Kavanaugh confirms we’re ‘himpathisers’ & the prognosis isn't good

Kavanaugh confirms we’re ‘himpathisers’ & the prognosis isn’t good

Brett Kavanaugh
Last week, new allegations of sexual misconduct against Brett Kavanaugh reignited the discussion about his eligibility to serve on the Supreme Court.

An excerpt from a new book by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, The Education of Brett Kavanaugh, published in The New York Times, details another incident at a college party where Kavanaugh was seen exposing himself and friends ‘pushed his penis into the hand of a female student’.

The authors also allege that last year’s investigation conducted by the FBI into claims of Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct brought forward by Dr Christine Blasey-Ford and Deborah Ramirez was poorly executed and failed to follow up with willing witnesses.

It is unlikely, however, that Kavanaugh will be impeached and not just because the Republicans control the Senate: it’s because of our cultural tendency to sympathise with ‘the male point of view’.

The phenomenon known as ‘himpathy’, first coined by feminist philosopher Kate Manne, is seen as ‘the inappropriate and disproportionate sympathy powerful men often enjoy, especially when it comes to misogynist behaviour’.

In revealing the fresh allegations against Kavanaugh, co-author of the book Robin Pogrebin published a Tweet describing the incident as ‘harmless fun’.

It wasn’t to minimise the incident, she argued, but to appeal to readers who might automatically characterise the incident as such.

What Pogrebin did, however, perpetuated the cycle of himpathy: our collective understanding that boys – and fully-grown men – are predisposed to misbehave in ways that might shock or ruffle feathers but are ultimately ‘harmless’.

In an interview with Sean Illing, Manne argues this tendency to sympathise with men – even bad men – is based on a patriarchal social structure in which a man’s point of view is considered the ‘primary perspective’.

It leads us to react with hostility towards people who challenge the status quo and such men’s personal reputation.

“There is some interesting social science that shows that if you’re disposed to sympathize with someone beforehand, and that person is in a confrontation with someone else who you’re not disposed to sympathize with, you tend to be way more aggressive toward the person you don’t understand or don’t identify with.”

Himpathy in action

Despite once calling Dr Ford a ‘credible’ witness, President Trump has spent more time lamenting over the impact the sexual assault claims have had on Kavanaugh and his family:

“They’ve hurt that man and his family so badly. He has been just really devastated by the hurt that’s been caused to him, his beautiful daughters, his fantastic wife.”

As of December last year, Dr Ford was still unable to return to her job, enduring death threats, also moving four times and hiring private security guards out of fear for her safety.

Similarly, Chanel Miller’s life was ‘distorted beyond all recognition’ after she was sexually assaulted behind a dumpster in 2015.

‘You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside of me’ she wrote to her attacker, Brock Turner, in her court submission.

The presiding judge, who has since been recalled, was overly concerned about the impact a lengthy jail sentence would have on Turner’s future, a ‘star swimmer who came from a good family’.

For raping a 14-year old girl, 26-year old Shane Piche received no jail time and was merely ‘assigned to the lowest level on New York’s sex offender registry’.

Due to Piche’s otherwise clean record, the judge determined that his crime wasn’t serious enough to warrant a prison sentence.

Piche’s lawyer said his sentence is appropriate:

“He’s on the sex-offender registry for a long time, maybe not the rest of his life because of the level, but this isn’t something that didn’t cause him pain and this isn’t something that didn’t have consequences.”

Saxon Mullins was devastated when Luke Lazarus was acquitted of raping her after serving 11 months jail.

“The reality is this doesn’t get to be over for me. I don’t get to know who I would be today had this not happened to me, and I mourn for that person. She seemed like she was on her way to being great.”

While the judge presiding over Lazarus’ appeal was found to have made a legal error, the Crown’s appeal against Lazarus’ acquittal was ‘dismissed’ on the grounds that it was unfair to Lazarus, who had already served time.

In 2016, 21-year old Jacob Anderson was arrested for the alleged rape of a 19-year old at Baylor University, where they were both students, charged with four counts of sexual assault.

While Anderson originally faced 2 to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, the District Attorney feared they would lose the case due to losing a similar case the previous month and subsequently offered a ‘sweetheart of a deal’.

“In light of the similarities between the cases, it’s my opinion it would be worse to try Anderson and lose and have the entire matter wiped from his criminal history than to accept this plea offer,” she wrote to the victim and her family in an email.

Anderson agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge of felony restraint, which carried a $400 fine and three years of probation but no jail time.

The victim’s lawyer, Vic Feazell, concluded that Anderson’s status ultimately won him leniency where it otherwise wouldn’t have been extended:

“It pays to be rich and white in McLennan County when you’re charged with a crime.”

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