Brett Kavanaugh and Bro Culture: Let’s Look in the Mirror

Sept. 28, 2018

Judge Brett Kavanaugh and I are basically the same age. He’s almost a full year younger than me and a lot more bourgeoise. But the summer of 1982, we were probably pretty similar characters. He was hanging out at the country club in Deleware, and I was hanging out in punk rock bars in London. He was drinking a lot of beer at 17 and I was trying to be vegan at 18. But we were both teenage boys surrounded by Rocky images of masculinity and the patriarchal notion that God or the gods put all the world’s women on Earth for us to enjoy.


The difference is that I never tried to rip the clothes off of 15-year-old girls. My warped perception of male entitlement only went as far as envying the shower scene in Porky’s. I was sexually shy that summer, but he seemed to have an action plan.

Watching the testimony yesterday morning of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was gut wrenching. I have to think that millions of women (and plenty of men) were both transfixed and transported back to their own moments of violation. The trauma of sexual assault isn’t a wound that is just healed by time. We don’t expect war veterans suffering from PTSD to “just get over it,” yet there seems to be some statute of limitations on the waves of devastation caused by sexual violence. Dr. Ford was calm but fragile, as she relived her deep-rooted trauma. Kavanaugh’s hysterical testimony, full of conspiracy theories about the Clintons and “Democratic hit jobs,” would have been derided if he had been a female, but men are allowed to use their anger as a cudgel in absence of the truth. “He must be right, look how loud he is yelling.” (And aren’t judges supposed to be politically impartial. This is like giving Fox News a seat on the Supreme Court.)


The underlying message is that the starting assumption is men are truth tellers and women are liars or patsies. Welcome to Anita Hill Redux. You haven’t come a long way, baby. And yes, maybe Ford was mistaken and Kavanaugh is innocent, but his “defense” didn’t convince a single rape victim. No matter how impressive your resume is and how many times you’ve flown on Air Force one and how much you lean on the wisdom of your daughters, good men can do bad things. His credentials don’t shield him from abusive behavior. It’s not good people vs. evil monsters, us vs. them. It’s just us.

As I recently wrote with regard to race, not only do we all internalize white supremacy, infecting each of us with a degree of racism, so to we all internalize misogyny, infecting each of us with a degree of sexism. We might not say it out loud, but we (men and women) are socialized to believe that “male” is the norm (a message delivered by your mailMAN each day), and women are, as Simone de Beauvoir called it, the second sex. I’ve written a great deal about the challenges of being a male feminist when the go-to switch in your head says women are “girls” and secondary or sexual objects. I am a racist and a sexist. Brett and I both learned these lessons long before 1982. The difference seems to be that I seek to purge the sexism within me and he has chosen to deny its existence. I half expected him to pull a Trump and claim, “I’m the least sexist person you’ll ever meet!”

Part of the gendered message we get early on is that men stick together to maintain their authority. “Bros before hos,” the frat boys chant. That male bonding was evident in the predatory behavior of teenage Kavanaugh and his wing-man Mark Judge and it is evident in the Republican men of the Senate Judiciary Committee who are desperate to give this bro a lifetime appointment on the high court. Bro culture reinforces patriarchy from the ball field to fraternity row to the senate chambers.

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But it’s easy to point to Brett Kavanaugh as the supreme douchebag of the land, who may or may not have spent Beach Week ’82 plying underage girls with grain alcohol. Whether or not he makes it on the court, he will always be known as the “rapey judge.” Kavanaugh is “them.” We need to focus on us and how our own internalized misogyny creates the rape culture that allows credentialed dicks like Kavanaugh to rise to prominence. If the rise of the alt-right is an opportunity for this country to explore the damage done by white privilege and normalized racism, the Kavanaugh hearings are an opportunity for us to confront our issues with male privilege and normalized sexism.

Brett Kavanaugh isn’t the problem. He’s a symptom of the problem. As my wife and I watched Ford’s testimony, we wondered if our daughter would be telling her own stories of sexual trauma one day, trying to convince a panel of old men about the lifelong damage created by one single act. Trump and his old boy network are fighting tooth and nail to make sure that #metoo is just a fad and the old regime stands firm, so I am desperately worried my daughter will encounter her own Brett Kavanaugh at some point.

But if we men can take a deep dive into our own sexism, our simple dismissal of women and all things feminine, we might put an end to the uproarious laughter of boys who have a girl locked in a room and see her dehumanization as sport. We might delegitimize the delegitimization of women and girls. We might keep my daughter safe by surrounding her with boys and men who see her not just as somebody’s daughter but as somebody. We might be able to undo what we have done for so long.

18 thoughts on “Brett Kavanaugh and Bro Culture: Let’s Look in the Mirror

  1. what i got from Kavanaugh was that he is a bully. trading on his man rights to do what ever the hell he pleases. to whom ever he pleases. i don’t believe that he is the saint he would like us to believe that he is. this is the Supreme Court people . we don’t need a tainted judge in a life time position. also his views on Roe vs Wade scare the hell out of me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So here is where I have a problem:
    1) Why did Senator Feinstein hold on to the letter as long as she did? If she had while doing the investigation, she could have brought it up while investigating Judge Kavanaugh.

    2) How can someone who experienced trauma like that and not remember the details? I still remember every bit of detail of my trauma while deployed in Iraq. I can tell you where, when, who, and how. I can identify every person there.

    3) I can have people (even my good friends of mine) who corroborate my trauma.

    I’m not saying this happened to her because I’m sure it did. I do believe she did experience a sexual assault. Unfortunately, there are pieces of the puzzle that don’t match.

    If the FBI can prove that these events did indeed happen and he is the guilty person, then I say don’t put him on the high court. But if the FBI report comes back and says that it’s A) inclusive or B) Judge Kavanaugh wasn’t at said place at said time, then put him on the bench.

    But to appear on national television and tell the entire country you don’t remember how you got to the party or got home and have only 1 beer, something doesn’t add up.

    But like I said, if the FBI comes back in her favor then I’ll fully support her in not having Judge Kavanaugh put on the bench.


      1. If she gave permission for her to say it but still wanted to remain confidential, it only proves how the media is vultures. Once they find out, they’ll blow it up and expose your secrets. Once they expose, you are automatically guilty without due process.


    1. Here’s the problem that’s not making sense and I’m going to try and explain myself as best as possible. She writes the letter and wants to be remain anonymous, but then says release it. Did she really expect the media not to find out who it was that wrote it?

      If media can find out who wrote the letter when it was supposedly written to Senator Feinstein, how did they find out? Was there someone on the inside that released that info? If she wanted to remain anonymous, then why wait until the 11th hour to say to release it?

      There’s so much about this that doesn’t make sense.


  3. Thank you, Randy, for writing this and for fielding the comments of the relentless and shameless apologists (like Brian). So many of us are terribly weary of having to explain why our lives have value and why our leaders shouldn’t be rapists.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s not that I’m being an apologist. I’m trying to look at the whole picture rather than blocking my peripheral vision. Let me ask you, if the FBI comes back and says he is innocent, will you still believe it or still call him a rapist? Why hasn’t anybody ever said anything about Joe Biden? There’s video and photography of him inappropriately touching young ladies. Is it because he was a Democrat and Vice President to President Obama?

      Only reason why people are saying he’s guilty because he was picked to the high court by President Trump.


      1. I understand that. However, I do believe innocent until proven guilty. I’m not saying I don’t believe something happened to her because I do. With witnesses saying they can’t validate her story and can’t remember the details, I’m not sure if it was him. My theory why people are doing this to Judge Kavanaugh is because 1) he’s President Trump’s pick (its been an on going battle since he was elected), 2) he’s a judge that wasn’t picked by the Democrats.

        Ever since he was nominated, the Democrats have been picking and screaming.


  4. Exceptional writing on this huge issue. You bring a great many points to the table about the way women are treated differently than men.
    I met my husband of 53 years when I was 15. We did not have any intimacy until we were on my honeymoon 4 years later. Respect is what many men are missing. Respect for the person; man or woman.
    You’re post begs dialogue. Well done
    Isadora 😎
    Ps: I arrived at your blog by way of Michael from Mothroad. We are Friday Fictioneer friends.

    Liked by 2 people

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