Progress is under assault

October 1, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Laura Campbell

Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a single ounce of energy left for the news – and so I withdraw for weeks on end into the confines of the million other little tasks parenting demands of us.

You know those tasks: making lunches, shuttling and sherpa-ing children around, doing the bedtime routines, etc etc. But eventually I tune back in and become troubled by it all again.

As you may well know, Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is about to be appointed despite accusations of rape and now, also, sexual misconduct. These unsettling and deeply disturbing accusations should disqualify him for the position, but unsurprisingly, they have not.

The Republican party sees no need to honour the #metoo movement, or the women who have come forward as victims of sexual abuse and violence. Indeed, they would like to go back to a time where women live in silence and fear; where they have no access to reproductive care; where their assent and success in the workplace is limited. Appointing Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court (and especially in spite of the accusations) helps the Republican Party get one step closer to achieving their twisted 1950s utopia.

This ongoing discussion around Kavanaugh’s appointment has infuriated me for weeks. Despite the fact that women everywhere successfully started a movement saying: “enough is enough,” the #metoo backlash is strong. What lies at the source of this backlash?

Let’s backtrack a a bit: only six years ago, on October 16, 2012, Presidential candidate Mitt Romney made a comment that may have been the final nail in the coffin of the election he was about to lose. Romney remarked that he was indeed an advocate of getting more qualified women into the workplace, and that as governor of Massachusetts he had reviewed “binders full of women” and their resumés.

The widespread ridicule for this comment lasted for months, even years, into the second Obama presidency and represented just how out-of-touch the Republicans were. Or so we thought? That seemingly mundane comment seems mild now, in comparison to the things President Trump has said about women.

In 2018 all progress is under assault. Even miniscule progress, like women everywhere saying, “No. You can no longer make lewd comments to me in the workplace.” To reactionaries, the #metoo movement is a liberal conspiracy, aimed at destroying the very fabric of humanity.

We Canadians like to think we are above such politics, but when our very own Premier doesn’t see a need to teach kids about consent it very much worries me for our future.

What happened in these past six years? What historical trajectory are we on? The reactionary politics of our time are bizarre. There’s no doubt about it: our civilization is in crisis – both in financial and in ecological terms – and as many historians will point out, civilizations in crisis tend to frantically aim at “restoring” the good old days. And in that past, women simply did not call out their rapists- because they couldn’t. They often stayed married to violent men, because they had no other choice. They fetched coffee for their bosses, because a promotion was out of the question. The people deciding whether Kavanaugh is nominated or not remember those days.

The whole project of “Making America Great Again” is about turning back the clock, to a time before globalization (before NAFTA), before climate change, before feminism, and perhaps even to a time before America had committed itself to “leading the free world” as a bastion of liberalism. Liberalism is a dirty word now, no longer the very thing our veterans died fighting for.

As many observers across the West have noted, somewhere along the line over the past decade the Left has failed. It is that failure that helps to explain, to some extent, the backlash to the #metoo movement.

The Left is still failing. We are failing to reach out a hand to our fellow citizens to say: we are in this together.

Identity politics has become a divisive buzzword that fails to point out our common humanity. And our common humanity must drive us all to listen to the victims of sexual assault, and to believe them.  

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