man told her that he wasn't really going to kill her, that he needed her to believe she was going to die so that he could be sexually fulfilled,"

This is what happened in Alaska in 2018:

The above case came to court: