On Medium: ‘How Brett Kavanaugh Embodies One Of The Founding Principles Of Patriarchy’

blur close up focus gavel
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

An excerpt from an article I recently posted on Medium, regarding the Kavanaugh Hearings in the United States:

“Most women, myself included, have had to deal with men like Brett Kavanaugh at one time or another. The nominee for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court Of The United States has now spent enough time in front of a group of (mostly male) Senators, with those hearings being broadcast around the world, that we have all seen him cycle through the full range of emotional states of which we know this ‘type’ of man is capable, as he has begun to address allegations of sexual assault. This is why women around the world have been moved to share their stories, and their flashbacks, in wave after wave of hashtags, broadcast phone calls, articles, and blog posts.

There’s the initial humility — heading into that first interaction with a quiet confidence tempered by an air of ‘Aw shucks, I’m just a guy who works hard and wants to do good in the world, Ma’am’. But then… then, some of the womenfolk start to ask some less comfortable questions about aspects of his past work, and this Good Guy starts to bristle. The well-fitting veneer begins to crack. At this point, most women who are watching know exactly what lurks beneath that shiny, Good Guy outer layer.

It emerged for all to see in the most recent hearing — on 27th September 2018 — when Brett Kavanaugh followed the reserved yet powerful testimony of Dr Christine Blasey Ford with a demonstration of self-righteousness and indignation that perfectly encapsulated one of the founding principles of Patriarchy: The lies told to men.

The Kavanaugh Hearings have been extraordinary to witness, for two reasons. Firstly, because it has revealed the relative ease with which political manipulation is seemingly perpetrated against the American people, with the now clearly partisan Kavanaugh being nominated by Republican President Trump in an alleged attempt to both further his administration’s agenda, and influence the activities of the Supreme Court as relates to him. But secondly, and perhaps even more significantly, it has revealed the actual structure of a Patriarchal social and political system in a way that few events ever have before.

This revelation has a number of elements. In general terms, while considering testimony about sexual assault, this Senate Judicial Committee has involuntarily highlighted the fact that this remains a male-dominated situation; that politics is a male-dominated arena and, while we have always known this to be true, it has rarely been brought to the fore in such sharp relief as this. The men that have reached these upper echelons of power have been able to do so because they have benefitted from Patriarchy in a myriad of ways. They have benefitted from all kinds of privilege, from birth.

And, once they are at the top of that ladder, they perpetuate Patriarchy to ensure its progress and continuation. We saw this when Senator Orrin Hatch was asked for his thoughts about Dr Ford as a witness, and he listed her being “an attractive person,” among elements that fell in her favour. He described her as “pleasing.” We also saw this when Senator Grassley snapped at Senator Amy Klobuchar, upon acquiescing to her repeated requests to enter Dr Ford’s polygraph results into the record, remarking, “you got what you wanted — I would think you’d be grateful.” Make no mistake, these old white men are the gatekeepers.

In very specific terms, however, the testimony of Brett Kavanaugh in response to Dr Ford’s allegations of sexual assault against him was the textbook, enraged reaction of a man who is confused about the hostile world in which he suddenly finds himself, because he has previously been fed a steady diet of lies. Lies about himself, and lies about everybody else — because these lies are the oil in the Patriarchal engine. They are the crucial ingredient that allows the whole thing to operate efficiently, without seizing up and exploding. The lies told to men are one of the central founding principles of the Patriarchal social and political structure.

The lies are based on male exceptionalism, and we see it all around us — everywhere from our literature and religions, to our filmed entertainment. How many movies and TV shows are released every year, featuring a man (usually a white man) who discovers that he alone can save the day? That he alone is the person that has the thing that everyone needs? Harry Potter, James Bond, Jack Ryan, John Wick, Indiana Jones, The Matrix franchise, the Bourne franchise, about 98% of comic book movies and TV shows — all of this pop culture output, in which our lives are steeped, tells men (particularly white men) that they are all special, and exceptional. Add to this the tangible privileges of wealth and access to top tier education, and you have a volatile mix.

That is reflected everywhere else, too. To continue with the example of the entertainment industry, the fact that the majority of roles, on and off-screen, in film and TV are filled by white men means that white men are the gatekeepers there, too — collecting, and benefitting from wealth and influence. We saw this repeatedly in James Cameron’s response to 2017’s Wonder Woman, for example, when he gave multiple interviews in which he reduced the wildly popular woman-led, woman-directed movie to sexual elements that he had imagined. He publicly tore down one leading woman character in a woman-directed movie in favour of one of his own creation — Sarah Connor of The Terminator franchise — because he had also just announced a new Terminator movie. We also saw this in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where women characters (including Black Widow) were kept firmly in the margins for a full decade, because old white man Ike Perlmutter claimed that their toys and movies wouldn’t sell. The fact that women began taking the lead in the MCU (in Ant-Man And The Wasp, and Captain Marvel) as soon as Perlmutter was restructured out of his Marvel Studios oversight role spoke volumes about his gatekeeping.

Keep convincing men they are all exceptional, and Patriarchy will survive. Keep telling men that if they join the right college fraternity, they will go far, and be protected. Keep telling men — everywhere, from the way they are dealt with in schools, to the way they are reflected in film and TV — that women are there to facilitate their progress; that women might grow up to become doctors, or film directors, or United States Senators, but when it comes down to it, they will still be elbowed out of the way to let the white men through. They will still be shouted down in the end, and they will be expected to be grateful. And deferential. And attractive. And pleasing.

The Brett Kavanaugh that emerged on 27th September 2018 is the Brett Kavanaugh that all women fear lurks inside of all white men. Yes, all white men. The reason for that fear is the ease with which he masked it in those first few sessions. Look how he insisted he was a Good Guy, and how he couldn’t possibly have done anything heinous, because nothing like that is mentioned in his meticulous and historical calendar-keeping. If most women have dealt with white men like Brett Kavanaugh — men who bury rage beneath a mask of clean-cut, family-man, white-picket-fenced declarations of innocence — then most women have also had experience of meeting that rage that lies beneath, and how are we supposed to spot it at first glance if it’s so well hidden?

We all saw the cognitive dissonance displayed by Brett Kavanaugh. ‘I’m innocent! I have so many friends that are women! I talk to women all the time! I’m always respectful to women!’ And then, turning on a hair trigger as Senator Amy Klobuchar was audacious enough to ask him if he has ever been black-out drunk — adopting a facial expression of condescension, and spitting back at her, “have you?” after she referred to understanding alcoholism because of familial experience. There will be those that will defend this conduct by insisting that the weeks-long, clearly mis-handled confirmation process — and resulting stress and upset experienced by his family — provoked his ire, but there will be many more women who watched this behaviour and said to themselves, “Yeah. There he is.”

Because we all know him — the white man who has been told his experience will be one thing, and is enraged to discover that this may not be true after all. And, from his perspective, it’s not the fault of the Patriarchal social and political structure in which he has been raised, which has fed him this steady diet of lies. It is the fault of women, because it is almost always women that lead this ‘type’ of man to discover that his carefully manufactured reality is, in fact, a forced result of a corrupted system.

Women that have dealings with men like Brett Kavanaugh are not supposed to be obstructive. They are not supposed to ask uncomfortable questions. They are not supposed to put up a fight, and say ‘No.’ And that’s what was happening on 27th September 2018 — Brett Kavanaugh was facing the possibility that maybe he wouldn’t be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice after all. Maybe, that rage that lurks just beneath his polished surface — that he keeps hidden until he thinks the coast is clear — would be brought into the light for everyone to see, and he would be forced to confront those two contradictory sides of himself.

So, on go the waterworks. Out comes the indignation. How dare these people treat me this way? Don’t they know who I am? Can’t they see that I’m a privileged white man, who went to all the right schools, and played on the sports teams, joined the right fraternities, went to the right church, married a nice woman, had nice kids, and coached the right sports clubs? Can’t they see that I did everything the Patriarchal social and political structure said I could do, and would get away with? I was told there would be a Supreme Court position at the end of it! I demand to see the Manager!

And the fact is, because the Senate Judiciary Committee is made up of mostly Republican white men, and it was a Democratic woman who set the whole sexual assault hearing process in motion by receiving a letter from Dr Ford, then it is absolutely women that are getting in the way of the thing to which this white man seems to believe he is entitled. These uppity women, forgetting to silently bow their heads and step aside, to let the white male gatekeepers keep on keeping their gates.

It is all consistent with predatory behaviour. All of it — by all of the white men who hide that lurking rage the way Brett Kavanaugh so clearly does. The way he sweeps in and demands that his feelings be centred — regardless of the discomfort and trauma it causes others. The way he refuses to accept any suggestion that he may not get what he wants, and has a full-on televised tantrum instead; the way he turns himself into the victim, and demands to be treated accordingly; the way he demands the respect of people to whom his displays of respect are inconsistent at best, and dependent entirely on whether or not they submit to his will; the way he strikes up familiar tones and brotherly bonding with men, while addressing women with disdain; the way he presents himself as a harmless, congenial Good Guy, until he unleashes that incandescent male rage.

That ‘type’ of guy — the white man who presents himself as harmless, but unleashes male rage — is the same ‘type’ of guy that all women have met in the course of their lives. He’s the same ‘type’ of guy that hurts women. He’s the same ‘type’ of guy that sits in darkened corners of the internet whining about wanting sex to be “re-distributed,” while otherwise blending seamlessly into a crowd. He’s the same ‘type’ of guy that goes to glitzy entertainment awards shows, then goes home and beats the woman in his life. He’s the same ‘type’ of guy that treats himself to hair plugs, then goes home and rapes his wife because it made his scalp sore. These are all the same ‘type’ of guy, because the entitlement that leads to that behaviour comes from the same place: the lies told to men… “

Read the rest here: How Brett Kavanaugh Embodies One Of The Founding Principles Of Patriarchy

View at Medium.com


  1. I think you’re being rather biased. While I agree that the accusations against Judge Kavanaugh were terrible, Dr. Ford had no evidence that could hold up in a court of law. And while you might blame it on the “patriarchy,” I have a friend who was falsely accused of rape. There was no evidence, but people like you sent him to jail for 10 years before the woman who claimed to be the victim admitted that it was wrong. His entire life was ruined, just because of a liar and a group of fanatics who backed her up.

    I’m sure this probably won’t change your opinion, but if you agree with me on one thing, let it be this: We need to maintain the innocent until proven guilty mentality, or we’ll turn America into one big Salem witch hunt.

    • Thank you for your comment, although it doesn’t actually relate to the content of this post. This post is about the ways in which our patriarchal society helped shape the behaviours and attitudes Brett Kavanaugh exhibited in his hearing, and how these same behaviours and attitudes are incredibly common in white men – it does not draw conclusions about whether or not he is guilty of the allegations made against him. It is, as stated clearly in the third paragraph, about “the lies told to men.” Perhaps, as a friend of a man falsely accused, you have projected your own bias upon the piece.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.