I wrote this nearly two years ago, as a Facebook post, just after the pussy-grabbing audio tape was released, before Trump was elected. It went a bit viral, and the overwhelming number of women commenting about their experiences was diluted in the most familiar way – by men telling us that we were delusional, or lying, or obviously hanging out in the wrong places.
After yesterday’s brutal testimony, it looks like Kavanaugh will continue on to be appointed to the Supreme Court. Just as in 2016, we know there is no reckoning coming for the vast majority of men who do these things. A few high-profile cases, yeah, but the standard background thrum of harassment, sexism and fear will continue on.
‘He’s not a monster’, said Orrin Hatch.
None of the women involved ever said he was a monster. He’s just a man. Like so many men we’ve encountered over and over and over again. It isn’t monsters we fear.
Every guy that is looking at Trump in horror for everything he’s done to and said about women in this campaign: this is not even vaguely unfamiliar.
Sure, it’s horrifying. It’s somewhat surprising because usually men are better at not showing that side in public by the time they reach that point in their careers. But none of this is extreme or bizarre.
The debate was the platonic ideal of the situation most women in positions of authority or knowledge have lived, where we have to smile and pretend that we don’t mind conceding to the less qualified, less knowledgeable man who is shouting over us, interrupting us, telling us how we should be doing our work. We have to smile and take it because otherwise we’re the bitch, the harpy, the one who must have got the job on her knees.
And then this shit today. All of us have met these guys. He is intimately, grossly familiar. Pretty much every woman you know has been groped or grabbed or kissed without consent or warning. Most of us took years to even think of it as sexual assault, because it’s just one of those things that happens to us. Someone grabs your ass as you walk by them in a pub. Someone grabs your tits and grins as if it’s a compliment. If you complain, you’re a humourless bitch. It’s just a bit of fun! What the fuck is wrong with you? They go back and laugh with their mates about the woman shouting at them. Because it’s *funny*. Banter. They tell their funny stories about grabbing a woman’s body because hey, if she didn’t want the attention she wouldn’t have been wearing that, right? Hahaha. Funny.
Unless you’re ugly, of course, when for years you’re *jealous* of the women who get stalked and catcalled because they only ever tell you you’re a landwhale, that they’d fuck you if you wore a bag over your head, leaning out of their cars to tell you how hideous you are.
These guys are *everywhere*. They’re background noise to our lives. It takes years, decades, for us to start wondering if maybe they shouldn’t be, if being groped and harassed and threatened maybe shouldn’t be the cost of being female in society. It takes so long to even see it because it starts so early and because no-one really talks about it as a problem. Just one of those things. Banter. Funny.
It takes even longer to get angry. To stop smiling and looking at the floor and waiting for it to stop. And then, when the rage finally comes, they act hurt. Like we’re being mean. They’re not bad people. They don’t mean any harm. It’s just a joke. Banter. Funny. Fine, jeez, they won’t bother you. Eyeroll. God, this bitch, she got hysterical when I just brushed past her. Like I’d want to fuck her!I mean, who’d want to fuck *that*?
Locker room talk. Funny.
This is the stuff of our lives. If you’re shocked by what he’s saying, you haven’t been paying attention. Listen – really listen – not just to the women in your life but to the way men talk about them. Not all men are like him, but all women have encountered the ones who are. They’re as common as dirt, as insidious as cancer. They’re our friends, brothers, fathers, partners, coworkers. They’re the people we love, trust, work with, laugh with, live with. We strike a terrible bargain, usually without realising it: if we ignore most of it, or just quietly tut or glare in an ignorable way, we don’t lose our friends and partners and jobs and families.
We agree to pretend it isn’t happening, often so successfully that we stop seeing it ourselves. Until suddenly it’s there, centre stage for the biggest job in the world: the living embodiment of every man we’ve been groped by, raped by, harassed by, patronised by, diminished by. We can’t get away, we can’t ignore, we can’t pretend it doesn’t matter. In all his bombastic, overwhelming, naked misogyny, there he is,declaring his entitlement to the bodies of women he wants, his disgust at the ones he doesn’t, his repulsion at the ones that just won’t shut up. And everywhere, everywhere, his people saying ‘I like him because he tells it like it is’.
This is the world we’re giving to our children. These are the people they’ll live with and learn from.