Against Misogyny

I’ve been thinking lately about how well my life is going and how privileged I am. But the obscene farce going on in the U.S. over filling the Supreme Court vacancy has reminded me that there are still a lot of men in this world who want me to stay in my place.

Which, since I’m no longer young enough and never looked good enough for their taste, is out of sight and out of mind. They really don’t want to hear from the likes of me.

I would be enraged by the whole process even if I weren’t a woman, just as I am enraged by the treatment of immigrants, the ongoing racism and white supremacy, and the fact that people in my neighborhood are sleeping on the sidewalks because they have nowhere else to go.

But I am a woman and that makes this particular fight very personal. And I am known to be loud and occasionally accused of being intimidating. So I have things to say.

Those men — those old white men with lots of money and even richer supporters — want to keep women from claiming and using their power. They may frame this as “she said, he said,” just as they pretend their assault on women’s reproductive rights is a matter of ethics instead of a doctrine of forced pregnancy aimed at controlling women, but their true agenda is to keep women in our “place.”

Part of this is the basic misogyny of the culture: women are supposed to be the caretakers and sexual partners of the men who do things; we aren’t supposed to speak out about sexual assault and harassment, much less go for power of our own. But these powerful white men want women kept in their place for the same reason that they support voter suppression and attacks on immigrants and laws that increase income inequality: they want to keep running the world.

And I’ve had enough. It’s time for them to go.

I am finishing this essay the day before the hearing at which Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is supposed to testify. You are probably reading it as that happens. I’m sure another shoe or two will drop during that hearing. Things may be very different by tonight. We can hope they’ll be better, but even if they are it won’t change the rest of what I have to say.

The thing that made me the maddest in the earlier hearings was not the treatment of Dr. Blasey, awful as it has been. It was a statement by Ben Sasse, a Republican senator from Nebraska, about protestors in the Senate gallery. As Rebecca Traister explains it in this book excerpt published on The Cut:

Ben Sasse suggested that maybe the ladies should all just calm down, noting that “screaming protesters [have been] saying ‘Women are going to die’ at every hearing for decades.”

It probably wouldn’t change Sasse’s mind if someone took the time to compile all the data and show how many women have died because of judicial appointments just like this one, not to mention attacks on Planned Parenthood and the worldwide anti-abortion measures approved by Republicans. He thinks we’re all just being “hysterical.” Or maybe he just doesn’t care if women die.

That’s the attitude that pushed me over into rage. The nervous dismissals of Dr. Blasey by senators (“she must be confused”) just adds to that rage. And my anger increases when I realize that those old white men on the Senate judiciary committee are going to make all this about personal credibility instead of investigating all the related material that Dr. Blasey’s report has raised and the additional sexual allegations that have come out in the last week.

Further, there are lots of reasons besides his behavior to question the man’s suitability for the Supreme Court, as Linda Greenhouse’s latest piece for The New York Times points out.

Misogynistic attitudes and behavior alone should be a reason to keep people off the bench, and particularly off the Supreme Court bench. But of course, the majority of people charged with this decision are misogynists.

This is why I advocate for empowerment self defense. Those men aren’t going away on their own. They won’t change their minds until they’re forced to. The only way we’re going to get rid of them and staff our courts with those who believe in real democracy, in fairness to all, is for women to claim their power.

The self defense aspect of empowerment self defense is important, because there are many situations where women need to use their powerful voices and stances, and even to fight, to keep themselves safe. But it’s the empowerment part that is most important. Once enough women learn just how powerful we are, how much we can do, those tired old white men won’t be able to stop us anymore.

If that’s hysteria, bring it on.



Against Misogyny — 19 Comments

  1. My spouse turned off the TV last night, saying that the sheer testosterone poisoning in Congress was making him feel ill. Before he slammed into his study he said what Congress really needs is a matriarchy to save this country.

    I huzzahed because I’ve been saying that in various ways, generally and in specifics, for the nearly four decades we’ve been married, and he’s always responded with the reasonable liberal white man’s “But . . .”

    Last night there was no “but.”

  2. It was somewhat heartening, this experience of yesterday.

    Walking to the library, behind me were two quite young men conversing, carrying their lunch. Backwards caps, surfer length pants, unremarkable t-shirts. They could have been university students or web designers or any of a multitude tech pros in the companies down here. It was their conversation that had my attention.

    This is as best I can remember their verbatim:

    [ Dick or asshole?

    My brother says all the guys at Georgetown at dicks. So does my dad and my uncle and my cousins. I didn’t go there. I was too small, my dad said. They’d eat me alive.

    So, dick then? I mean, people can put up with assholes, but dicks, they’re like white walkers or something. Ya just gotta destroy them. ]

    Which tells us a whole lot about this rape culture that got going in the 80’s, not coincidentally in the Reagan era, when the first concerted actions to roll back reproduction rights started.

    Even in the 80’s the media as it was then was full of stories of the privileged white poshie lads’ culture of targeting girls of their own class for sexual abuse. See Richard Chambers who killed his girlfriend in Central Park. The Kennedy nephews — Dominick Dunne made it one of his missions as a journalist of the rich and privileged to write about these in Vanity Fair, the New Yorker, etc.

    Back in the day, i.e. before WWII, it would have been working class girls, servants, and, you know, women of color, back before there was easy unchaperoned, unsupervised access to females of their own class. Women didn’t attend the Ivys until the last part of the 1960’s. Pennsylvania didn’t have spousal rape laws until 1995. Believe it or not, a whole lot of people out there, don’t know that ‘dating’, women attending college in general, much less the Ivys, is a very recent development.

    And of course, throughout history men of all classes could do pretty much whatever they wanted to their wives, though often killing her was not approved of. They also did sexually abuse their daughters and sisters, nieces and cousins — but it had to be kept on the downlow. That the girl was ‘ruined’ even though it wasn’t her choice, she was the victim, she was blamed, and her prospect for one of those marriages that united wealth and privilege for another generation gone.

    Yet, people still wonder why women don’t speak out or look for police assistance.

  3. Ye gods, the longer I watch this train wreck, the more certain I become that we as a culture have got to put an end to “boys will be boys.” Not just because sexism, but because of the enormous damage it does to boys.

    When little Tommy pulls little Sally’s braids on the playground and it’s laughed off as “boys will be boys,” he learns that his misbehavior will be excused instead of having consequences. When he’s in jr. high and pings Sally’s bra and she objects only to be told “boys will be boys,” he learns again that his boundary violations will be glossed over and excused. When he’s in high school and goes to parties where there’s underage drinking and goes a little too far (whether it’s sex or drunk driving or whatever), all too often it’s still laughed off as “boys will be boys,” especially if he’s from a “good family” or he’s on the football team and his dad or the coach can argue that he shouldn’t have his whole life ruined for a youthful indiscretion. And then we expect this man-child to suddenly grow up and shoulder responsibility for his actions on his eighteenth birthday, after all his previous misdeeds were laughed off as harmless

    “Boys will be boys” needs to die on the lips of every adult authority figure who needs to deal with juvenile misbehavior.

  4. It’s also very much a class issue and in so many different ways. Here’s one take on that:

    [ ” . . . .Christine Blasey Ford cannot be dismissed as a pretender to privilege, which I suspect is what scares Republicans so much. But for her decision to come out about Brett Kavanaugh and to remake herself as a California surfing mom, she is the archetypal Republican voter: A wealthy, white suburban woman, married, with children. Her parents are Republicans. Her father plays golf with Brett Kavanaugh’s dad at Burning Tree. Her parents have been noticeably silent — stonily so, with no letter of support, only the most begrudging words. It chilled me to read what her father, Ralph Blasey, wrung from himself to offer the Washington Post, in the conditional tense: “I think all of the Blasey family would support her. I think her record stands for itself. Her schooling, her jobs, and so on.” Then he hung up. A second call yielded this hypothetical: “I think any father would have love for his daughter.”

    Women like Ford are the ones who have mostly raced to protect Brett Kavanaugh — not to mention Donald Trump — because admitting that there was something rotten in their culture would implicate them, too. What makes Ford different, it seems, is that she is ready to tell the truth that even the white woman on the pedestal is ultimately doomed to subordination, and if she gets in the way of the plan or breaks the code — well, she’s on her own. . . . . ]

    • Yep. I’m not in their social class — I went to public schools and a state university — and my parents were serious Democrats, but part of what prompted this post is the disconnect I feel between, on the one hand, having the privilege that comes from being white, well-educated, not an immigrant, and not broke, and on the other being a woman in a society that doesn’t believe women matter. It’s an even stronger disconnect for someone like Dr. Blasey.

  5. This is the most humiliating thing for the US — maybe even more humiliating than the orange nazi’s presentations at the UN these last two days.

    I stupidly left the radio on when I went off to NYU. So I come home and here NPR is broadcasting it and I’m utterly mesmerized. But I want to run away and I can’t. I also want to throw-up.

  6. You’d like this piece too:

    [ ” . . . . The vileness of it is compounded by the master class-level hypocrisy of those who defend Kavanaugh and Trump as champions of “values”: by the Franklin Grahams and Lindsey Grahams and all those other moralistic but two-faced Graham crackers who provide the smokescreen for the AC. (AC = Asshole Culture, formerly also found in bastions of asshole culture like men’s clubs where it was cultivated and celebrated and high school bros smoked cigars as their insides decayed literally and figuratively. Like the New York Athletic Club, the NYAC.)

    Our revulsion at Kavanaugh is therefore compounded not just by his lying to the Senate or his extremism, not just by his callous abuse of women but by the reflexive response of Asshole Culture to come to his defense to protect themselves and their past and future transgressions.

    There will be no fair and decent treatment of women until we break the grip on power of Asshole Culture, the Praetorian guard of the patriarchy. Let’s leave them to literature, where they can be suitable villains wearing white tennis sweaters tied over their shoulders. Leave them to movies where we can continue to laugh derisively at this nation of Doug Neidermeyers and Greg Marmalards. But whatever we do, let’s use this moment to just leave them once and for all. They have done too much damage to too many people for too long. ” ]

  7. Thanks so much for this post. I haven’t been listening as it’s too intense and triggering, but I have been following reports from those I trust. I’m struck by the increasing willingness of women to not only tell their stories but to show their deep, abiding anger. What a whirlwind is coming!

  8. It’s been awful. The moment I came home I couldn’t tear myself away.

    Finally, I went to my local for a martini to wash out the reflux from the need to vomit.

    And now, I’m shutting down everything including the phone, taking a bath with candles and the unopened so far lavender bath salts brought back from Provence this spring. Then I’ll go to bed and read a book situated long ago, and not in this nation that is so humiliating itself.