Is The Past Really Just The Past When It Comes To Women?: Exploring The Gender Inequality and Selective Weaponization of A Woman's Past
So if you're like me, I'm sure over the past week you have been enthralled in the whole Christine B. Ford/Brett Kavanaugh media madness. From Anita Hill to Trump (unfortunately), everyone has been offering up their thoughts, and opinions about how to deal with the sexual assault allegations that Dr. Ford has claimed against Kavanaugh.
And after having read several articles on the situation, I have to say that one of the most problematic points of discussion that I have seen brought up as a defense to Dr. Ford's claims are that even if her allegations are true, why should we hold Kavanaugh accountable for actions that happened when he was just a teen who didn't know better. He has now become an honorable man with an impeccable character and track record. Should we really ruin his career over a “small” infraction in his youth?
While it sickens me to hear it (and even more so to type it), I'm certainly never surprised as I'm sure everyone remembers that similar sentiments were also echoed during Trump's Access Hollywood tape scandal, when he was caught being recorded saying that it was okay for high-powered men like himself to sexually assault women-- that women are actually extremely open to being assaulted by men like him "because he's a star, and they let him do anything."
But yet again, the toxic so-called puritanical Greek chorus of America chanted that Trump should not be held accountable for beliefs that he held 13 years ago. A lot could have changed in those years, and that everyone riled up by his sentiments were just being extremely sensitive because he was only engaging in regular “locker room talk” banter that supposedly most men are fine and familiar with.
So it has been watching the way in which people have been willing to go fist deep up in their ass to pull out some sort of shit covered excuse as to why Kavanaugh should not be held accountable if his past problematic actions turn out to be true that has gotten me thinking about the under discussed issue of gender inequality when it comes to the weponization of someone’s less than glamorous past.
So if you have ever listened to episode 15 of Real Talk Love Therapy, then you'll know that I am a big Amber Rose fan. And one of the biggest things that led to my Amber Rose fandom was learning about how she used her platform to elevate conversations in feminism around slut shaming and sex positivity, which are brought to global attention every year during her annual Slut Walk parade, and festival in Downtown LA.
And I remember when I was early in my stage of Amber Rose fandom getting into a heated conversation with a woman in my life who didn't believe that we should care so much about Amber Rose because she was a stripper in her past.
And I literally almost lost my mind, and was late to work trying to write an essay to this person about how crazy I thought that sentiment was, especially given the fact that
She no longer strips.
Why the fuck does it matter that she used to be a stripper?
And even taking into account that she was a stripper, why does that now negate all of the beneficial and productive conversations and platforms that she is creating for feminism and sex positivity?
Why is it that when we look at Amber Rose's positive accomplishments/present stature in society, they are always negatively seen in conjunction with the fact that she was a stripper; that even though she does meaningful work with her platform now, the way in which she ascertained her platform somehow makes her undeserving of praise-- even though Rose stripped as a means of financial survival.
And I don't bring this up to say that stripping for financial means somehow makes her a more honorable stripper than those who do it by choice, but more so to say that her story demonstrates the sacrifices she was willing to make, despite knowing the social stigma attached to stripping, to support herself and her family, which to me, is a very honorable character trait.
Why is it now that every positive contribution that she makes is always undermined by her less than glamorous past?
"For some reason, when it comes to [people like Kavanaugh] (specifically men), we are so quick to value who they are in the present than what they might have been and done in the past."
But then when someone like Kavanaugh is forced to face his less than glamorous past, so many people are quick to throw his alleged salacious actions out of the window due to his "carpool dad" nature in the present. When it comes to people like Kavanaugh, somehow their positive accomplishments/demeanor in the present always seem to trump any bad action or negative characteristic they could have ever exhibited at one point in time.
For some reason, when it comes to these people (specifically men), we are so quick to value who they are in the present than what they might have been and done in the past. And if their present has been nothing but a clean and positive track record, somehow in the game of life that means that we as a society are supposed to exonerate them from the problematic choices they might have made to become these now honorable, and decent people.
When it comes to men like Kavanaugh, it always seems that the ends justify the means; that their negative character flaws are atypical or aggravated from the situation that they were involved in. So as good people, we should offer them a pity pass, and not see the over romanticisation of their good character as being emblematic of a larger systemic issue of inequality and entitlement.
And sure, Kavanaugh is a little bit of a harder person to judge given that in his case, all we have to come for him on are allegations. But, that still doesn't negate the systemic issue of inequality when it comes to whose past we choose to weaponize.
The infamous Brock Turner case is one of the finest examples of our society’s problematic issue of over romanticizing the positive characteristics of usually straight white men when confronted with problematic issues of their past/present. Turner was found guilty in a court of law of raping a woman while she was intoxicated, and yet still, society expected the majority of us to turn the other cheek because of his glowing and esteemed past of positive behavior and athletic prowess. Like this motherfucker is a literal rapist, and was defined by the legal system as a rapist, and y'all can still find some way to overhype his character?
Why is it that when it comes to women, the “bad” of their past always seems to outweigh the good of their present, but when it comes to men of all shapes, sizes, colors, and creeds (although race adds in a much more complex conversation) the good of their past or present always tends to outweigh the bad of their past or present-- that we should just turn a blind eye to any problematic traits that a so-called good man exhibits because this “break in character” somehow isn’t exemplary of who they really are.
Why is it that when we are forced to confront the problematic actions of men, both men and women are so quick to drown the detractors in the positive accomplishments and character references of that problematic male, but very rarely do the opposite for women? And it is usually only when we as a society are met with an insurmountable amount of opposition (ie.the 60 women that came forward about Bill Cosby, and the 87 women that came forward about Harvey Weinstein) that we then decide to finally let the bad outweigh the good.
But when a woman does everything that she can to pull herself up from her bootstraps, which might involve having a difficult past, we can never find her positive contributions to society redeemable-- that she will forever be a stripper, or a crooked politician, or an attention whore, or a plethora of other labels that we like to discredit women by.
This is not to say that I believe that we should start to excuse the problematic actions of women, but rather it is to say that
What we find to be problematic when it comes to a woman's past is often times steeped in misogyny.
The lens in which we view the past actions of men and women, and how it shapes them as the people they are today is not viewed equally.
I'm all for living in a society where we hold people accountable for their past, but still offer them the ability for redemption should they show that they have earned it in the present. But what I'm not here for is the selective and unequal weaponization of a woman’s past, as we scrub way, and turn a blind eye to the worn in stains of a problematic male’s past.