LALIT has pleasure in publishing a Muvman Liberasyon Fam article on the disarray that patriarchy, and patriarchal hierarchies, as a whole, find themselves in. Here is the article, submitted by the MLF executive Committee after its weekly meeting.
In the Muvman Liberasyon Fam, we followed the testimony of a woman against a USA Supreme Court nominee recently – the Kavanaugh case – just as, in the past, we had also followed other high profile cases, for what they teach us about patriarchal hierarchies.
We follow not just Mauritian cases of sex abuse, but cases all over the world. The President Clinton sex abuse on a stagiaire, for example. MLF called for him to step down and let Al Gore become President. And then there have been all the horrific cases against Dominique Strauss Kahn cases, which we highlighted even as the Mauritian Press treated them as his so-called “private life”, and we are still following the #MeToo movement ever since the public denunciation of Harvey Weinstein, the ongoing exposure in the Catholic Church and other religious organizations world-wide of child sex abuse, the great moraliser Tariq Ramadan’s cases, almost totally auto-censored by the Mauritian Press, the charges levelled by so many women against President Trump, and we have denounced men for sexual violence against women in Mauritius, and we now begin to follow the dozens of denunciations against politicians, Bollywood bosses and other men in positions of relative power in India. We, in the MLF, have participated in international debates as well as debates in Mauritius, and still do, and we learn from the process. We could, if we were mean enough, say “I told you so,” to those women’s organizations in the US who, because of supporting Clinton over his sex abuse just because he was a Democrat, now have difficulty in taking high moral ground against political opponents who abuse women, like Trump. We warned women’s organizations, big and small, in written correspondence against this opportunist position. But, what is more important than saying “I told you so”, is making progress against patriarchy – even if it has often been two steps forward, one step backwards.
All these cases taken together have built up a certain momentum, as we women speak out and hold men to account for their domineering behavior and abuse. Now patriarchy has begun to show signs of disarray.
Under no direct provocation, for example, Brett Kavanaugh flew off the handle at the 27 September US Senate Judicial Committee Hearing for his confirmation as Supreme Court Justice right from when he was just reading out his initial statement. The Republicans have a majority in the Senate and on its Judicial Committee so it should have been a walk-over. But he almost didn’t make it through the Senate. He had to play the role of pathetic “victim” to get his nomination.
Before coming to the details of the disarray of patriarchy, it is worth outlining the Kavanaugh case, especially since the Mauritian press has not covered it much. (This is a pity not just for reasons of women’s emancipation, but also because the “Senate Hearing” is an interesting phenomenon in the context of the debate on electoral reform in Mauritius – it shows one mechanism, the Senate Hearing on nominations, where the elected representatives can hold the executive to account.)
In the Kavanaugh case, there was a “prolongation” of the Judicial Committee Hearing after a woman called Dr Christine Blasey-Ford came forward publicly, offering to testify what had happened to her 35 years ago at High School, when she was sexually assaulted, she says, by a very drunk Brett Kavanaugh who she thought might accidentally kill her. Importantly, she had not wanted the limelight. Significantly, she had spoken about the assault to an analyst years ago before there was any question of Brett Kavanaugh being named to the Supreme Court, so she could hardly be part of a Democratic Party plot. Two other women, in any case, came forward to testify in public. And a host of his high school friends dissociated from Kavanaugh, for his having lied about his very heavy drinking, inter alia, when he was a teenager.
Right from his prepared introduction, a script that he read out, Mr Kavanaugh, for some reason, launched into a completely hysterical attack on the whole Democratic Party, making himself into the victim of a plot by the Clintons. He then proceeded to counter-interrogate Senators, one by one, rudely and crudely, sniffing and sniveling, literally blubbing, bragging all the while shamelessly about his grades and his sports prowess, while, at the same time, in a most calculating way, filibustering, hitting back at Senators and telling outright lies, all the while making out he was a religious do-gooder choir boy. No-one ever looked a worse witness. No-one ever looked less like having the temperament of a judge. It’s not a case of “She said, he said,” at all. Rather, it is a case of “She said clear and calm, while he lashed out, told lies, dodged questions, strung along non-sequiturs and wasted time while there was a 5-minute rule per question.” A jury would not have much difficulty, even in a criminal trial, weighing the two witnesses’ versions for veracity. But this was not a criminal trial. It was a mere job interview.
The job interview was an “oversight” Hearing that the Senate does in the USA on the otherwise dictatorial nomination by the US President of a new Supreme Court judge. It is an important public process whereby elected people publicly question, in the name of their constituency, a man who will sit amongst a tiny number of Justices on the highest court in the USA, and do that for life. This kind of Hearing is the kind of expanded role that the elected representatives of the people in the USA have over the executive branch that we should bear in mind as a possibility when talking about Electoral Reform in Mauritius: it gives the elected representatives more power over the executive, and, in this case, over the executive’s power over the Judiciary. This oversight of nominations by elected representatives who are not in the executive is important for democratic and practical reasons. It prevents someone, once nominated as Judge or other position of power, being exposed at some later stage to have had skeletons in his cupboard all along. It also guards against nominating someone who loses his temper without much provocation, or who manipulates by means of groveling as victim. In addition, it can help exposing someone, in time, for being as politically partisan as Brett Kavanaugh showed himself to be, as he lashed out at Democrats showing himself on the verge of paranoia. Anyway, in the Senate Hearing, a few skeletons did come up. He was a heavy drinker. Not just at high school, but also at Yale University. In fact, the Senate Hearing has somewhat tarnished Yale’s image, as the University fraternity culture seemed to be rather hideous. Brett Kavanaugh exposed himself as a liar: he said witnesses had claimed that the party at which the sexual assault happened according to Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford, never happened, when they did not say that; they all said they could not remember the party. One actually specified that she “believed” Dr. Ford.
Kavanaugh also said he never went to any such gathering as the get-together Ford described, at which she says he tried in a drunken state to rape her. Then he produced his own diary which showed just such a gathering – even listing the same people present. (Incidentally this is just what former Minister Harish Boodhoo did here during the Rault Commission of Enquiry on Drugs when he handed over his diary which turned out to expose, inter alia, his own personal links to drug dealers.) Mr Kavanaugh had even referred in his yearbook to a Devil’s Triangle, then made out it did not refer to sex, to boofing which he said meant merely farting, and made out references to one of the girls in his circle as “alumnius” was a compliment.
The Republican team in the Senate Judicial Committee – the first time in history such a thing had been done – hired a woman professional prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell, to question both Dr. Ford and Mr. Kavanaugh, and asked no questions, themselves. (This was apparently to avoid the bad image on TV of an all-male attack on the witness, Dr. Ford.) Anyway Ms Mitchell questioned Dr. Ford, but never managed to budge her from her account of what happened. Dr Ford remained a credible witness throughout. There was no question of mistaken identity because she already knew the young man at high school – she was 15, he 17. But then, half way through the professional prosecutor’s questioning of Mr. Kavanaugh, when he was leading the whole of patriarchy into certain humiliation by his absurd, unhinged self-pitying behavior, forcing everyone watching to think he either had been a drunken abuser as a youth and is lying now, or he was obsessed with bragging about excessive drinking and abusive sex as a youth and now pretends that everything referred only to beer, friendship or a weak stomach, nothing else – a showcase of the kind of person who should not be a judge – that the Republican senators like a pack of patriarchal dogs came to his rescue – pushing aside Rachel Mitchell without much ado, and denouncing the whole public, democratic procedure of a Hearing, with Senator Lindsey Graham as leader of the pack ranting and raving, he too, in a slightly deranged way, and again pleading that poor Kavanaugh was the victim.
Other supporters of Kavanaugh have been cornered into taking two contradictory lines: he is innocent, would never do such a thing, and “boys will be boys”, it’s only natural he did it because all young men do!
So, though Justice Kavanaugh was nominated, the whole of patriarchy is left in a state of embarrassment and shame, covered by a thin veneer of bravado, like the childish taunting, for example, by Trump at rallies against Dr. Ford, as well as general bluster. But patriarchy will not die easy. It has existed for the last 5,000 years which is a long time.But then again, it did not exist for the 200,000 or so years before that. So, there’s hope.
And patriarchy does now have its back against the wall elsewhere. The MP Udit Raj in India’s ruling BJP has gone hysterical in debates on the #MeToo movement. And the leitmotif of all the disarray in the ranks of patriarchal hierarchies is that … “men are the poor, weak victims!” At the same time, there are other signs of weakening patriarchy that are more honest; for example, in a progressive move, the Australian Prime Minister, a man from a macho party in a macho country, has offered an apology to some 8,000 victims who gave evidence of child sex abuse by institutions, majority religious institutions, in Australia, saying in the name of the Australian state, “I believe you, we believe you.” Even the Vatican has started to act against sex abuse by clergy instead of covering up as it has so shamefully done for centuries. As well as the firing of a number of Bishops in the USA and Latin America for child sex abuse and cover-ups, even in Mauritius a priest has, for the first time, been suspended by the Vatican from working with children. He faces criminal charges for child sex abuse.
Change will not come swiftly under the crying inequalities of capitalism that promote patriarchal hierarchies. The capitalist hierarchies, that only became predominant some 250-300 years ago, are tightly interwoven with the patriarchal hierachies that predate capitalism.
Muvman Liberasyon Fam
23 October 2018