Last Tuesday, tears surprised me at sight of a tall and dignified Andrea Constand, shoulders back, leaving the courtroom, as Bill Cosby left by another route, headed for jail. Lawyer Gloria Allred and a sisterhood of women survivors celebrated, but a few admitted they never expected to see it. Neither had I.
Constand was drugged and raped in 2004. She joined a determined sisterhood that stretches back to the 70s, and in this era of social media joins with the #MeToo movement. The survivors of Cosby talked about Thursday’s expected Supreme Court drama in Washington, a repeat of the 90s Supreme Court appointment hearing on Clarence Thomas. Anita Hill’s accusations were ignored by the Senate then, but not by women voters. What would result from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony?
On Wednesday night, driving home from the New England Independent Booksellers Conference in Rhode Island, I tuned into NPR. A full 80 minutes of presidential blather, talking over press questions, left me with little hope that the Senate Judiciary Committee’s majority would do anything but double down.
Thursday morning, Dr. Ford’s careful and measured account of fearing for her life included the damaging aftermath of such trauma. Her description of prep-school drunks, laughing, will haunt all of us now. So will the contrast between her testimony and Kavanaugh’s belligerence. While unseemly for a judge, it was all too painfully familiar for anyone who recognizes the fake drama of an abusive alcoholic. As for Sen. Graham and his snarling-finger-pointing: never once has his lordship voted for the Violence Against Women Act. Now it’s in Technicolor.
So Friday came and Sen. Flake entered an elevator. There was little hope left, but nevertheless Ana Maria Arcilla and Maria Gallagher persisted. Even with the deck stacked in favor of the bullies, they refused to shut up. They demanded eye contact! So now we shall have the FBI investigation that would typically be only normal.
Maybe Ana and Maria had read what I had on Tuesday. Michelle Goldberg wrote a furious Op-Ed in the NYT, impolitely titled “Pigs All the Way Down.” She cited the women and men who have spoken out about a dangerous ivy league culture that rules all three houses of government—and whose elites very much align with the social construction I call EconoMan. Goldberg notes that while Trump likes to pose as a populist, he’s a snob for Ivy League credentials.
I’ll just add that both populists and elites remain solidly male-dominated and female dominating—and the more so, the greater the power at stake. Kavanaugh went from prep school to Yale and Delta Kappa Epsilon, the infamous fraternity known for its nasty ways with women, and for a video of its pledges chanting, “No means yes, and yes means anal.”
The entitled men who have always gotten away with using women sexually are the same entitled class of men who run this economy. The same ethos of sexual domination, that requires “taking” and “using” vulnerable, more decent people pervades Wall Street and moneymen’s metaphors in Washington. I invented Screwnomics to name my book and what most of us feel. But screw is not my word, or my ethos—it’s theirs.
“Regardless of what happens to Kavanaugh….” Goldberg writes, “this scandal has given us an X-ray view of the rotten foundations of elite male power….[and] how sick the cultures that produce those credentials, and thus our ruling class, can be.”
Who gets to screw whom is a measure of illegitimate power —and of how far our democracy will really go.