Men are being held accountable — and it has them mad as hell
This is why, I suspect, these men become so shocked and enraged when they’re asked to answer for their actions: When they say “nothing happened,” it’s not just a denial — it’s that they truly believe the incident was not a big deal.
Yesterday, Kavanaugh was the face of that backlash — an avatar for entitled, white male rage in the U.S. Angry, sputtering, petulant — the judge could barely contain his fury over being expected to answer for himself. As Slate’s Lili Loofbourow put it: “This person does not seem to have a lot of experience coping with not getting what he wants.”
Instead of responding to questions directly, Kavanaugh repeated his professional and academic bonafides as if his elite background was proof of good character. When Senator Sheldon Whitehouse asked the judge about references in his high school yearbook about drinking to the point of vomiting, Kavanaugh responded, “I was at the top of my class academically.”
“Captain of the varsity basketball team,” he continued. “Got in Yale College. When I got into Yale College, got into Yale Law School.”
Don’t you know who I am?
.. When Sen. Amy Klobuchar — who prefaced her questions with anecdote about her own father’s alcoholism — asked Kavanaugh if he had ever blacked out, the judge snapped, “Have you?” Even after she repeated the question, once again Kavanaugh sneered: “I’m curious if you have.”
.. Alexandra Schwartz at the New Yorker called this behavior “a model of American conservative masculinity…directly tied to the loutish, aggressive frat-boy persona that Kavanaugh is purportedly seeking to dissociate himself from.”
.. And, as is often the case with frat boys, Kavanaugh’s brothers had his back. One after another, the male Senators gave emotional apologies to the judge for even having to be there, bemoaning the loss of his life and reputation. Like Kavanaugh, they were appalled that the judge was expected to explain himself.
As if the possibility of him not ascending to the Supreme Court — and just continuing to serve on the second most important court in the country — would be a travesty. As if Kavanaugh was owed a smooth, unquestioned, path to whatever he wanted.
.. he hearing stopped being about Blasey Ford’s experience or even Kavanaugh’s fitness for the job, and instead became a stage for broader and bitter male resentment — furious over the seemingly new expectation of accountability, and raging over not immediately being given what was promised to them.
.. Even as women calmly and expertly explain the ways in which men have hurt us, our pain is immediately drowned out and glossed over by men’s belief that they should not have to answer to us, of all people.
.. My optimistic side would like to think that yesterday was the last loud gasp of a dying patriarchy, an astounded sexist minority trying its best to rebel against an emerging feminist majority. The less hopeful part of me, though — the part that still thinks quite a lot about America’s history of choosing poorly between a measured, informed woman and a belligerent, snapping man
The “Unite the Right” rally had little to do with “defending” Confederate memorials, or any particular reading of southern history, however misguided.
.. Two of the billed speakers were anti-Semitic podcasters from New York; another fancies himself an American version of France’s Nouvelle Droite. The Robert E. Lee statue was a MacGuffin — or, rather, he was Antifa bait, and the college town that it happened to be in was just a place where Antifa could be expected to swim. The organizers don’t want heritage, they wanted footage.
.. Really, what they wanted to do was to set a trap for conservatives. The explosive growth of Antifa during the 2016 campaign and since the election of Donald Trump has become a fixture in conservative media. Conservatives had warned that mainstream-media figures were summoning an awful thing into being by cheering on masked left-wingers who punched Nazis. Soon, anyone you wanted to punch would start looking like a Nazi.
.. A spectacle would attract Antifa, who would predictably use violence. Some mainstream-media figures would endorse that violence, and some conservatives, they believed, would feel obliged to defend the ActualFascists because, hey, these left-wing mobs are attacking America’s legal and social norms of free speech. In other words, even if the assorted Jew-haters and fashy dorks can’t persuade conservatives to adopt a “no enemies to the right” posture, perhaps Antifa would.
.. That fact scuttled the rally organizers’ talking point that it was Antifa or poor policing that initiated and caused all the violence.
.. The murder of Heather Heyer was a revelation, and so too was the way that rally co-organizer Christopher Cantwell, met news of her death — by sneering, “The fact that nobody on our side died, I’d go ahead and call that points for us.”
.. There seemed to be a real upside to cultivating a reputation as the edgiest and most transgressive political movement going. You’re free of the pieties that come from longer-lived movements. You look authentic, even fresh. And your stock goes up. But there’s an iron law at work here: As soon as anyone identifiably on the right gets the reward of attention for being transgressive, the Neo-Nazis swiftly show up, and the value of transgressive right-wing politics returns to its true value in America, near zero.
.. Most of the debate about Confederate monuments after Charlottesville has been a distraction. The rally organizers came prepared for violence, and they wanted it. They wanted footage of themselves getting punched and maced so that they could use conservative antipathy to Antifa to erode conservative antipathy to ActualFascists. Don’t fall for it.