By Alexander Reid Ross (October 1, 2018)
Rebecca Solnit’s courageous piece is empowering and exciting. What turning over the rock from under which Kavanaugh crawled did was expose the horrible abuse pretty much all women are subjected to in the US from a very young age. It’s societal and systemic oppression in which specific, discrete acts of sexual misconduct and assault play an important, though not necessarily central, role.
Sexual assaults become mechanisms of policing women’s bodies and independence, and the threat of sexual assault is always a force beneath the surface of everyday life.
Yet men are inculcated into the club of patriarchy at a young age and begin to practice mistreating women with the help and support of elders. One is free to make revealing comments about women in private (a la Trump’s “locker room talk”) but to not participate in such behavior is to bring attention to your own vulnerabilities.
We are taught, as men, to be insensitive and unintelligent while priding ourselves on our smarts by putting down women who are disallowed from presenting the truths of the moment. Growing up, I think I knew some young men who attempted to negotiate between being devalued as a person and treating women (and non-straight white males in general) with respect. I don’t know if I ever knew any men who fully repudiated patriarchy and misogyny, though.
However, reducing everything to “bad things we did when we were in high school (and younger)” isn’t enough. We need to continue to recognize how we fail women, as men, in our daily lives, and work to make things better. One of these is recognizing, with the outpouring of revisited trauma, that we need to attune ourselves to how liminal this stuff is and be prepared to talk about things like “triggers” without smirking with contempt for people who suffer.