Lessons from the Kavanaugh Hearings: Himpathy, Bro Culture, and Sex Education

Anemona Hartocollis and Dana Goldstein of the New York Times write that the Kavanaugh hearings reminded Americans of the entrenched strain of aggressive hypersexualized “bro culture” that still persists today on high school and college campuses (and in many businesses). The bro culture described during Kavanaugh’s high school and college days is not a thing of the past. Studies show that most assaults of young women today are perpetrated by an acquaintance. One in five women in college experience sexual assault on campus. Peggy Orenstein writes that high school and college boys are more likely to rape when they are drunk—without consequences. She explains, “He . . . goes on to professional success and even a happy marriage. Meanwhile, he may have derailed the life of another human being, causing her years, decades, of pain and trauma.” Why is sexual assault in high school and college still so common? No parent wants to think that his or her son is capable of sexual assault, but Orenstein notes that a recent survey of more than three thousand men between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five found that “more than 60 percent of respondents had never had a single conversation with their parents about how to be sure that your partner wants to be having sex with you . . . about ‘the importance of not pressuring someone to have sex with you,’” or about how to stand up to other young men to stop a sexual assault. In other words, parents of boys are not educating them about responsible and ethical sexuality. Instead, most boys get their sex education in locker rooms, frat houses, and other all-male spaces where they hear that sex is about conquest. They also get their sex education from video games and movies, in which women are frequently portrayed as scantily clad sex objects, and from both everyday and celebrity role models. As for the messages about gender that boys receive from society, Kate Manne writes about the “himpathy” advantage, or “the inappropriate and disproportionate sympathy powerful men often enjoy in cases of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, homicide and other misogynistic behavior.” Recent examples include President Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Brock Turner, Thomas, and Kavanaugh, all of whom received sympathy from some while the perspectives of their accusers were erased or dismissed. Manne writes that it is now time for a mass moral reckoning because of “gendered sociopathy,” which relentlessly casts suspicion on female accusers while excusing the behavior of boys and men. Manne notes that this pattern in which the powerful are believed while the vulnerable are dismissed is actually a source of systemic injustice. It sends a clear message to boys and young men that they can treat women disrespectfully and will not be held accountable. If anything is ever going to change, we must

  1. Learn to recognize this pattern of protecting men rather than believing women within ourselves
  2. Listen to girls and women and believe them
  3. Educate boys and young men about the tendency of alcohol to fuel aggressive behavior and about their responsibility to treat women and girls with respect
Are you the parent of boys or young men? What conversations are you having with them about sex?   Photo courtesy of Gratisography.]]>

Why Ruth Bader Ginsburg Is My Role Model

We all need role models—people who inspire us and provide us with examples of how to live and be. These can be invisible mentors whom we never meet and only read about. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice, is this kind of role model for me. Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) is eighty-two years old and, as Gail Collins of the New York Times reports, she loves her work and, in spite of tremendous public pressure to retire, has no intention of “going anywhere any time soon.” I am not the only one who admires her for a determination to live her life on her own terms rather than succumb to social pressure to conform (and retire). She has developed a huge fan base, particularly among young women, complete with a blog and upcoming book about her entitled The Notorious RBG (a play on the name of the rapper Notorious B.I.G.). Let me count the ways that RBG inspires me:

  1. She is a pioneer and the first woman to do many of the things she did in her life.
  2. She lives her life on her own terms.
  3. She is physically fierce and works out at the gym with a trainer two times a week, along with daily stretches.
  4. She writes ferocious dissents against conservative decisions and is the leader of the Supreme Court’s dissident liberals.
  5. She is a survivor of colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, and heart disease.
  6. She has an overall energy level that is inspiring. For example, she explained to MSNBC’s Irin Carmon in an interview that the reason she dozed off during President Obama’s State of the Union address in January 2015 was that she had been up all night the night before writing an opinion. “My pen was hot,” she said by way of explanation.
I hope I will have the courage to live my life on my own terms when I am eighty-two and the energy to realize my goals at that stage of my life. She inspires me to keep going to the gym and exercising my mind as well as my body so that I can keep living fully. I am so pleased to have RBG as my role model. Who is your role model?   Photo Credit: Steve Petteway, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States]]>