On the South Lawn of the White House, Donald Trump briefly stopped for reporters as he headed out to an event. Commenting on the current situation with his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, the president at one point said, “It’s a very scary time for young men in America when you can be guilty of something that you may not be guilty of.”
This awkward sentence fit nicely with other comments Donald Trump has made, with him arguing that false allegations could “ruin a man’s life.” Other people who support Trump’s nominee have made similar statements.
It’s instructive that there’s far more concern in certain circles for the men in these situations. It’s a scary time for men. Men’s lives could be ruined. Men could be fired from their jobs. Men’s families could suffer.
The problem here is beyond obvious. And yet, the President of the United States himself tells the world that not only is he concerned for men, but “women are doing great.”
So, I have to ask a few questions about what these poor men are going through:
- Are men forced to look over their shoulder at all times while out in public?
- Do men have to cross the street when a lone man walks up the sidewalk toward them?
- Do men have to Wolverine claw their keys as they move through a parking lot?
- Do men have to plot out walking routes away from construction sites, bars, dark areas, bus stops, alleys, parking lots, stairwells, elevators, subway entrances, doorways, garages, abandoned buildings, and any place where multiple men might be gathering?
- Do men have to switch up their jogging routes to deter stalkers?
- Do men have to avoid using headphones while jogging outside, just to make it harder for men to sneak up on them?
- Do men have to avoid eye contact with men in public to avoid being immediately harassed?
- Do men worry about being screamed at and cursed when they ignore or decline unwanted advances from men?
- Do men receive constant sexual comments and photos from men on dating websites?
- Do men have to zealously guard their drink at a party or bar, to reduce the risk of being drugged?
- Are men forced to weigh whether or not the risk of harassment and doxxing is worth expressing an opinion on the internet?
- Do men worry about being paid significantly less than half of their coworkers?
- Are men frequently forced to make the calculation of how much sexual harassment to tolerate in order to keep a decent job?
- Do men have to make the calculation of whether or not its worth coming forward about being assaulted, because rape culture is so entrenched in American society that even the President worries more about the accused than the victim?
- Do men have to make the calculation of whether or not its worth coming forward about being assaulted, because only 6 in every 1000 sexual predators is actually sent to jail?
- Oh yeah, and do men live in constant fear of not just being accused of rape, but of being raped?
Oh wait, I’m sorry, I was thinking about women.
It is fair to note that the answer to some of the above questions is most definitely… sometimes for some men. It’s certainly true that a culture of systemic misogyny also makes it harder for men to speak out against harassment.
But the answer to the above questions is a huge YES for most women.
Sure, Mr. President, women have it great now…
…compared with 1612, 1830, or even 1950.
But they deal with a hell of a lot more then men do, especially from men like the president.
The fact that there are functioning adults who initially responded to the Kavanaugh allegations with concern for the well-being of Kavanaugh, and not Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, is THE direct answer to that universal question, “why didn’t she come forward sooner?”
But since every other person seems to be so worried about the chance Kavanaugh is the real victim here, let me deal with one specific point.
I plan to discuss this in greater depth in the future, but to quickly get this bullshit out of the way:
There have been numerous studies done over the years, of varying degrees of quality and scientific rigor. Incomplete police statistics, the tendency for victims to not report the crimes against them, and societal pressures all make it difficult to precisely gauge the frequency of false accusations. But the best data puts the range between 2 and 10 percent. Which means (depending on the situation), if someone says they were assaulted – without knowing anything about them or their attacker – the odds that they are telling the truth is between 90 and 98 percent.
If cold statistics are the only thing that one cares about, then it still leads to the conclusion… BELIEVE WOMEN.
Yeah, it’s a slogan.
And yes, like all slogans, it lacks nuance.
And yes, if one is accused of sexual assault, then there is a LEGAL presumption of evidence. The court system requires that the burden of proof rests on the accuser.
But Brett Kavanaugh isn’t on trial.
Whatever crime he may have committed against Dr. Blasey Ford occurred years ago. Fair or not, no court is going to charge him.
He isn’t defending himself from being imprisoned. He’s been nominated for a job which would likely give him the power to help strip millions of American women of the right to control their own reproductive decisions. He will likely cast deciding votes in cases that determine the constitutionality of laws that impact… well, everyone. Due to his political positions and the current ideological tilt of the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh would wield enormous power – if confirmed.
So yes, in this case, it’s reasonable to consider the very credible claims of someone who knows him, and his friends, and has been backed up by people who knew them both. I would hope the standard for Supreme Court Justice includes “not likely to have sexually assaulted someone.”
Even ignoring the statistical probability that she’s telling the truth about Brett Kavanaugh, Dr. Blasey Ford’s allegations deserve consideration because of the potential gravity of his confirmation. Quite a bit will likely change if the Senate decides Dr. Ford isn’t sufficiently credible – or even if she is, but her allegation isn’t enough for them.
And if Judge Kavanaugh isn’t confirmed, he will still go back to his job on the US Court of Appeals. And he won’t go to jail. His life – not ruined.
And Dr. Blasey Ford will still have been assaulted.
Backtracking a bit here…
Do the accused deserve to have a chance to tell their side of the story?
That includes Kavanaugh, even if his issue isn’t officially a criminal one.
But listening to a woman tell her story of abuse, and considering it as well, doesn’t mean that the accused is suddenly being unfairly railroaded. It doesn’t mean it’s a scary time for young men. It means that a woman’s voice is actually being heard, which is a far-too-rare occurrence.
All credible accusations deserve credible investigations.
Worrying more about the very slim chance of a false accusation than of the very common problem of sexual violence is proof that women don’t have it as good as the president thinks.
And it’s another answer to the question, “why didn’t she report sooner?”
If the public response is, “what about his career?” when a man is accused of assaulting someone – we know we still value men over women.
Not all men (hashtag!) are misogynists.
But toxic masculinity is still a dominant force in our culture.
It’s not a scary time for men.
But it is scary that men being forced to face the consequences of their actions is considered scary.
The line between justice and perceived oppression depends a great deal on who has the power, and who is fighting for a fair share of that power.
I will admit that I’m scared.
I’m scared when I debate on Facebook with women who call Dr. Ford a lying bitch. I worry for the possibility of progress when the person tasked with leading the most powerful nation in human history has very likely assaulted nearly two dozen women, but publicly proclaims his concern for men.
We still have a lot of work to do before we can rest.
And I haven’t even addressed racial or wealth inequality today.