As we all collectively drown in an ocean of bad takes in the wake of Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual assault allegations, here’s a real innovative one: a guy thinks we should bring back the temperance movement.
Politico Magazine’s piece, written by Bill Scher, argues that a “moderate” temperance movement, inspired by white suffragettes of the 1900s, will help combat sexual assault.
Like Ford, 19th-century women abused by drunken men often kept quiet. In 1873, a Springfield, Ohio, newspaper published the view of a woman who was hesitant to go public with the story of a husband who was once “tender and loving” but due to alcohol had become “moody, morose [and] abusive”:
“We are told that the law is now on our side, and are exhorted to go into the courts. … But how little do people know of the difficulties that surround the drunkard’s wife. The shame and mortification of a public exposure … the difficulty of getting such witnesses as will testify to the facts necessary to a successful prosecution; the shrinking from appearing in a court-room alone … where even respectable lawyers can be bought for a price to plead against her, using low, personal attacks, when the facts fail them.”
In the years leading up to prohibition, white women relegated to the domestic realm, who had limited means and resources and power in society, weaponized alcohol as an indirect way to improve their lot. But it didn’t work, and in fact, prohibition fucked everything up a lot more. Even Scher acknowledges that prohibition was ultimately a “policy disaster” that, fueled by anti-immigrant sentiment, gave way to more organized crime.
Instead, he argues for a “a more modern, a more temperate, temperance movement,” by which he means less drinking but no racism or xenophobia. What does this new movement consist of? Basically, it comes down to “stiffer penalties for adults who provide alcohol to minors” and cracking down on frats. Okay...? That’s not really a movement.
I mean, I agree that frats are cesspools the must be expunged from the Earth, but it’s not because men drink. It’s because of the men who drink themselves to oblivion and ALSO harbor misogynistic attitudes that make them feel entitled to another person’s body. Yes, there is a link between drinking and sexual assault, but alcohol doesn’t cause rape—research shows that alcohol just makes it easier for rapists to rape, and to get away with it. If alcohol consumption were the major issue, women who drink would be just as likely to rape as men who drink. And, while I can’t stand drunk sorority girls, generally they are not drunkenly pulling out their genitalia for funsies.
Scher acknowledges that misogyny is the “root cause” of sexual assault, so I’m not really sure why his argument exists, or what he hopes it will achieve. The only thing #MeToo needs to focus on is galvanizing survivors and holding predators accountable for their actions when no one else will. Men, sober or drunk, need to figure their shit out.