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October 19 2018

Brett Kavanaugh and the War on Men

by Charlotte Hays

Did you sometimes get the feeling that that much of the rage ostensibly directed at now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh was really an anger at all men?

Hawaiian Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono certainly gave that impression when she said, “I just want to say to the men of this country: Just shut up and step up. Do the right thing for a change. …

 Christine Rosen argues in a fascinating article in Commentary magazine that the Kavanaugh hearings were not just a vehicle to attack a Kavanaugh but an "assault on men."

Looking at the outpourings of women who opposed Kavanaugh, Rosen intriguingly suggests that much of this rage was rooted in feminist theory:

Kavanaugh was confirmed and now sits on the high court, but the tenor of the debate surrounding the process that put him there revealed that the cultural mainstream has now fully embraced two key ideas about men that were once relegated to the radical feminist fringe:

1) Maleness itself is a disease requiring treatment or elimination.

2) Masculinity itself has produced a “rape culture” and violent patriarchy that will stop at nothing to maintain power.

Rosen proposes that the the Kavanaugh hearings represented the mainstreaming of ideas about men that were once considered radical and eccentric. The rage can be traced back to what was once arcane gender theory:

The 1969 “Redstockings Manifesto,” an influential treatise written by a group of radical feminists, made this claim: “All men receive economic, sexual, and psychological benefits from male supremacy. All men have oppressed women.” This “fact” justified a range of radical acts on behalf of women. “We do not need to change ourselves but to change men,” the manifesto stated. They should “give up their male privileges and support women’s liberation in the interest of our humanity and their own.”

This document, now nearly a half-century old, is surprisingly relevant to the debate that erupted over Kavanaugh’s nomination. “The most slanderous evasion of all is that women can oppress men,” the manifesto observes, remarking on “the tendency of men to see any legitimate challenge to their privilege as persecution.” As for the basis of women’s grievances, the manifesto reads like an early draft of #BelieveAllWomen’s embrace of feelings over facts: “We regard our personal experience, and our feelings about that experience, as the basis for an analysis of our common situation. We cannot rely on existing ideologies as they are all products of male supremacist culture. We question every generalization and accept none that are not confirmed by our experience. … In fighting for our liberation we will always take the side of women against their oppressors.”

Rosen writes that this kind of rhetoric was underground for many years after the "Redstockings Manifesto," but lately it has come to the fore. If you are going to believe all women, without trying to ensure justice for both parties, due process becomes an archaic concept.

If Rosen is right Kavanaugh was in part a stand in for all men--and a particularly perfect one. Like the falsely accused U VA frat guys, Kavanaugh was a preppy whose high school career included partying, beer and sports. Ugh!

In an attempt to eradicate what they regard as "toxic masculinity," many parents are now undertaking to bring up children with gender neutral norms. This, I probably don't need to tell you, is quite different from trying to form gentlemen who will treat women with respect, a norm from a past that is discredited in the minds of the intellectual progeny of the Redstockings Manifest.

Of this form of child-rearing, Rosen writes:

Theirs is not an effort to raise boys into men who can integrate into a kinder, gentler future economy of helping professions and easily expressed feelings. It is an effort to overcome maleness itself. And it is an admission of failure, because when boys fail to grow into civilized men, everyone suffers, just as they do when women are denied equal opportunity. The answer isn’t reeducation in radical feminist notions of men’s innately violent natures.

It’s raising boys and girls to treat one another with respect and to uphold gender-free values such as the presumption of innocence and due process and equal opportunity. Civil society relies on due process not only because it’s an objective good (though it is). Everyone should embrace both due process and the presumption of innocence because everyone might need these themselves one day, regardless of his or her gender.

As for the MeToo Movement, Rosen says that it "would be a shame if a movement with the potential to sort through some deeply troubling and stubborn aspects of human nature instead embraced misandry and power-seeking."

Terrific article.

Read and discuss over Sunday brunch.



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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