I first learned about men’s callous disregard for the well-being of female bodies from a local news weatherman.
After a story about the attempted rape of a girl, this is how New York weatherman Tex Antoine launched his evening forecast: “With rape so predominant in the news lately, it is well to remember the words of Confucius: ‘If rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it.’ ”
Yes, Antoine’s rape “joke” essentially ended his broadcast career. Yet, even as a kid, I couldn’t comprehend that a man found humor in sexual assault.
His offensive comment hadn’t crossed my mind in decades — until I saw the savage glee with which Republicans, especially men, greeted Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.
“Better get (your) coat hangers ready liberals,” crowed Parkersburg, W.Va., city councilman Eric Barber.
Of course, he’s referencing the back-alley butchery women suffered before Roe v. Wade. More desperate women than we’ll ever know were maimed or died trying to end unwanted pregnancies. Now, believing that Kavanaugh on the high court signals the likely end of safe and legal abortion, Barber is gloating about reviving a significant threat to women’s lives — regardless of their political leanings.
As President Trump has emboldened racists, he is also encouraging the most virulent misogyny witnessed in years.
It’s not just that no Republican legislator has cosponsored reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act for the first time since it was passed in 1994. (Though its funding has been extended until December, it may perish without GOP backing.)
Republicans aren’t just taking a victory lap after a bitter confirmation battle. They’re preening like entitled frat boys after getting their man a lifetime Supreme Court seat, despite multiple sexual assault accusations against him. They’re waving their ugly triumph in the faces of women who had the audacity to try and stop Kavanaugh’s appointment.
Erick Erickson, a conservative columnist, used a photo of an old white man in red boxing gloves punching out a young white woman wearing blue boxing gloves for his column about a reengerized GOP post-Kavanaugh. Kevin Cramer, the Republican trying to unseat North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp, who voted against Kavanaugh’s confirmation, called #MeToo a “movement toward victimization.” He added, “The world got to see close up how ugly it can be when you go too far.”
This is what Republicans really want to say: “Take that, bitches.”
In every toast posted on social media, in each false claim that Kavanaugh was the true victim, I hear a distant echo of the “uproarious laughter” Christine Blasey Ford referenced in her Senate testimony. Recalling the night when she says Kavanaugh assaulted her in 1982, Ford said her most indelible memory is “laughter between [Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge] and they’re having fun at my expense.”
Now, the GOP is having fun at women’s expense.
At his Mississippi rally, Trump got laughs mocking Ford and, in typical fashion, he keeps poking wounds that will never heal. During a ceremonial White House East Room swearing-in Monday that played more like a coronation, Trump said, “On behalf of our nation, I want to apologize to Brett and the entire Kavanaugh family for the terrible pain and suffering you have been forced to endure.”
Trump believes men persecuted by a woman’s “hoax” are worthy of apologies. He’ll never find such sympathy for a woman accusing a man of sexual assault — especially not with more than 20 women alleging Trump’s own sexual misconduct.
A TV interviewer recently asked me what was next for the #MeToo movement. This was after Bill Cosby became a convict, but before Kavanaugh became a Supreme Court justice. I said it would continue, but I didn’t yet recognize the storm just beyond the horizon. This new front in the war on women won’t end with Ford, who’s still getting so many death threats that she and her family remain in hiding.
Ford has been shamed and literally driven from her home, and Republican men are slapping each other on the back for their dirty deeds. This, they want every angry woman to know, is what will happen when they fight back and refuse to just lie back and enjoy it.Renée Graham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.