It’s pretty safe to say that the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court has been the ultimate acid test of the #MeToo movement. The backlash to the extremely credible allegations of sexual assault on his part backed by corroborating evidence of his own calendars and witnessed behaviors is not just about one man’s quest to sit on the high court. It’s an avatar of how some men are reacting to the movement at large.
Nothing sums that up more than Senator Lindsey Graham (R-KY), who told Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, “If this is the new norm, you’d better watch out for your nominees”, after a rage-filled defense of Kavanaugh as a victim. The idea has trickled down to a collection of other memes concerned with the fate of boys falsely accused of rape in a hypothetical future. This is supposed to be what happens if Christine Blasey Ford and other women’s accusations are taken seriously enough to deny Kavanaugh a seat.
Lurking on the edge of all this is the specter of a dire future for men if the movement is allowed to go any further, and that’s maddening because #MeToo asks so little of men. Yet, we fight every inch of cooperation tooth and nail.
When they say “believe women,” there’s this idea that it means any woman anywhere can point a finger at some man, say he’s a rapist and he will be instantly punished. Some pretend that day is already here despite the fact that out of every 1,000 reported rapes only six rapists will ever spend a day in jail.
False rape accusations can be a weapon, but believing that they constitute a majority of allegations is just nonsense. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that false reports of rape make up between 2.1 and 7.1 percent of reports. Compare that to the 63 percent of rapes they estimate are never reported at all and you end up with a tiny fraction of false claims.
On top of that, the notion that women make false rape accusations to achieve fame and fortune is not born out by a study done by the National Unit of the Dutch National Police in 2017. They found that the most common motives for false accusations were to cover up skipping school or adultery. Random women arbitrarily attacking men in power out of greed or spite is just not a thing that happens with any regularity, yet that particular delusion is used to fuel widespread disbelief.
“Believe women” doesn’t mean to immediately jail or execute an accused rapist now and ask questions later. All that women in the #MeToo movement are asking for is that their stories not be immediately dismissed. The phrase “innocent until proven guilty” has been thrown around a lot since Ford came forward about Kavanaugh. The understanding of that phrase by the general public is woeful. Complaints are assumed to be true in order to establish a cause of action. The public thinking that Kavanaugh might be a creep is not actually a conviction, and as we learn more facts, taking each as a possible truth, our opinion of the situation should mature toward a conclusion. Simply screaming that he is innocent until a video tape of him in the act is shown isn’t objectivity. It’s denial. What #MeToo wants is the end of automatic denouncement, not uncontested power.
What else do they want? Well, not putting men who might be rapists in positions of power. There is nothing particularly special about Brett Kavanaugh. Even Leonard Leo of The Federalist Society – the think tank who suggests most of the judgeships for conservative administrations – admits that Kavanaugh is just one out of many who would serve equally well. He said you could throw a dart at the list they prepared and be fine.
Rather than dropping this bland conservative rubber stamp for another, though, Republicans have dug in their heels. The confirmation of Neil Gorsuch proves that the Democrats can be relied on to roll over for any halfway qualified nominee, but they draw the line at a guy accused by multiple women of sexual assault. Leaving him in his already incredible position of power as a federal judge with a lifetime appointment and elevating someone without those accusations is an option, but we’re watching a party and their base jump on a grenade to keep #MeToo from progressing another inch forward.
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Painting the march of women’s rights as a purposefully vindictive act goes back at least to the 19th century. Everyone from Victorian clergy to anti-suffragists to the New Right in the Reagan administration to the alt-right of now have assumed that women seek destruction and redress.
The truth is most women are quite aware of the world we live in. When Kavanaugh is defended weakly by saying all boys act as he did there’s a grain of truth in that. All boys have crossed boundaries with girls starting from childhood. Why wouldn’t we? We’re literally taught in a legion of ways that we have a right to do so, and we are rarely punished when it happens.
Women know that, and on a whole I find them quite forgiving so long as you recognize reality and work to better it. They don’t want our heads on pikes no matter what the “kill all men” memes say. We’re willfully confusing rage and despair against a system that men refuse to even admit exists with an actual agenda.
The purpose of #MeToo has been to make it crystal clear that the majority of women in our lives have undergone significant gendered trauma at the hands of men who never see the slightest consequences. All they really want is for it to stop. Stop assuming every woman is a liar, that every man must be defended beyond a shadow of a doubt and that alleged sexual assailants are contenders for power. All we have to do is step back. It seems like so little to ask.