Changing the lives of women and girls cannot happen unless we eliminate entitlement. Male entitlement. White entitlement. Wealth entitlement. Child of powerful parents entitlement.
I was no angel in high school. Let’s get that clear right now. I was no angel in my undergraduate experience either. And unlike Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, in those times the legal drinking age was 18.
When I was in my third year at Michigan State University I, as a performance art project, ran for president of the student government. Yeah. Really. I ran as a “revolutionary socialist” who wanted to, among other things, change the name of the school to Michigan People’s University. Oddly, I got a lot of votes, despite my only campaign expense being mirrored sunglasses bought for myself and my entourage.
Stick with me for a moment here on “Dr. Blasey Ford Day”…
The one time in that campaign that I think I spoke honestly, and not in character, was when the Fraternity Council candidate suggested that the solution to the wave of rapes hitting campus on nighttime walks, was to have frat boys walk every woman home every night.
“Really?” I asked in a campus radio debate (words will surely not be exact), “shouldn’t women have the right to walk home safely without being part of a dating service for guys who are already a threat to their safety?”
This created a fairly ugly argument, but my point is this: Ten years before Brett Kavanaugh’s “cringeworthy” young manhood there were plenty of people who knew right from wrong when it came to sexual consent. And counter to the claims of Floridian Gina Sosa — “Tell me what boy hasn’t done this in high school. Please, I would like to know.” — there are those of us did not do this, even then, even in the alcohol-soaked 1980s, even now.
Was I always “nice to women”? Was I always “a perfect gentleman”? I wish I could say so… but I was rude, I was disrespectful, I was self-centered, I was uncaring… and yet, there are things I didn’t do. Situations I never put myself in, despite perhaps extreme levels of intoxication. Did stuff happen around me? It sure did. I could tell you a dozen real stories, and I could tell you about a dozen women hurt for life — and no, there were no police reports. In some cases there was ‘street justice’ of a form, in others just social ostracization. Imperfect indeed, unfair and cruel. But better than the acceptanceI hear from too many.
“In the grand scheme of things, my goodness, there was no intercourse. There was maybe a touch… 36 years later, she’s still stuck on that?” said Irina Villarino, another Republican woman from Florida. And I thought — even if she might have tolerated this 40 years ago, could she really think it would be ok now if it happened to her granddaughter?
“It’s a strange experience,” Molly Ringwald wrote in the New Yorker about viewing The Breakfast Club with her 10-year-old daughter. “watching a younger, more innocent version of yourself onscreen. It’s stranger still — surreal, even — watching it with your child when she is much closer in age to that version of yourself than you are. My friend was right: my daughter didn’t really seem to register most of the sex stuff, though she did audibly gasp when she thought I had showed my underwear. At one point in the film, the bad-boy character, John Bender, ducks under the table where my character, Claire, is sitting, to hide from a teacher. While there, he takes the opportunity to peek under Claire’s skirt and, though the audience doesn’t see, it is implied that he touches her inappropriately. I was quick to point out to my daughter that the person in the underwear wasn’t really me, though that clarification seemed inconsequential. We kept watching, and, despite my best intentions to give context to the uncomfortable bits, I didn’t elaborate on what might have gone on under the table. She expressed no curiosity in anything sexual, so I decided to follow her lead, and discuss what seemed to resonate with her more. Maybe I just chickened out.”
“For me and my friends his past is our now,” said Maycee Wieczorek, a 17-year-old in Rapid City, South Dakota. And she worried that if the Senate does not take Dr. Blasey’s allegations seriously, it will reaffirm the idea that “boys will be boys,” and teach a dangerous lesson to teenagers today.
“Boys will learn that what you do in high school won’t affect your future at all, so go do the damage you need to do now,” she said. (What Teenagers Think About the Allegations Against Brett Kavanaugh, New York Times)
And this is the heart of the matter. What has been learned since the 1980s? What will be learned today?
We were all raised on the lie that toxic masculinity is romantic. It’s in almost every Hollywood movie — it’s embedded in our culture. But it does not mean that people, that humans, that men, that boys, cannot rise above that.
But we can only rise above it through actions. “Regardless of what happens to Kavanaugh, however, this scandal has given us an X-ray view of the rotten foundations of elite male power. Despite Donald Trump’s populist posturing, there are few people more obsessed with Ivy League credentials. Kavanaugh’s nomination shows how sick the cultures that produce those credentials — and thus our ruling class — can be,” wrote Michelle Goldberg in The New York Times.
And those actions must first deal with those entitled leaders, like Brett Kavanaugh and Donald Trump. One of the things I learned in one of my careers was profiling. It doesn’t mean Kavanaugh is guilty. For me to say that, if I was developing a profile of someone who perpetrated this crime against Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the Supreme Court nominee would have the following profile: wealthy, white, entitled, private school, educated in a single-sex environment, heavy drinker — parents who could get him off if he got into trouble.
“The view that teenage boys hold of girls when puberty is in full bloom comes as a surprise to no one. However, that view can become distorted when boys attend elite gender-segregated high schools. The absent gender is more easily dehumanized. She becomes a vehicle in which sexual urges can be satisfied without any reflection on the consequences of how the task took shape.” (Deirdre M. Bowen, USA Today).
The simple fact is that changing the lives of women and girls cannot happen unless we eliminate entitlement. Male entitlement. White entitlement. Wealth entitlement. Child of powerful parents entitlement. Which means we need to find our leaders in other places — not from Georgetown Prep and Sidwell Friends and other preps. Not from Yale. Not from the leafy wealthy enclaves that spawn disregard for the rules because their kids know it doesn’t matter.
Diversity — real diversity — is the solution. Remember that on Election Day.🔷
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(This piece was originally published on the PMP Blog.)