I have been inundated the last few days with news of our inhumanity, specifically of our proclivity for sexualized violence and how we really do not only blame the victim, but also castigate the victim with virulent hostility. Such stories bring to mind Oprah’s great speech accepting the DeMille award at this year’s Golden Globes that I discussed in a post on 1/9/18. Remember Oprah talked about the promise of a world where women and girls were not sexual victims and where if they were, it was not accepted by anyone. A world where sexual behavior by mostly males is not used to violate the social mores of intimacy in order to instrumentally boost the perpetrators’ sense of their own power to the detriment of the female’s and society’s. And I made the point in that post “that male usurpation of female personhood is long standing and that, I imagine, a case can be made for its entrenched place in our human [culture] based upon the biologically driven male aggression.”
But I also doubted then if today’s male usurpation of female personhood actually stems from a sociobiological concern about paternity, which means that what we are seeing today is an inhumane development of our culture, i.e., without any good rationale and created/enforced by a certain class of males to defend their own power and privilege. Even if some men are lower down in the pecking order, at least they have the power and privilege to abuse women. (Sounds all too similar to racist attitudes, doesn’t it?) Whether there exists a biological root for such assaultive behaviors deemed permissible by our culture matters little—we must assert the higher principle and deeper root of democratic equality. As I wrote on 1/9/18, we must cherish “Oprah’s promising vision of a world where girls and women meet respect and justice [as] one beautiful flower of this moment in time and cultural egress, leaving a stultified domain of male privilege and entering one refreshed by the inclusion of females in a new and [just] view of their humanity, the acknowledgment of their personhood and the refusal by everyone to abide by any violation of this inalienable right.”
BUT THEN I READ THE NEWS TODAY, oh no! A brief report from India where a young girl around 6 or 7 years old was raped by a gang of males with a broomstick. (And putting a condom on that stick does not count as progress.) This story is one of many incidents in the world where girls are punished for being girls, where they are expendable property, where their bodies can be mutilated to enforce male dominance, where their education is denied by acid in the face, and the list goes on.
Then I read an astounding and brave article by Elizabeth Bruenig in the Washington Post about a teenage girl in Texas who was raped (do I have to say “allegedly”?) by two athletes at a party. She was a good student and a cheerleader, but it seems she was not of the upper crust and she was after all, just a girl. She did the right thing and got help and reported it to the police, who investigated and found physical evidence like her clothing abandoned at the scene, a medical exam that documented severe trauma to her genitals and anal area, and DNA evidence linked to one of the athletes. And then some ugly aspect of cultural inhumanity rose up and the athletes were not prosecuted and were even defended as she was ostracized at school and in town in ways that are nauseating to read about, unimaginable to experience. This is a difficult article to read as the intrepid reporter documents that denigrating the victims of sexual assault is a cultural institution, even to the point where some district attorneys in the region refused to prosecute rapists, even in one instance when the rapist was identified through DNA evidence, took pictures of his actions and sent them to the victim. No, not even then. As one official told the reporter, he tells victims not to look for closure and healing through the justice system, a damning understatement if ever there was one. And on a side note: while I read stories about athletes assaulting females with impunity (don’t forget Baylor football and its president, Ken Starr), where are the similar stories about kids in the debate or science club, or heaven forbid, the latin club? That absence says something else quite loudly about our culture and where our inhumanity finds sustenance.
And this brings me up to Dr. Ford and Mr. Kavanaugh, and how many senators follow this tradition of cultural inhumanity with fervent, self-righteous enthusiasm. Even with the documentation of the earlier lynching of Anita Hill and the profound insurgence of the #Metoo movement, these moral cretins continue to protect the power and property granted them by male privilege and their political class. I thank Dr. Ford for opening the door so that a little fresh air might clear away some of their sordid smoke and I want everyone to protect her and all the other victims who courageously endure the holy hell visited on them because they dared speak out.
I generally write about the beauty of what grows from our biological roots of empathy and symbolization because I think our evolution and history speak to ongoing progress. But sometimes I have to wonder how something so ugly grows from these roots, even resurgently in spite of the power of Oprah’s and our dream of a better world. The material power of inhumanity concedes nothing without a fight. Travel on and keep your powder dry, as our ancestors counseled us when fighting the oppressive shadow.
PS I hear the cynical statement echoing in my mind, “Every nation gets the government it deserves,” and I suppose there is some truth to that. There is also some truth in saying we get the government the rich and powerful want us to have. And then there is the truth that we can use the power of democracy to move towards justice, if only we VOTE for moral candidates.