by William Skink
Like most Americans, I followed the shit show hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh. In discussing my perspective I don’t in any way intend to minimize how traumatizing this has been for women. It’s no exaggeration to say millions of women are, to varying degrees, re-experiencing their own trauma due to the hearings and subsequent abhorrent actions of President Trump.
Being a male who has not experienced any type of sexual assault, I didn’t have the same, visceral reaction that many women are having. My experiences put me even further from what most people are focusing on because I have actually been falsely accused of sexual assault by a mentally ill person when I worked at the shelter, so due process is something I think is very important, because, though rare, false accusations do happen.
All that said, the extreme divisiveness this is having between men and women is, I think one of the intended outcomes. Why? Because by focusing on gender the real culprit goes unnamed: power.
Last week Eve Ensler stated on Democracy Now her belief that we are in the middle of a gender war:
Well, I think we’re in the middle of a gender war. I think Trump has essentially declared a war. And I think the fact that all of this—I was just listening to the speed at which this is all being done, the language that they’re talking about, plowing it through, ramming it through, getting it through. It all feels like this culture of rape, that we’re doing things so quickly that no one has time to think or breathe or see or feel.
I don’t think this is the right way to frame what’s happening. If this “war” is about gender, then why are so many women acting against other women by supporting Trump? What about their own status are they trying to protect?
I was thinking about this recently in regard to the University of Montana and how our Lee rag, the Missoulian, chose to cover the hefty fine levied against UM for violations of the Clary Act. Essentially UM got busted underreporting crimes to protect the image of UM as a safe campus. From the Missoulian:
“UM’s violations of the Clery Act and the Department’s regulations are very serious,” said the letter. “UM’s current and prospective students and employees rely on the institution to provide accurate disclosures of campus crime statistics so they can make informed decisions about their personal safety.
“UM provided its current students and employees with inaccurate and misleading crime statistics for calendar years 2012 through 2015 as part of its … (annual security reports).”
The Jeanne Clery Act requires colleges and universities that receive federal funds to report crime statistics so the public can assess campus safety.
In the past, UM swept rape reports under the rug. However, since a federal investigation into the flagship for mishandling reports of rape and sexual harassment and an ensuing 2013 agreement between the campus and the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education, UM has worked hard to focus on student safety.
Rape culture flourished as UM leadership chose to suppress crime statistics instead of facing up to reality. UM is still trying to recover, so any negative story is a big PR problem. Luckily for UM, the very next day the headline read as follows: Survey: University of Montana students generally feel safe on campus.
Kathy Best, the female editor of the Missoulian, and Keila Szpaller, the female reporter who wrote this “article”, are doing the University of Montana a big favor by following up a critical story with this crap instead of a story about why Royce Engstrom, the president at the time of this scandal, is still getting a six figure paycheck from UM to teach.
Making things worse, if you get beyond the misleading headline you find that when the sun goes down women do not feel safe on campus:
The executive summary of the spring 2018 American College Health Association National College Health Assessment II notes that 83.4 percent of UM students reported feeling “very safe” on campus during the day.
However, at night, that number drops to 31.9 percent overall — and only 19.5 percent for women.
Faced with a frat boy on the Supreme Court, this example may not seem like a big deal, but it’s worth considering if you think there is a gender war going on. If we were instead thinking in terms of power it makes sense that plenty of women are going to choose to protect their own status and access to power instead of joining the resistance.
Pushing the idea of a gender war is counterprodutive to the electoral aims of Democrats, as well. It may turn out enraged women in support of Democrats, but conservatives are just as fired up after the perceived smear job against Kavanaugh.
Both sides benefit from keeping the focus on gender because when gender gets all the attention, Kavanaugh’s pro-corporate, pro-surveillance and pro-torture positions are ignored.
And now he’s ensconced on the highest court of the land for life.