Brett Kavanaugh: A Mandate to Prostitute Your Human Rights
If you give a shit that the government does not give a shit about women, read on.
by Wow Khoman
What does the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court have in common with a French film about prostitution? Maybe just that I saw the movie the night I learned about his appointment during New York’s film festival… But bear with me for a sec.
First of all, I was mind blown. Jean-Luc Godard’s Two or Three Things I Know About Her (en Français, Deux ou Trois choses que je sais d'elle) was damn good! It’s one of those movies that each and every masterfully crafted second has all the meaning in the world. This is, after all, the movie that “famously located the swirl of the cosmos in a coffee cup” (Metrograph).
A non-fiction short story told over 87 minutes, it is not a film made purely for your titillation like idk, name a Marvel movie. It’s not an ice cream store in SoHo created solely for your Instagram although it is very pretty.
But quick plot here:
The movie follows Juliette as she wanders through Paris, living, but not alive—just a continuance—working in various sex environments while also minding her two children and satisfying her husband as bookends to her day. We get glimpses into the lives of a series of women getting by on small incomes in a consumerist world. Interspersed are shots of construction scenes with men moving material here and there with great machines, a stark metaphor for the emotionless, lifeless banality of these women’s days. Throughout the movie, a narrator, speaking in hushed whispers, ponders the relationship between ourselves and the objects in our lives, animate and inanimate.
Throughout the movie, Godard presents mundane scenarios where the women, trapped in their own cycles of need, encounter more and more traps set by the men to whom they have to pander. The most obvious of these moments are, of course, the odd jobs Juliette and also her friend, Marianne, who herself says she does not sleep around for money, get paid to satisfy men, in one scene being made to take off their clothes and walk around wearing airline bags over their heads for an American photographer. All the while he speaks about the war in Vietnam and how, over there, as an added benefit, you could get the same girls for a fraction of the cost. My favorite scene, however, examines the male to female dynamic in such a way that almost felt like how The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan gave existence in the 60’s to “the problem that has no name”; the vague sense felt by women of the dissatisfaction with the lack of meaning and opportunities in their lives even though they were brought up and educated as beings with brains instead of their fates as broodmares or “husbands’ help meats” (Sixties).
A beautiful girl is sitting in a cafe smoking a cigarette. A man, off screen, asks her to talk about something, anything, but to be fully engaged in the experience. He asks her what they should to talk about. He mistakes her lack of interest in this laborious line of questioning as shallowness and prudishness. He suggests that they talk about sex, seeing it as a challenge, egging her on while not believing her that she has no problem talking about it. He says that he has a phrase that he’s sure she would never say because it is too audacious: I have genitals between my legs. She rebuffs him, asking him why she would be made to say something so stupid, mundane, and pointlessly obvious. He mistakes her dismissal as fear; fear of honesty, of what he sees as the bare crux of humanity, sex. As much as she defends herself and tells him it’s not about fear at all, he insists over and over again that she is afraid if she couldn’t just do something so easy. It’s not about easiness or her ability, she explains; it’s about reasoning for why she would want to waste her breath on something meaningless just to satisfy his nonsense.
There’s a dichotomy between the mentality of the many who have moved on from the mid-century definition of women, but more still—in number or in power—seem to have forgone change and evolution since the conception of human rights. Why lie or beat around the bush, the Republican party’s stance is proof enough of this.
The appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, what it tell us all, not just women, is that, no matter how much good or right you try to do, it doesn’t matter because the governing system, as it turns out, does not care about goodness or rightness. It was merely implied, otherwise why are there so many instances of oppression that are either completely borne from or has been exacerbated by our own government? Two of the fundamental sentiments associated with America and its delicious brand of freedom are “stick to the Man” and “fuck the police.” If the system isn’t broken, it wouldn’t be clear, which came first: it’s the decisive system of ass rape and then, as a result, the ass rape of its people. Worse off, those responsible don’t even know. They seem to have completely lost the ability to sympathize or empathize with the plight of another flesh and blood. They don’t know anything beyond their own convictions, which for some reason has taken a detour out of humanity and left sense, verity, and decency behind. We are being governed by a hoard of madmen.
Now, we are left asking why does it matter what we do? Let’s consider the two main question at the core of Godard’s movie:
Where is life when human beings are objects and objects create our lives?
Why do we give more life to the inanimate and strip the animate of their identity and existence?
On the movie, Roger Ebert surmised: “you have to prostitute yourself to survive, Godard seems to be telling us, but more out of habit than choice.” But maybe there is no choice. And if there was a choice, is it any better? The women in the movie would say no. Not because they don’t know the other side of what they’re forgoing. They know. It was maybe because they never got the education, they still couldn’t get the job the education promised, they got stuck to marriage and kids, and their husbands are just another in a long line of higherups saying “this is all you can do” (“can” as in able/allowed). And that’s it, isn’t it? The sound that all women and all others who are oppressed hear like a screeching never ending dog whistle saying “this is all you can do.” When the oppressors ask what’s wrong, of course, they can’t hear it or see it. And so it blares on and on until this invisible force has hollowed you from the inside out as you go on your day doing whatever daily thing you do.
So then again, why does it matter what we do?
Because all is only what it seems.
And just because it seems like it doesn’t matter doesn’t mean you should do nothing. Then that will certainly mean it doesn’t matter. To do something at least gives it a chance and although to continue may be the death to anything, everything, or nothing, it is still to be alive.
The other night, on the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Riz Ahmed said, “it’s not like you chose politics, if your born into a certain body in a certain place and time, politics chooses you.” In Godard’s famous coffee scene, the narrator contemplates:
It’s a universal sentiment, but what it means for a women is that we constantly have to be more to be enough—more beautiful, more sexually desirable, more intelligent, more cunning, more sly, more intelligent, more nurturing, more intuitive, more empathetic, more understanding, more tolerant of our aggressors and our own suffocating muteness—while still keeping one eye on the those who will simultaneously subdue this overcompensation and take advantage of it.
This is social rape.
But men, I DON’T HATE YOU. I certainly don’t hate all of you much like how I hate some people, but not all people. I hate the things that some men have done and how they are. I’ve been sexually harassed, raped, beaten up by men who I knew and I didn’t. And before you jump to conclusions, NO I wasn’t asking for it. Who asks for that? But I also believe as a whole you can change.
That’s the beauty of living beings: We’re supposed to change by design.
And this is a challenge. We are all responsible first for our own people first ,which means to take care of and be responsible for for them. Because damn, I’m tired. I’m tired of women wasting time, energy, breath trying to make men change. Get some eyeballs and just see one simple truth:
if we can’t do it to you, you can’t do it to us.
Transcript from the coffee scene:
Maybe an object is what serves as a link between subjects allowing us to live in society together. But since social relations are always ambiguous, since my thoughts divide as much as unite, and my words unite by what they express and isolate what they omit, since a wide gulf separates my subjective certainly of myself from the objective truth others have of me, since I constantly end up guilty even though I feel innocent, since every event changes my life, since I always fail to communicate, to understand to love, to be loved, and every failure deepens my solitude, since…Since I cannot escape the objectivity crushing me nor the subjectivity expelling me, since I cannot rise to a state of being nor collapse into nothingness… I have to listen, more than ever I have to look around me at the world, my fellow creature, my brother.
The world all alone. Today, when resolutions are impossible and bloody wars loom, when capitalism is unsure of its rights and the working class is in retreat, when the lightning progress of science makes future centuries hauntingly present, when the future is more present than the present, when distant galaxies are at my doorstep. My fellow creature, my brother.
Where do we start? But start what? God created heaven and earth, sure, but that’s too easy. We should put it better: Say that the limits of language are the world’s limits, and that when I speak, I limit the world, I finish it. And one inevitable and mysterious day, death will come and abolish these limits, and there will be no questions of answers. It will all be a blur. But if by chacen things come into focus again, it may only be with the advent of conscience. Everything will follow from there.