Elite Western Thought, Male Entitlement, Brett Kavanaugh and the Value of Women

Georgetown Catholic Prep School, Bethesda

What most coverage of the accusation made against Kavanaugh for attempted rape during his prep school days omits to emphasize, in terms of his high school mentality as regards sex or girls, is the fact that Georgetown Preparatory School was an all-boys Catholic school. This means that he was endowed with the very specific, very special, ideologically exclusive kind of education vouchsafed elite Catholic males in Catholic institutions or seminaries. Now that a third official accuser has come forward, claiming that Kavanaugh took part in (or even organized) fraternal gang rapes of incapacitated women and girls with his brethren, it seems appropriate to query what kind of rape culture may have existed within the elite institutions of his matriculation.

One doesn’t have to look far. You can find disparaging remarks about women throughout the history of Western philosophy, sourced in the works of the Church Fathers. This curriculum is still taught, of course, and reigned unchallenged in the 80s. Foundational philosophical thinkers like Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas, the so-called ‘Fathers of Western thought,’ offered these views on women:

“Woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from defect in the active force or from some material indisposition…”
Source: St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, q. 92 a. 1

“Good order would have been wanting in the human family if some were not governed by others wiser than themselves. So by such a kind of subjection woman is naturally subject to man, because in man the discretion of reason predominates.”
Source: St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, q.92 a.1 reply 2

“I don’t see what sort of help woman was created to provide man with, if one excludes the purpose of procreation. If woman was not given to man for help in bearing children, for what help could she be? To till the earth together? If help were needed for that, man would have been a better help for man. The same goes for comfort in solitude. How much more pleasure is it for life and conversation when two friends live together than when a man and a woman cohabitate?”
Source: St. Augustine, Genesi Ad Litteram, 9, 5–9

Saints Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas vilified Women in their writings, as did the other Church Doctors and Fathers, almost without exception:

· [For women] the very consciousness of their own nature must evoke feelings of shame.–Saint Clement of Alexandria, Christian theologian (c150–215) Pedagogues II, 33, 2

· In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil’s gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. It was you who coaxed your way around him whom the devil had not the force to attack. With what ease you shattered that image of God: Man! Because of the death you merited, even the Son of God had to die… Woman, you are the gate to hell. –Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity” (c160–225)

· Woman is a temple built over a sewer.–Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity” (c160–225)

· Woman was merely man’s helpmate, a function which pertains to her alone. She is not the image of God but as far as man is concerned, he is by himself the image of God. –Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo Regius (354–430)

· Woman does not possess the image of God in herself but only when taken together with the male who is her head, so that the whole substance is one image. But when she is assigned the role as helpmate, a function that pertains to her alone, then she is not the image of God. But as far as the man is concerned, he is by himself alone the image of God just as fully and completely as when he and the woman are joined together into one. –Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo Regius (354–430)

· Woman is a misbegotten man and has a faulty and defective nature in comparison to his. Therefore she is unsure in herself. What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. And so, to put it briefly, one must be on one’s guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil. … Thus in evil and perverse doings woman is cleverer, that is, slyer, than man. Her feelings drive woman toward every evil, just as reason impels man toward all good. –Saint Albertus Magnus, Dominican theologian, 13th century

It is possible that Kavanaugh may have adjusted his attitude concerning women somewhat after the births of his daughters, but obviously not enough to respect their personal autonomy, control over their own bodies, or their right to determine their own sexual health and reproductive rights.

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Yvonne Owens, PhD

I'm a writer/researcher/arts educator on Vancouver Island and all round global citizen who loves humans even though we're such a phenomenal pain-in-the-ass.