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Women’s Lives Don’t Matter

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One could not believe Dr. Christine Ford and believe Judge Brett Kavanaugh. The sexual assault suffered by Dr. Ford either happened or it didn’t. Either she lied about it, or he lied. “I can’t remembers” or alcohol blackouts or FBI “wham bam, thank you ma’am” investigations don’t change what actually happened.

That said, no surprise to anyone, at the end of the day, the good old boys and gals in the Trump party voted for the Judge—regardless, that many, I suspect, in good conscience, credited Dr. Ford and believed that Judge Kavanaugh was the privileged, arrogant, petulant, frat-boy that he was when Dr. Ford was assaulted–and that he is still. His performance at the “evidentiary” hearing proved that he does not have the demeanor to be a Supreme Court justice.

But, here’s the really tragic take-away from this goat rodeo. To this Country’s leaders, women’s lives really don’t matter. The President of the United States mocked Dr. Ford at one of his love-ins. The POTUS and the good old boys club (Donald Jr. included) immediately set about wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth worrying about how “scary” it was today for young boys and men.

Seeing the sources of this paranoia, however, I suspect that these are the same good old boys who were never taught to respect the opposite sex or that “no”, means “no”—and, likely, are the same guys who still haven’t had that talk with their own sons either. How asinine the claim that our poor sons are going to have to go through life fighting false sexual assault claims from vile and vengeful women.

More importantly, who is bemoaning our young daughters and women who are actually living in scary times; who have to daily face inequity, discrimination, disbelief, and disrespect in our offices, institutions and governments; who are targeted for sex the minute they walk into party; who are not allowed to enjoy the equality, autonomy and dignity that the Constitution guarantees to them? Who bleeds for them? Not the executive and Congressional branches, that’s for sure.

As a former prosecutor, I can state that women who have been abused and sexually assaulted do not make up their stories. Nearly all abuse and assault victims suffer misplaced guilt and shame, and some believe they are to blame. Abuse and assault victims don’t relish having to divulge their very personal and hurtful stories to the police, family, or friends. Often persons who are personally violated do not want it known or to talk about it at all; they suffer in silence for years. And, sadly, with good reason. Women realize very quickly that their veracity is going to be challenged right out of the gate by the authorities and the criminal justice system—and often by even their families: “Uncle Fred would never do that;” “He’s a nice boy from a good family and a star athlete, what did you do to lead him on?” The male’s justifications and excuses are endless, but all typically end with the female victim being discredited and re-victimized again and again.

And speaking of victims, don’t forget that it was the angry, old, white men who made Judge Kavanaugh the victim. He is such a good Catholic family man, and he would never do what Dr. Ford accused him of. How terrible and tragic this is for him.

And then there’s “Judge Kavanaugh is presumed innocent until proven guilty.” That would be true if he were criminally charged with sexual assault. But, of course, he’s not and will not be. More to the point, even if he were, the presumption of innocence simply means that the government bears the burden to prove the criminally accused person’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The presumption of innocence does not hold that the defendant is presumed to speak the truth or that the victim is presumed to lie. Yet, this latter presumption is being applied to Dr. Ford. The Trump party senators presume Dr. Ford is not telling the truth and that Judge Kavanaugh is. The good old boys arbitrarily choose the male’s credibility over the female’s.

To be clear, Judge Kavanaugh is not the victim. Dr. Ford is the real victim.

Dr. Ford had to disclose the violation of her person publicly in a political circus to a star-chamber of misogynistic, male chauvinists whose minds were made up before she was even sworn. Dr. Ford was publically mocked by the President of the United States—who looked straight into the camera and said (and I’m not making this up) “women are doing just fine.” Seriously? In what alternate reality Mr. President? Dr. Ford had her veracity, her credibility, and her reputation trashed and sacrificed on the altar of the Trump party just so the President and his minions in the Senate could put their boy on the Court.

Sadly, what this debacle exemplifies is today’s reality. We live in a male-dominated world where women are not valued as equal human beings, where women are victimized every day because of their gender. Women fall behind men in pay; in job advancement; in health care. When it comes to competing stories, women’s voices are the ones not credited; their claims and complaints need to be “corroborated” to be believed. Women’s reproductive rights and choices are challenged constantly—in large measure by men. Indeed, that’s why men are putting Judge Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court—to overturn Roe v. Wade and to diminish or eliminate women’s access to their health care needs and choices.

To that point, when was the last time you heard of a man being chastised for his reproductive choices—sowing his “wild oats” with gleeful and irresponsible abandon. Why doesn’t the government get involved when he chooses to get a vasectomy—think of all those potential babies he’s killing. Maybe the Congress should require that men be counseled and go through a waiting period before getting clipped or deciding to have sex with as many women as possible. Indeed, maybe women in Congress should become involved in restricting men’s personal choices. Call it the “Johnny Appleseed Act.”

The truth is that men are so interested in holding on to their own positions of authority and power, that they’ve forgotten who the real victims are. Rapes and sexual assaults are less about sex and more about men exerting power and control over women. Men neurotically fear a threat of emasculation by gender-equality.

Indeed, how ironic are the “silent witness” exhibits. How ironic that we put up memorials to women murdered because of sexual victimization and violence. Yet, when women tell their stories of abuse and violence, the men in charge don’t believe them; women are presumed to be lying unless there’s corroboration of their credibility—it’s just “he said, she said;” or “boys will be boys;” or “it was your fault—you let it happen.” Or as our fearless leader explained in justification of his own appalling, assaultive conduct towards women, “it’s just locker room talk.”

If we really want to change this pitiful, shameful paradigm, instead of just giving it lip service, we (and our schools) need to teach our sons to respect and value women as co-equal members of the human race. We need to teach our daughters to expect and demand that respect and acknowledgment from boys and men. We all need to demand that same respect and acknowledgment from our private and governmental institutions. We all need to demand that women are not economically or socially disadvantaged because of their gender. We need to kick to the curb misogynistic, male chauvinist politicians, judges, executives, managers, coaches, trainers, educators, and religious leaders. We need to stop privileging the males who abuse and assault women; and we need to punish those who turn a blind eye and, in so doing, condone, facilitate, and cover up this abuse.

We don’t need any more Donald Trumps or Mitch McConnells or Brett Kavanaughs in our public offices, and in our courts.

The last two weeks prove that women’s lives don’t matter to the good old boys on the Hill.

But, their lives do matter to the rest of us.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we\'d certainly appreciate it.

About the author

James C. Nelson

James C. Nelson (Ret) was an associate justice of the Montana Supreme Court. He took office in May of 1993, following an appointment by then-governor Marc Racicot, and he retired on December 31, 2012.

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