Can We Prepare Our Daughters For The Brett Kavanaughs Of The World?
We don’t even want to think about it. In more than 50% of my mind, I’ve allowed myself to become convinced that when my daughters are grown they’ll never have to deal with men like Brett Kavanaugh, like Shane Piche, like Harvey Weinstein. They’ll never have to, like I did, have a man in a powerful position try to coerce them into allowing his flirtations and, when they don’t, tell their bosses they’ve been unprepared in the courtroom. I might have been the youngest person in that legal sphere, and I knew it. I was not unprepared. What I was was unimpressed by his lording his power. In fact, I’m certain that most of us women are unimpressed by men who wield their power and influence like it’s some sort of Excalibur.
And wield it (and whip it out) he did. These newest allegations come, not from a woman, but from a male classmate at Yale who saw Brett expose his genitals at a party and push them against a female student. The woman in question says she doesn’t remember the event. The male claimant says that’s because she was also deliriously drunk. Other people on campus at the same time say that they either were at the party or remember hearing about it afterward. These corroborating reports have caused Colbert to dub the supreme court justice, “Balls Out Brett.”
But of course there’s probably not going to be any significant follow up to these allegations. This, as it is for so many powerful and entitled men, is no surprise. In fact, when Brett Kavanaugh was held accountable and made to face his accuser in front of the senate, he became belligerent. The only good thing that came from it, aside from our knowledge that he’s gross, was this SNL skit.
His behavior is not shocking, even if it’s a bad showing for a man whose job requires him to be fair and steady. We’ve been raised in a society where men have ruled supreme for too long. We’ve never had a female president. A woman had never been a four star general until 2008 (go, Ann Elizabeth Dunwoody!). In fact, until fairly recently in our western history, women couldn’t own property because they were property. Under the law called ‘coverture,’ it was stipulated that, “a married woman did not have a separate legal existence from her husband. A married woman or feme covert was a dependent, like an underage child or a slave, and could not own property in her own name or control her own earnings…When a husband died, his wife could not be the guardian to their under-age children.”
Now, we’re raising daughters in a social environment that is both extremely different and sadly too similar. Our girls will have the right to own property, to seek their own happiness, but will be tied down by expectations to be a good dinner date, to be as secretive as possible if they out earn their partners, and to be beautiful, of course. So what do we tell them about the Brett Kavanaughs of the world? How do we give them armor against the Harvey Weinsteins who’ll prey on their dreams?
Tell them no means no, but some people won’t understand that. They’ll have to repeat it. They may have to scream it. They’ll have to use tooth and nail to back it up. To demonstrate it, show them this video about consent.
Tell them to believe other women and, if they need to, to warn other women. Think of how many women would’ve been warned to never be alone with Harvey if those who’d had terrible experiences with him had been loud or if those who’d been loud would have been instantly believed. We have so many women who’ve warned us about truths we’d rather not hear. Cassandra. Courtney Love when she said, “If Harvey Weinstein invites you to a private party in the Four Seasons, don’t go.” Recy Taylor.
Teach them there’s no stereotype for men who do harm. They can look like anyone. They can seem charming at first. In fact, some are downright popular. Consider this- a doctor that interviewed 50 rapists named, “Dr. Smithyman had completed 50 interviews, which became the foundation for his dissertation: “The Undetected Rapist.” What was particularly surprising to him was how normal these men sounded and how diverse their backgrounds were. He concluded that few generalizations could be made,” according to an article on the New York Times. Later in the same article it says, “Men who rape tend to start young, in high school or the first couple of years of college, likely crossing a line with someone they know, the research suggests.” This fits with Brett’s reported pattern of behavior.
Make sure they know their voice matters. Confidence is a huge shield for young women. Tell her if something ever feels wrong, be loud about it. If her instincts tell her to walk away from something, listen to it. If someone tries to convince her of something she knows isn’t right, say something. Often, men pick victims they can groom or take advantage of quietly. Give her a voice and then let her use it.