No, Dennis Prager, That’s Not Empowerment

No, Dennis Prager, That’s Not Empowerment September 19, 2018

My daughter, Rosie, used to love tearing up the National Review. 

I don’t remember who got us a subscription to the National Review.  I don’t think I ever got around to reading a single article before Rosie, who was a baby just taking her first steps, would find the magazine and have a good old time tearing it to shreds. I used to wonder what offended her so much about the publication. I couldn’t guess, since I didn’t get a chance to read it.

Today, I completely understand.

Today I read an extremely offensive article in the National Review by one Dennis Prager. And I wish my printer was working, because this deserves to be printed off and given to a nine-month-old baby for shredding. The article is entitled “The Charges Against Brett Kavanaugh Should Be Ignored.” It’s  poorly written in the first place; its thesis is terrible and badly argued. His conception of morality as a kind of bank account where bad deeds are debts that can be canceled out by good deeds is as problematic as hell, and I do mean hell in the literal sense. But I’d like to turn my attention to one particular anecdote which ought to have everyone tossing their copies of National Review to a baby for disposal.

Prager is attempting to suggest that women undergoing sexual battery from powerful men should not be traumatized, and that teaching women to speak out and seek recourse against their sexual abusers is “the weakening of the female.”  He gives the following anecdote: “When my wife was a waitress in her mid teens, the manager of her restaurant grabbed her breasts and squeezed them on numerous occasions. She told him to buzz off, figured out how to avoid being in places where they were alone, and continued going about her job. That’s empowerment.”

What if we told the story a different way?

“When I was in my late teens I had a part-time job as a gofer for a very powerful female CEO of a Wal Street firm. This woman kicked me in the testicles with her high heeled shoes every time I got her coffee order wrong or late. So I learned to get her coffee order right and bring it to her on time, and continued going about my job. That’s empowerment.”

“When I was in my late teens I went to a Catholic all-boys high school. There was a priest there who used to grope me in the confessional. I avoided being alone with him and saw the other priest for confession. I graduated with honors and am now myself a priest. That’s empowerment.”

“When I was a seminarian, on multiple occasions the bishop wanted to sleep in the same bed with me on retreats. I pretended to have a bad case of insomnia and managed to fend off his advances. That’s empowerment.”

Oh, were those too close to home after the past few months’ news?

How is it different from a teenage waitress getting her breasts groped by her boss, and just finding ways to avoid him?

Why is accommodating a sexual abuser only empowering if a woman does it?

Why is a grownup authority figure molesting a minor until the minor has to avoid him but can’t fully escape, empowering if the victim is female, but unthinkable if the victim is male?

Why is it “weakening” women to acknowledge their trauma and want justice against their abusers, but perfectly just and correct to want to punish people who abuse men?

This is a dichotomy I’ve found in more than one place lately.

Just a few weeks ago, for example, Rod Dreher was having a climactic moment on Twitter from the mere possibility that Pope Francis might be punished for not going through with a punishment for a man who sexually abused seminarians. This week he’s been saying that a man who sexually abused a woman ought not to have that held against him in any way.

I am slapped down again and again when I suggest that, perhaps, the Right Wing just might have a tiny little misogyny problem, but I’m going to suggest it again. Because I don’t see any other explanation for this.

While I’m making suggestions, I’m also going to venture to disagree with Dennis Prager, lippy dame that I am. It’s actually not empowerment to find yourself trapped in a job, or any other kind of situation, where you’re being sexually abused and have to hide. Hiding is not empowerment. Being expected to hide, whether physically hiding in a different part of the restaurant than your boss or hiding your trauma from a genuinely traumatic event, so that sexual abusers can continue their lives without consequence, is not empowering– not for the victim, not for any future victims who could have been helped, and not for society. It’s only empowering for the abuser. I have no idea if Justice Kavanaugh actually sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford, but if he did, he deserves to have his career ruined. So does the restaurant manager who assaulted the wife you don’t seem to care very much about. So do all men, and women for that matter, who sexually abuse people.

Now I’m going to find a baby to take care of any further copies of National Review that find their way into the house. I don’t want Rosie going near them now that she can read.

(image via Pixabay) 

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