This month, I will deliver my first born — a son. I have not even met him yet, but I already love him more than anyone in my life. I can only imagine how my feelings will be magnified in the coming months and years, but already I feel fiercely protective and hopeful and nervous for him.
I watched the national spectacle between Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh with dread. As a country, we are divided on so many issues, but gender violence, sexual assault, and what to make of public accusations like these affects people deeply on all sides. Battle lines are drawn, and rational thought escapes us as we defend our own — either based on political party or gender, or both.
On one side, people are celebrating Dr. Blasey Ford’s courage: naming all the barriers for survivors to come forward and tell their story and acknowledging the horrific impact this has had on her. On the other side, people are worried about the precedent of one person’s narrative being able to derail someone’s life.
Despite the often repeated trope that this will “ruin his life,” the truth is, 99.4 percent of rapes have no criminal consequence for the perpetrator.
Case in point, Brett Kavanaugh has just been confirmed to the highest court of the land. Far from being ruined, his life, his power is exponentially increased. He is a powerful reminder that one woman’s story of being forcefully pushed onto a bed and laughed at as a boy tries to rape her may make a headline, might move people, might even be believed by many, but ultimately, it cannot impact the course of his life.
This is the status quo in our country. What we witnessed is the same dynamic that has been at play for centuries, dramatically splashed across the news: She accuses, he is angry, he wins.
I have listened to the outcry for the due process rights that the accused deserve. To be clear, the Supreme Court confirmation hearing in the Senate was not a court of law; it was a job interview. There is no “due process” in this context. The standard of evidence that would sway the committee one way or another is whatever they say it is. But even here, with little to no legal trappings, evidentiary standards, or due process — it was clear to me that Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony was never going to change the trajectory of Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Not because of politics but because of power.
Once again, we have seen affirmed that those with more money, power, and privilege are always going to have the upper hand in a court of law, in the workplace, or in any institution. Those with more power are the ones who set the rules, enforce the laws, and decide who should be believed. The fact that the point was debated over another white male joining the Supreme Court is thick with irony. He’s one more powerful, privileged man in charge of making the rules. Rules we can fully expect to protect the status quo.
Neutrality is a nice ideal — but does not exist in a system flawed by power imbalance. Impartiality allows us all to remain silently, unquestioningly, within the status quo. But the scales of justice will always tip toward those with power. If we are ever going to change or lessen crimes of injustice and abuse —our understanding of “neutrality” must be adjusted. Otherwise, the Brett Kavanaughs of the world will continue to be promoted.
And yet, the President of the United States said on national television that this is a “very scary time for young men in America.” Really?
For anyone worried about a son being falsely accused of rape, ground yourself in some statistics. Your son, my son, has a 17 percent chance of experiencing sexual abuse during his lifetime. He has a 20 percent chance of hitting a partner. He has a 0.03 percent chance of being struck by lightning. But if he were accused of sexual assault, he has a 2 percent chance it would be false.
I am nervous for my son, but not because he may be falsely accused of rape. What unnerves me is to raise him in a society that does not follow through with consequences for male violence, that pays lip service to sexual assault and pretends to be outraged, but then raises the accused to positions of power — like the Supreme Court or the Presidency. I am worried about him feeling the intense pressure of masculinity and forgetting or not noticing how his actions are impacting those around him.
Instead of being scared or hopeless, I want us to put our love for our boys to good use, to teach them to recognize male violence. Let’s teach our boys to be powerful allies, to be able to apologize when their words or behavior hurt others, and to learn and grow from mistakes — to be gentle and loving and open to being challenged by others, especially women.
This is what I am going to try to teach my son.