Men need to be stronger for each other



US Senators Flake and Coon's friendship is a rare exception of constructive male bonding. Though of opposing parties, they collaborated to initiate an FBI investigation to examine Dr Christine Blasey Ford's sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. Together, they took the allegations into account, organised a space for doubt, and responded to them.

Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in as 114th Supreme Court Justice by a smiling US President Donald Trump. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)Throughout Kavanaugh's confirmation process, male relationships could be seen that exercised little consideration for their female counterparts. President Trump's appraisal of Kavanaugh at a political rally, and his criticism of Blasey Ford, was just one instance of this.

Like him, Senator Lindsay Graham supported Kavanaugh and openly criticised Blasey Ford. His speech at the hearing initiated a series of all-male speeches in support of their party's choice. These examples are symptomatic of the reality of male relationships in our society.

Men do not have to end their relationships over sexual assault allegations. They need to renegotiate and restructure the dynamics of their male bonds. Too many men are eager to call the shots and charge ahead. Why don't they press pause for once, and listen?

Last year, a group of US Marines shared sexually explicit photos of their female colleagues on a Facebook group called United Marines. The group included active and retired marines. Closer to home, a similar incident occurred at Melbourne's St Michael's Grammar School in 2016. Boys shared sexually explicit photos of underage girls.

Similarly, Brighton Grammar in Victoria expelled two senior boys who had set up an Instagram account and encouraged people to vote for 'Slut of the Year'. Echoes of this can be heard in Kavanaugh's high school yearbook and its references to the 'Renate Alumni' — a sexual reference to a female friend named Renate Schroeder.

In such cases women are objectified and sexualised — their bodies, their behaviour, their shame and their humiliation provide a form of entertainment. This is a type of male bonding initiated at the expense and exploitation of their female counterparts.


"Men need to say less and do more for each other. They need to hold each other accountable for their behaviour, both past and present."


The patriarchy is still in place and this is certainly an intergenerational problem. But since the start of the #MeToo movement, something has changed: men are under pressure to be better, much better. As this NBC article on the Kavanaugh confirmation battle states:

'Some men fear diminishment, that their strength and sexuality will become less vibrant, less appreciated. But unsexing men is not what #MeToo is after. What it seeks is to upend the notion that strength and sexuality should be used to express dominance over others, to serve the ego.'

Male behaviour is held to a higher but fairer standard and men have a part to play in this changed expectation. As Senator Mazie Hirono said: 'Men need to shut up and step up. Do the right thing for a change.' Men need to say less and do more for each other. They need to hold each other accountable for their behaviour, both past and present.

It is too easy to stay silent or deny an accusation of sexual misconduct. Conversely it is an act of bravery to question the accused, particularly if this person is a family member, friend or colleague. This can be done on a person-by-person basis, or through the facilitation of constructive group dialogue.

Men need to understand that other men in their close, tight-knit circles are capable of behaving in a manner that they have not seen first-hand evidence of. They need to retrain themselves to exercise doubt and then act on it to encourage a fairer, more thoroughly investigated outcome. Here, it is a question of morality and duty rather than interpersonal loyalty.

Funnily enough, as Flake spoke up, the other Republicans shifted their collective support to back his decision. Suddenly, the tone of the hearing changed. It appeared that men only really listened to each other. They validated and supported each other. Their personal decisions are made or broken based on each other's approval.

More men need to step up and be the leaders that other men listen to, support and eventually emulate. Women can't fight alone and they can't make men more receptive. So, men have to be agents of change. It is only then that society can progress to a state that benefits everyone.



Devana SenanayakeDevana Senanayake is a political reporter and radio producer focusing on intercultural racism, immigration, de-colonisation, diasporas and food. In 2017, she won Writer's Victoria Women of Colour Commission for her essay Misplaced in Pop about the misplacement of South Asian actors in Western media. Visit her website and follow her on Twitter @dsenanayake16

Main image: Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in as 114th Supreme Court Justice. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Topic tags: Devana Senanayake, Brett Kavanaugh, sexual assault



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Existing comments

I hope you believe in the prinicple of innocence until proven guily and due process . Regarding the Kavaguah controversy Ford was given an opportunity to testify and provide evidence. None of the people she mentioned in support of her accusations backed her story including a woman she claimed was a good friend. I hope you are not advocating that an innocent man must occasionally be sacificed so that a lack of evidence does not stop prosecuting something that socially may in the general sense be good.
Peter Eagleton | 12 October 2018

When Ronald Reagan described Margaret Thatcher as the 'best man in England' I have to wonder: was that praise or condemnation? Often women who are the subject of objectification and sexualisation are isolated and under siege. If they survive it is a sort of triumph. Men do need to break that sort of power and control and understand that when they demean women they are impinging on their own integrity as well as the woman's integrity. Men need to get smart (and I don't mean the television series).
Pam | 13 October 2018

It didn’t matter who was nominated, the Democrats campaign was about stopping any Originalist justice who would interpret the law rather than change it to promote “progressive” policies. Democratic candidate, feminist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has since promised to “pack the Supreme Court.” And why would anyone listen to people who were prepared to destroy a human being and his family solely for political power? It was Senator Mazie Horono who said Kavanaugh couldn’t be trusted because, “he is very much against women’s reproductive choice.” The “believe the victim” movement tramples on the presumption of innocence, but when Senator Susan Collins offered a rational and compassionate defense of due process, she was smeared by feminists as a “rape apologist.” Writer Ariel Dumas tweeted “Whatever happens, I’m glad we ruined Brett Kavanaugh’s life.” Perhaps the need to be stronger for each other is needed more by women than men. After all, women are nearly 5 times more likely than men to show an automatic preference for their own gender [Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 87, No.4], and the cult-like loyalty demanded by modern feminists who brook no dissent from their chosen narrative, leaves independent-minded women highly vulnerable.
Ross Howard | 14 October 2018

Devana, I feel I have to support your stance on this issue. For far too long powerful men have used their authority and power to force women to submit to them. Sadly what Blasey-Ford and others before her have gone through must have been hell for them and their families. I can not for a moment imagine what turmoil this lady must have gone through to reveal this assault , years ago. I recall instances in my Uni Days where females were assaulted, usually by drunken young men. While extremely rare,( at least at my University) those ladies who confided in me could not face the public indignity of revealing what had happened to them. They simply asserted that no one would believe them! The argument that women use the assault allegation to 'get back' at men, in my opinion does not stack up. The backlash, if they do so is just too great. Sadly we still live in an age when the evidence of a man carries more clout than a woman.
Gavin O'Brien | 15 October 2018

This is not a male-female debate. It is about rule of law. How can we destroy a reputation when there is no evidence of when, where, with whom this alleged event took place? Women with genuine allegations will not be discouraged by this. They will understand that they need to seek help to report crimes quickly, and that they need to have evidence that will stand up in a court of law.
Riborg Andersen | 15 October 2018

Excesses in labeling either men or women do not help the development of good relationships or the best interests of either gender. The generalizations in this piece about "What men ought to do with one another" are as gratuitous as they are unfitting for all men. They are also likely to blight the good offices of men dealing with other men. Unless we are still beholden to the maternal voices in our heads.
Michael D. Breen | 17 October 2018


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