Most Americans who followed the September 27 Senate Judiciary Committee hearings into the sexual assault claims by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford against Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, walked away stunned. Exhausted and disgusted, the question of the hour was, “What the hell just happened?”
A New York Times article referred to the 8-plus hours of questioning and testimony as “two very different versions of the truth, unfolding in the heated atmosphere of gender divides, #MeToo and the Trump presidency.” Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, called the hearings, “one of the most shameful chapters in the history of the United States Senate.” And former New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, dubbed the hearings “a primal scream of our political system.”
All true. But beneath the words and images of the shaken accuser, the outraged accused, and the preening senators lay a deeper eternal struggle. On Thursday, a Lord of the Flies battle for supremacy was on display for all to see. Chris Christie got it almost right; this was an upheaval in our political system, but more pointedly, it was a primal scream of the patriarchy.
“What patriarchy?” you may ask. Women have equality. They can make choices for themselves in America. Maybe so, but let’s not forget that men carry a disproportionate amount of wealth and power in our country. Why is it that women make up only 20% of the United States Congress? Why is it that there are only 4 women (all Democrats) on the 21-member Senate Judiciary Committee—the committee responsible for determining who gets a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land?
It is sometimes difficult to recognize the patriarchy with its system of unspoken rules and privilege consolidating and protecting the rule of men, mostly white men. Every American is born into a culture marinated in the idea that men are stronger, smarter, and more capable of rule. We have long entrusted these patrician silver hairs to represent our interests. Their seeming dignity, clean-shaven propriety, and polished manners are excellent cover for what is often simply rapacious self-interest.
Donald Trump and today’s GOP have dispensed with the niceties and exposed the patriarchy for what it has always been: systemic white male domination at the expense of women and minorities of all genders. Many have partially attributed the rise of Trump and the fomenting belligerence of the right-wing GOP to the election of Barak Obama. With the ascent of a “black man” to the Oval Office, closet racists had a difficult time staying in the closet, and over time, revealed the deep hostility of not a small number of Republicans to people of color.
Similarly, the GOP has shown its misogynistic leanings in its hatred of Hillary Clinton and its cynical support of credibly accused sexual harassers, assaulters, and pedophiles. While arguments about Clinton’s likability and trustworthiness may have some merit, let’s be honest here. There’s a reason that the United States has never elected a female president, or even vice president. There’s a reason why the vast majority of the GOP (including women) have cravenly pushed to elect to high office men who despise and objectify women. Today’s Republican party, personified in pussy grabber in chief, Donald Trump, is the unapologetic face of the patriarchy.
With the rise of Trump, a loud and proud violator of women and minorities, and with GOP members flirting with alt-right racists and haters of women, bigger numbers of Americans are standing up. They are coming forward and saying no. They are saying no to Brett Kavanaugh, the privileged white man, who seems to feel a seat on the Supreme Court is his birthright. No to GOP senators who, without shame or hesitation, attempt to force a dissembling, explicitly partisan, credibly accused sexual assaulter with apparent alcohol problems onto the Supreme Court. No to powerful and abusive men everywhere.
During Thursday’s hearing, Brett Kavanaugh shouted, cried, and blamed everyone else for the position he put himself in by assuming that he can do what he wants with impunity. His savage outbursts and indignant tears were not convincing of his innocence. Neither were the self-righteous GOP Senate Romper Room tantrums and proclamations of Democrat foul play persuasive of theirs. The howling, the sobbing, the dramatic speeches were nothing more than a piteous outraged primal scream of the patriarchy.
Last Thursday, we the people watched violent souls lash out in angry entitlement. We saw them weep. We heard their threats and sobs. We witnessed their fury-cloaked fear. The privileged few, to whom equality feels like oppression, will never champion the rights of others. It is up to us, we the people, to ensure that our constitutional republic reflects the will of the people, not the interests of those elected to represent us. Get to the polls on November 6. We voted them in. We can vote them out.