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Notes on Men’s Anger and Women’s Truth

Oct 08, 2018

The performance put on by Brett Kavanagh last week was a sterling display of white male privilege. Watching as his nomination to the Supreme Court was slipping from his fingers in the face of the credible testimony of Dr. Blasey Ford, his calculated response was to lash out at the “unfair” process. He got to do that with seeming impunity because he is a privileged white man.

The performance put on by Brett Kavanagh last week was a sterling display of white male privilege. Watching as his nomination to the Supreme Court was slipping from his fingers in the face of the credible testimony of Dr. Blasey Ford, his calculated response was to lash out at the “unfair” process. He got to do that with seeming impunity because he is a privileged white man. If Dr. Blasey Ford had presented her rage at what Kavanagh did to her in high school, she would have been deemed not credible and crazy.

Women’s anger makes everyone uncomfortable [see Serena Williams at U.S. Open]. But Kavanagh’s tantrum was described as “passionate” and “understandable given what he’s been through.”  What he’s been through is being called to account for his behavior. It is painful for him and his family but it is of his own making. It is an example of “to the privileged, equality feels like oppression.”

One of the commentators compared this iteration of Supreme Court drama to the Clarence Thomas – Anita Hill hearings and observed that “at least this time it’s not about race.” But it is about race. Just because the nominee is white and his accuser is white and the eleven men on the committee who voted him through are white doesn’t remove race from the equation. It’s all about race: it’s about white privilege and how it works in this country.

Mr. Trump has now weighed in, mocking the testimony of a sexual assault survivor and observing that “our young men are now in danger.” What he meant to say was “our young white men are now in danger.” He has had nothing to say about our young black men dying at the hands of police. And the “danger” he cites is women’s truth. As more and more women come forward to tell their stories as part of the #MeToo movement, men’s privilege is endangered. How some men have treated women in high school, in the workplace, in the home, in the church is finally starting to have consequences. It’s long overdue.

I worry about the take-away from this debacle for teenagers and young adults today. Dr. Blasey Ford’s experience and worse still goes on every weekend. Has this moment given pause to parents or to kids? Or has the “boys will be boys” excuse just been reinforced once again? Will this experience drive some survivors deeper into the closet of their memories of being assaulted? Or will it rally us to speak louder and fight harder, to listen to survivors, to expect more from young men?

What about our faith communities? White evangelicals have predictably lined up to ignore the evidence of sexual abuse and to support this nomination out of a political agenda. Are our faith leaders preaching and teaching about this? Are we helping our people understand what is happening? Are we supporting the many survivors among us for whom this past week has been excruciating? My local church opened its doors and invited anyone who would want to gather to watch Dr. Blasey Ford and Kavanagh testify to come together. No one needed to go through that alone. People were glad to be together.

Let me be clear. I believe Dr. Blasey Ford; she is absolutely credible. But in terms of the Supreme Court, what worries me the most is Kavanagh’s display of deeply partisan rage before the Senate Judiciary Committee. If the Court is to maintain any semblance of fairness and equity, this is not the man we need on the Court. He has shown that he does not have the capacity to function under pressure. Surely we could have done better.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute
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