Now that the SCOTUS has its newest credibly-accused sexual predator firmly in place thanks, in part, to credibly-accused sexual predator, Donald Trump, it’s clear who’s the undisputed winner of the GOP scapegoat award: Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, for her surprising YES vote on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, our latest exemplar of Teflon-coated, whiny, white male privilege.
Now, rather than inundating Mitch McConnell’s voicemail with angry rants about Kavanaugh’s confirmation, or even Democrat turncoat Joe Manchin’s, we’ve diverted our attention to Collins, the woman. It’s easy to see why she’s seen as a gender traitor by many if not most American women given that she was supposed to be a NO vote. What the hell happened? How was Sen. Lisa Murkowki of Sarah Palinville, Alaska the one to find the courage to push past the partisan bullying and bullshit, and say out loud that Kavanaugh is unfit to serve?
From what I’ve observed through some of my female friends’ social media posts and the female Twitter trolls I’ve encountered during my own protest posting, Collins represents a vibrant, vocal collective of women who choose to believe the hysterical denials of a man accused of sexual assault, whom they don’t even know, over the credible allegations from his multiple female accusers. I keep asking myself, how could this be? I could certainly try to understand it if Kavanaugh was their brother, ex-boyfriend, friend, or hell, even the guy they once lived down the street from. But the majority of Kavanaugh’s harem of avid supporters has never even met him. It’s utterly baffling.
As I struggle my way through trying to make sense of this travesty of an “investigation” and confirmation process, I’m reminded of one of my #metoo moments that happened 39 years ago. Yes, I said “one” of mine, and yes, 39 years is a long time, but I can assure you, like Christine Blasey Ford, I remember it with haunting clarity like it was yesterday and I’m still that scared, confused 10-year-old girl.
One summer evening, as I was walking home, the neighborhood pedophile, a friendly seventy-something husband and father, called me over to his front porch. Teddy had engaged me in a discussion of a sexual nature on at least two occasions. I thought it was funny and silly to hear a grownup talking like that, and while I can’t recall his exact words, I’ll never forget the offer he made that sent me running home and made me afraid to walk past his house for years after. He said, “Why don’t you come inside and I’ll let you feel my balls.” How generous of him. While it was almost 40 years ago, I’ve never forgotten him standing in the threshold holding open the screen door for me like the witch luring Hansel and Gretel into her shack. And not just because I could’ve been raped by a disgusting old man, but because of the way the adult women responded once the incident was discovered.
After I ran off, Teddy must’ve got nervous and in a preemptive move, told his wife, as I later learned from another neighbor, something to the effect that I was making advances or suggestions toward him. Yes, that’s right—a seventy-something-year-old man trying to convince his wife that a 10-year-old child attempted to seduce him. Perhaps even more shocking is that his wife believed him and apparently contacted my mother.
I’m not sure what the conversation was between them because my mother is 80 now and her memory does not serve her that well anymore. But I remember my mother asked me if I was hurt or if he touched me, and after I informed her that he hadn’t, she told me to stay away from him and not to tell my father, fearing he would get involved in the way all concerned fathers would. So essentially, the sexual assault attempt on me was swept under the rug, and we were all supposed to pretend it never happened.
Over the years, I’ve convinced myself that both my mother and the pedophile’s wife were products of a generation of submissive women who were brainwashed into believing that men’s bad behaviors were to be forever justified by shifting the scrutiny toward what the woman/girl did to provoke the behavior. I accepted that the man who sexually harassed me never paid for that crime since, like most child victims, I believed I was somehow responsible because when he called me to his porch, I went.
Sadly, however, that subservient, permissive attitude women were expected to have toward men isn’t some distant, distasteful memory from a bygone era. It has become abundantly clear over the last two years that this ideology that men can do no wrong and that women who accuse them of sexual misbehavior are somehow responsible for what happened to them, or are just plain lying, is alive and well in 2018. Somehow the GOP has managed to cultivate a new generation of women who believe unwelcome and/or violent sexual behavior and demeaning language directed at and about women is “no big deal,” especially if it happened in a man’s past. We shouldn’t, after all, ruin a prominent dude’s career and life now by holding him accountable for one or all of his misogynistic whims toward women in the past.
Many minds more intellectual than mine say the problem isn’t only men; it’s the rape culture that continues to undermine a woman’s truth in favor of a man’s right to “due process.” We should be able to accommodate both, but in an age where the balance of power clearly tips to the right; the gender breakdown of our Congress and lawmakers disproportionately favors men, and too many Republican female voters just don’t feel that women’s rights issues are their problems, it’s hard to see how we can change that culture.
Like many women’s rights proponents, I’ve vented my anger toward Sen. Collins as it was her YES vote that ultimately put an “unfit” man who “lacks judicial temperament” on the Supreme Court. But Susan Collins isn’t the only responsible party—it’s every woman who continues to empower and enable condescending, male-dominated political and social ideologies by siding with accused men based on their party affiliation and diminishing the words and stories of female victims who find the courage to stand up to the “boys will be boys” club and speak their truths.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed for that blue wave that I’ve heard is coming in November. Let’s hope it hits, so that the next generation of women won’t be swept away in the mounting GOP red-tide that has us headed toward mandatory red dresses.