“I don’t know Kavanaugh the judge. But Kavanaugh the carpool dad is one great guy,” reads the headline of a Washington Post piece published yesterday. When I first saw it, I assumed it was satire, penned by the Post’s incredible Alexandra Petri (check out her work if you haven’t already). Because surely there is no relevance, pertinence, or merit to putting a non-satirical piece like this in a serious newspaper — a piece that aims to convince me that likely future Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whatever his judicial opinions, is essentially just a super-duper nice guy?
But I was wrong! This is apparently not a humor piece. Rather, The Washington Post seems to have decided it would be totally worthwhile to give valuable space to the musings of Kavanaugh’s neighbor/fellow Chevy Chase parent, who says that Kavanaugh’s just a swell dude. He watches and coaches his kids’ basketball games! He drives carpools! He is like, really, really nice!
I try hard — I really do — not to drop the f-bomb in my Kveller blogposts, but… Are you fucking kidding me with this crap? How gaslight-y can you be? Let me distill the piece for you, which is essentially this:
Hey everyone! You know that guy? The one who’s going to be the deciding vote on the Supreme Court ? The one who will make sure that if you or your daughters ever need an abortion, you’re going to have to scrounge up the money to get to another state, or maybe even country! That dude who feels it’s crucial to make sure that people don’t have the right to hamper your ability to get a gun in any way — but you, as a woman, DON’T HAVE A RIGHT TO DETERMINE WHAT HAPPENS IN YOUR OWN BODY? Whatever! You might think that he’s a dick because he doesn’t believe women are autonomous humans, but actually, he is a totally a SWELL GUY! He’d go with your kid to the daddy-daughter dance if they don’t have a dad! He’d totally save you a seat at the Christmas concert if you were running late! He’d probably bring you coffee with milk just the way you like it! He’s just SO awesome!
OK, deep breath. Let’s stop for a minute and think: Why, in this era where we have a President who disparages basically everyone besides himself, would someone actively want to paint Kavanaugh to thousands of readers as “a stand-up guy?” Is it relevant at all to being a Supreme Court Justice (hint: no)? Or, perhaps, is it meant to silence his detractors, simply because people who behave with a modicum of kindness are such freaks of nature these days.
But let’s move on to yet another thing that infuriates me about this piece. Yeah, I’m going to whip out the capital letters again, because this: WOULD ANYONE CARE ABOUT HOW GOOD A PARENT BRETT KAVANAUGH WAS IF HE WAS A WOMAN? And, dear reader, to that I say: no.
There would never be a piece like this written and published in The Washington Post about a woman who juggled career and parenting. BECAUSE IF YOU HAVE A VAGINA, THAT IS WHAT YOU ARE EXPECTED TO DO! And moreover, if you are a woman and you don’t juggle work and life perfectly, you are a “bad parent.” But don’t worry: If you don’t do it perfectly and you are a man? Well, then clearly you are “a hard worker” and “great at your job.”
I’m going to call it as I see it: Garbage pieces like this — where fathers get medals or ticker tape-parade treatment solely for being interested, engaged, and/or involved in the lives of their own kids — are chauvinistic. They perpetuate dated ideas. For the love of God, despite the Handmaid’s Tale motif we got going on here, this is 2018. It’s not a world where I’m supposed to marvel at the fact that “he drives carpool!” like it’s a freak of nature, the way I would if I saw, say, a flying cocker spaniel, or our president holding an umbrella over someone else when it’s raining.
The underlying assumption here that is the reader should be shocked — or at the very least surprised and touched — by a successful father being an engaged parent is inherently obscene and ridiculous. Pieces like these perpetuate the idea that for a man to be involved, invested, and engaged in his kids’ lives is not only unusual, but also deserves special accolades. It isn’t and it shouldn’t be. It’s very nice. It’s the way parents should be. Great. Next.
Being ‘nice’ in the context of daily interactions has absolutely nothing to do with being a Supreme Court Justice — other than the fact that you want the guy to turn the lights off if he’s the last one in chambers, or, you know, you want him to let you borrow his stapler in a pinch. Being “kind” and “cooperative” is what we expect not just from Supreme Court Justices, but also, actually, from all humans. Being a supportive dad is great — but has nothing to do with, say, believing Presidents are above the law. And talking about it like it does belittles all of us.
Though it makes me feel vaguely nauseated, I’ll close by referencing the conclusion of this ridiculous, gratuitous, and in the end, insidious, puff piece: “I’ll leave it to others to gauge Judge Kavanaugh’s qualifications for the Supreme Court as a jurist. But as someone who would bring to his work the traits of personal kindness, leadership and willingness to help when called on, he would receive a unanimous verdict in his favor from those who know him.”
I’ll just say this: When a piece closes with the author admitting her own lack of knowledge on the the very subject of the piece, maybe it didn’t have enough merit to have been published in the first place.