Thursday, September 27, 2018

"Boys Will Be Boys"

I was a young man in high school and college during the early 1980's. We did our share of underage drinking, sometimes to excess, combined with sex. And while I'm not proud of everything that happened, I recall nothing like the depravity being described by both the accusers and supporters of US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh who may, despite being credibly accused of sexually assaulting several women during this era, wind up being approved by the Republican members of the US Senate as early as tomorrow morning.

I won't rehash the details here, it's far too nauseating, but in case you've been living under a rock these past couple weeks, at least three women have accused Kavanaugh of having been at the center of a culture of rape and sexual abuse, arguing that this should disqualify him from a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land. He denies it, even going on national television to assert that, to the contrary, he was a kind of choirboy during this time, that the women are mistaken or even lying for political purposes. Still, it's not a matter of "he said/she said," but rather of "he said/she said and she said and she said . . ." 

I believe the women. It's simply not credible to me that anyone would knowingly turn their lives upside down, even endangering their lives along with those of their families (all three have received numerous death threats and have had to go into hiding), unless they are speaking the truth. But at the same time, I understand that there are those who do not believe them, who find it credible that women would destroy their own lives to "score political points." This is why these women must be allowed to testify and why we must demand an FBI investigation of the allegations. We are talking about a lifetime appointment to a body that will make important decisions for the rest of us for the next generation: the American people need to be allowed to know the full truth about this guy.

It's sickening to hear these wealthy, white Senators, all old men, claiming that these women are lying, stupid, confused, or were somehow asking for it. I'm appalled by the claim that this was just "rough horseplay," that "boys will be boys," smears on decent people of both genders. I can't tell you how sad it makes me to hear women, especially, assert that this is how "all boys" act: I pity them for the lives they must have lead to come to this conclusion. And it sounds like if they attended certain elite high schools and Yale University during the early 80's they may be forgiven for coming to this conclusion, but I can't help but feel that people who make excuses like this for outright criminal behavior should not be raising children.

Yesterday, as I watched boys and girls playing together at school, I saw boys truly being boys and girls being girls. I saw human beings of all genders behaving respectfully with one another, treating one another as worthy human beings, disagreeing at times, engaged in conflict at times, but still managing to not degrade or dehumanize one another in the process. I'm not naive, I've been married to a business woman for over three decades, a woman who as persevered, right through the 80's and up to this day, in a world of men, living a life in which she is regularly forced to choose her battles, often just biting her lip and putting up with crap in the interest of living her life. I have an adult daughter who knows that jerks like those from Kavanaugh's social circle are still out their committing their deviancy under the guise of "boys will be boys." Every woman I know is outraged. I know that the real world can be an ugly place for women and I stand in awe of them for managing to thrive despite it. I know that I could not do it.

When I see the children I teach putting the lie to the "boys will be boys" argument, I know that something better is possible and I know also that it starts not with preschoolers, but with holding grown-ups accountable. The "Me Too" movement has been both eye-opening and chastening for all of us, I think. The more I hear these old, white men telling women to shut up, the more convinced I am that this must just be the beginning.

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