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Opinion | Brett Kavanaugh Vote Was A Test Of Machismo, Not Politics

In the wake of professor Christine Blasey Ford’s account of how Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh tried to rape her in high school, his supporters went out of their way to discredit her credibility from before they even heard her speak. Even though evidence shows that Judge Kavanaugh lied repeatedly under oath, every Republican (with the notable exception of Sen. Lisa Murkowski) plus Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin have decided to blindly and stubbornly stand by their man.

There’s a word for that in Spanish: It’s called machismo.

Machismo is more than just sexism, chauvinism or even misogyny; it’s the belief that men are superior to women. It also refers to the culture that enforces that belief, one which protects male domination and social standing through subjugation, stereotypes and a gentlemen’s agreement to have one another’s backs.

Machismo also fuels violence against women and sustains the culture of impunity we’re witnessing today.

We in the Latino community are all too familiar with machismo and its effects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13.6 percent of Latinas are rape survivors, and 35.6 percent of Latina women have experienced sexual violence other than rape during their lifetimes. Members of our community are also less likely to report sexual assault, oftentimes because of their immigration status and fear of being deported for reporting a crime.

Machismo is more than just sexism, chauvinism or even misogyny; it’s the belief that men are superior to women.

Yet, the reality is that machismo and the violence it breeds are not confined to the Latino community. The Me Too movement has shown us that machismo and its effects are present throughout our society — Latinos just happen to have named it.

Nearly one in three women will experience sexual assault or violence in their lifetime. Sixty percent of sexual assaults go unreported, largely due to the survivor’s reasonable fear of being shamed, retraumatized, revictimized or simply not believed.

And when it comes to our political institutions, the Senate has long been the epicenter of machismo.

It’s a workplace where female senators contend with endless inappropriate remarks, inequities and condescension. It’s a lawmaking body that refuses to adequately fund efforts to stop violence against women or impose stronger workplace protections to prevent harassment. The Senate Judiciary Committee is the same group that humiliated law professor Anita Hill and patronized Justice Sonia Sotomayor during her nomination hearings. And it’s full of machistas who are well-versed in brushing sexual assault allegations under the rug.

That’s why it’s no surprise that so many senators dismissed Dr. Ford’s claims after listening to a testimony that even they found to be moving and credible. The fact they’re choosing to confirm Judge Kavanaugh after his belligerent, partisan and unhinged performance only adds insult to injury.


ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images

Politics doesn’t explain how Republican senators (male and female) can simultaneously find Dr. Ford credible and be convinced Judge Kavanaugh did nothing wrong. It doesn’t rationalize why they are willing to take the risk of confirming someone to a lifetime tenure on the Supreme Court who is potentially lying under oath about sexually assaulting women, especially when there’s a long list of other conservative candidates they could swiftly appoint instead. Politics simply doesn’t justify how they can ignore the wave of sexual assault survivors —  including many of their constituents — begging the Senate to vote against someone another woman identified with “100 percent” certainty as her aggressor.

The mere fact that some of our elected officials are willing to put politics above convincing allegations and the collective pain of so many women is a testament to machismo in and of itself.

With a full Senate vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation all but decided, the outcome boils down to one question: Is this spectacle an expression of machismo’s lasts gasps for air, or did it signal machismo getting a second wind?

This could’ve been the moment when the Senate reflected how far we as a nation have come in the Me Too era and conducted a fair, thorough and meaningful inquiry. But in order to do that, it would’ve had to put its machismo — not just its politics — aside.

Dolores Huerta is a labor leader, women’s advocate and civil rights activist who co-founded the United Farm Workers. Andrea Nill Sanchez is a director at The Raben Group.

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