Susan Collins Shows Cynical, Female Face of Patriarchy

Susan Collins Shows Cynical, Female Face of Patriarchy

The inevitable has happened. In a 50-48 vote that fell almost entirely along party lines, Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed this weekend for installation as the ninth sitting justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. There was nothing different to be expected from the all-white male Republican side of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which commandeered the most rushed, biased and clumsy (to use my words charitably) hearings and recommendation vote in modern history.

In large part because of the cynical work of Judiciary Committee Chairman and longtime Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, 33 percent of SCOTUS’ male justices are the subjects of credible assault allegations. But don’t worry ladies, Grassley has our back and I’m sure our voices will be heard next time. On Saturday, writer Emily Stewart of Vox commented on a Wall Street Journal report in which Grassley said the following about bringing more female senators to the advisory and consent table:

“It’s a lot of work — maybe they don’t want to do it…My chief of staff of 33 years tells me we’ve tried to recruit women and we couldn’t get the job done.”

Doesn’t Mitt Romney have any leftover binders of women that Grassley and his colleagues can review?

Anyone familiar with the misanthropic work of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also expected the final vote to go as planned. This is after all a man whose proudest career achievement lies in telling a sitting black POTUS, “You will not fill this Supreme Court vacancy” – in reference to then-President Obama’s 2016 choice of Merrick Garland to fill the seat of late justice Antonin Scalia. In September, wantonly oblivious to either his own precedent or terrible choice of language, McConnell vowed to “plow right through” Kavanaugh’s nomination process.

Yes, all the white male reproducers of our culture’s crusty and disenfranchised ideology behaved absolutely as expected. If any of us anticipated more decorum from the nominee himself over the last few weeks, it’s only because we failed to understand the bottomless well of privileged male entitlement, and the pitiless desperation with which it will cling to its power.

This is the second time that Baby Boomer and Generation X women have watched an articulate, brave and credible professional humiliated and dismissed by the men in the Senate Chamber. Anita Hill has been a rallying cry for feminists in search of equality and fair representation since 1991. Now Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s is another name we shall never forget.

But you know what hurts the most, as a voting American woman acutely repulsed by the Senate’s codification of a man’s right to take what he wants (and can get) on his uninterrupted march to the top? Though much of this scenario has felt similar to the events of 27 years ago, it is in fact the first time that a woman, a particular Senator, Maine’s Susan Collins, handed the judgement of another over to her male colleagues. And in so doing, she has reaffirmed the sneering dismissal of sexual violence allegations and the real pain behind the “#MeToo movement. She has communicated that the violation of a woman’s body is a normalized act of juvenile sport, rather than a disqualifying leadership behavior. And with her vote, Collins has also left settled law and precedent regarding a woman’s right to choose open for re-litigation.

Lisa Ryan of The Cut broke it down on Friday:

“Collins is a hypocrite. She’s ‘pro-choice,’ but voted for a person who has ruled against allowing a teen immigrant to have an abortion. She ‘supports’ women and spoke out against Senator Al Franken when he was accused of sexual misconduct, but does not believe Ford’s claims against Kavanaugh. She benefits from convenience and entitlement; she’s happy to be an ally when it suits her agenda, but won’t hesitate to turn her back on those she purports to support the second it’s inconvenient.”

If there’s any comfort at all to be taken from the week’s events, it’s that Collins may not be foisting her faux feminism on her state or the nation for much longer. After Collins’ rambling and contradictory Senate speech, featuring ponderous efforts to explain her “yes” vote, a surge of people crashed a website funding a PAC to unseat the Senator in 2020.

Two years seems like a long time to wait for justice via ballot (contrary to Collins’ public assertion, being tossed out of office for ignoring your constituents’ wishes is not “blackmail”), but women have fought and waited much longer, for much more difficult rights than the one we have to reject leaders who don’t represent our safety and security.

Becky Sarwate

Becky Sarwate

Becky is an award-winning journalist, Op-Ed columnist and blogger. On March 29, 2018 her first book, Cubsessions: Famous Fans of Chicago’s North Side Baseball Team, will be published by Eckhartz Press. She is a proud Chicago resident, where Becky lives with her husband Bob. Check out her collected work at, and follow her on Twitter @BeckySarwate.