Columns » Autumn Tolbert

Boys club


  • Office of the Vice President

One of the best things about living in Fayetteville is my proximity to Dickson Street Bookshop. If you've never been, I encourage you to make the trip immediately. It looks like a used bookstore should look and smells like a used bookstore should smell. Pure heaven. Several years ago as I was driving by, I noticed the window sign being removed. Panicked at the thought of the shop closing, I rear-ended the car stopped in front of me. Luckily, no one was hurt and the sign was just being repainted. Thank goodness, because my collection of Arkansas-related literature would be sorely lacking without the bookshop.

Recently, a good friend managed to pluck a signed copy of George Fisher's "All Around the Farkleberry Bush" from the Arkansas aisle to give to me as a birthday gift. For my younger readers, Fisher, a newspaper political cartoonist, provided some of the most important and cutting political commentary in Arkansas history. I've noticed, as I've looked through his book, that the adage is true. The more things change, the more they do stay the same. Fifty years ago, Fisher was memorializing and lampooning the fight over casinos, the exodus from the state of the educated young, efforts to protect the Buffalo River, racist politicians, public school funding, a state attorney general hell-bent on limiting civil rights, inmate abuse in our prisons, and women banding together to defeat a conservative candidate after his sexist remarks. Sound familiar?

The other thing that stood out to me from the book was nearly all of the politicians depicted in Fisher's cartoons were white men. This isn't a knock on Fisher. Not at all. He was drawing what he saw. Women were expected to support men and raise the children. Men ruled the roost. Unfortunately, judging by the events of the past week, they still do. Watching GOP Senators Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham stick up for obvious liar Judge Brett Kavanaugh during his hearings and committee vote wore me out emotionally. Seeing Trump ridicule a female reporter earlier this week for no reason put me over the top. Any bit of fear I carried after the 2016 election has been transformed into white-hot rage.

At Kavanaugh's hearing we watched old white men naysay a clearly credible accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, while at the same time accept ridiculous explanations for Kavanaugh's yearbook entries. I can't decide if half the country actually believes the Devil's Triangle is a drinking game and that Kavanaugh was ridiculed for vomiting because of his weak stomach or they know the truth and just don't care that he lied about it all. Sen. Tom Cotton, echoing a current GOP talking point, accused the Democrats of moving the goalposts recently on Twitter where he, showing how out of touch he is with Arkansas voters, used a soccer goal rather than a football goal to make his point. This was after he threw a tantrum and demanded a vote on the GOP nominee right away. Of course, Cotton, who sees women as solely as either victims or villains, threw in with Kavanaugh.

Back to the goalpost talk. Just a few years ago, we had to hear how scared conservatives were that their wives and daughters would be assaulted in public toilets if the legislature failed to pass a bathroom bill. Now, they want to put a potential assaulter on the highest court in the land. When the first allegations against Kavanaugh came out, Ford was called a liar. Then, as it became clear she was credible, she was just a Democratic Party pawn with a bad memory. The latest is the accusation that Ford was a party girl with no boundaries so she should not be surprised or upset about what happened. That groping and assault are a normal part of flirting. This makes my blood boil. Sadly, many conservative women seem to support this viewpoint. I guess they see their sons and husbands and fathers in Kavanaugh. Powerful men who must keep their public persona as a pillar of the community intact while we look the other way on their indiscretions. Boys who get to be "boys" until they are 50 years old. This type of thinking has gone on too long and not just with the GOP. Both parties are guilty of protecting men in order to stay in power. It's just the GOP is willing to destroy the integrity and credibility of the United States Supreme Court in a rush to elevate a mediocre man with anger issues who may also be guilty of one or more sex assaults.

It should probably give me some comfort that we face many of the same issues in local and national politics today as we did 50 years ago, but I can find none. As an attorney, I am horrified that such a vindictive partisan such as Kavanaugh could potentially be confirmed to the Supreme Court. As a woman, I'm furious. I know that with his ascension we move further away from abandoning the "boys will be boys" mentality and closer to a future that is too much like our past.

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