It’s appalling that our political discourse has become so partisan and bitter that this Kavanaugh saga is as controversial as it is. A woman, then two, then three, then four, then FIVE, came forward with allegations of sexual assault against a man who is slated to become the 9th member of the highest court in the country. Horrible, right? Serious, yes? The truth must be uncovered, wouldn’t we all agree?
Except we don’t all agree. Everyone’s partisanship is showing. I see conservatives saying things that make my blood boil about how “well all boys do stuff like that,” and “it happened so long ago; how can she still be upset about that?” and “I’m sure something happened to her, but not this.” On the other hand I see progressives being a little too happy about the allegations as they roll in. I include myself in this one; I’ve had thoughts like “Ooooh, there’s more women that he assaulted! His confirmation is really in jeopardy now!” This is gross — it’s not okay that I would feel anything approximately glee about women being assaulted, no matter who the alleged assailant is or what is at stake.
It helps me a little bit to imagine how both conservatives and progressives might react differently if Kavanaugh was a liberal judge nominated by a liberal president: Would the GOP be sticking with the tired “boys will be boys” philosophy (or the “women are crazy” philosophy)? Or would they be demanding FBI investigations, bending over backwards to meet accusers’ demands for the terms of hearings, and calling for the nomination to be withdrawn? On the other hand, if Kavanaugh were liberal — if he was a defender of Roe v Wade and access to contraception, if he supported robust gun control, if he was a champion of the environment, if he had a moderate view on executive branch authority — would Democrats be every bit as adamant about the assault investigations? Or would they drag their heels in pursuing justice due to their political alignment with the almost-justice?
Interesting questions, I think. They help me acknowledge my bias (registered — and canvassing — Democrat, full-out Trump hater, and Kavanaugh opposer pre-allegations) and they help me check my motives. They humble me with the truth that neither political party is above reproach (to put it mildly), and that the human condition is universal.
So, let’s lay our political opinions down for a minute — and I know it’s hard; I have very strong ones myself. But we must do it, however imperfectly, in order to soberly reflect on the bigger issue that’s before us as a nation: do we tolerate sexual assault or not? Do we presume women are prone to truth-telling or lying? Do we think men are predisposed to bad behavior or capable of self-control? Do we want to raise our kids with the same gender narratives we were given, or is it time for a new script?
Some thoughts —
People who have never been sexually assaulted should not judge how and when survivors choose to come forward. The only acceptable responses to victims’ stories are “I believe you” and “I am so sorry that happened to you.”
I mean, if women are paid off to make false accusations, like our 19-times-accused President claimed today, then why weren’t there any allegations of sexual assault brought against Obama? Why weren’t there any allegations brought against Neil Gorsuch, I mean wouldn’t it have behooved Democrats to smear Trump’s first SCOTUS pick with a cooked-up sex scandal? Wouldn’t they have wanted to burn Republicans with this tactic at the first opportunity, given that that seat should have gone to Merrick Garland?
Occam’s razor is the philosophical principle that the simplest explanation for a phenomenon is typically the superior one. Maybe the women who accused Trump weren’t involved in elaborate political operatives that won them handsome financial rewards. Maybe the women who accused Kavanaugh aren’t participating in a deep-state smear campaign. Maybe Obama and Gorsuch weren’t accused because they didn’t do anything, and MAYBE TRUMP AND KAVANAUGH SEXUALLY ASSAULTED WOMEN.
Also: Dr. Ford had to move her family out of their home and hire a security detail due to all the death threats, but you know, details.
If Kavanaugh is innocent, why on earth didn’t he himself push for an FBI investigation and multiple witnesses at the hearing? Doesn’t he want his name cleared in the most thorough way possible? Doesn’t he want to avoid being labeled Clarence Thomas 2.0? Doesn’t he want the truth to be deeply known and widely accepted?
I believe in redemptive and restorative justice. I believe that felons should have the right to vote and be able to participate in society after they have served their sentences and been rehabilitated (our criminal justice system doesn’t do this, and is horrible in just about every way possible, but that’s a topic for another day). My point is that I believe in forgiveness and I believe in second chances. However, I also believe in repentance. And confession, and remorse, and painful self-reflection. And I believe there is a huge difference between forgiveness and trust. And I believe there is a huge difference between participation in society, and being one of the nine people who get to make decisions that affect 330 million other people, for decades and decades, until you die.
It’s difficult to explain how this Kavanaugh saga makes me feel as a woman. But I can tell you that when I hear Lindsey Graham or Orrin Hatch make dismissive comments it makes me furious. I can tell you that when Trump holds a news conference and interrupts female reporters and spews lies and promotes the boys club it makes me want to reach through the TV and strangle him. I can tell you that when I see Facebook comments like “Well, guys do that kind of thing all the time,” I want to scream, “Yes! You’re right! What if we decided that wasn’t okay anymore?!?!” And yet I also want to scream, “No! You’re wrong! My husband has never covered a woman’s mouth to keep her from screaming while he tried to rape her!” I can tell you that I feel exasperated and terrified because sexual violence perpetrated by men is so common it’s ubiquitous, and I also feel defensive of the male species because I don’t buy the old school thinking that men can’t keep their hands to themselves simply as a result of possessing a Y chromosome. I expect a hell of a lot more from men. It’s really easy not to assault someone — you just don’t do it. And despite the memes out there claiming that “no man is safe,” every man who keeps it in his pants because he knows he is not entitled to women’s bodies is absolutely “safe” and always will be.
I can tell you that it is overwhelming to read every #MeToo, and #TimesUp, and #WhyIDidntReport story, both because of the sheer volume of them and because of the sickening specifics. I can tell you that I had the same reoccurring nightmare for three weeks straight after the 2016 election: that Donald Trump the sexual predator broke into my house and attacked me. I can tell you that the ever-growing list of sexual harassers and assaulters around us disturbs me deeply, but not quite as deeply as the anemic response to the list. I can tell you I’m beyond disheartened that sexism is so ingrained and that new paradigms are so hard to learn. I can tell you that I’m anxious about what it is I’m supposed to do as a parent to ensure that my son is not a rapist and that my daughters aren’t raped by someone else’s son. I can tell you that there’s no way to interpret what’s going on — watching a five-times-accused-of-assault judge on the precipice of being confirmed as a justice — as anything other than a declaration that women don’t matter as much as (white) men.
Those are just some thoughts. If you’re thinking I did a crappy job of not being political, that might be true. Maybe you think it was unfair or incomplete or ill-informed. Maybe everything women say is crazy or baseless or insignificant. Unfortunately that’s the narrative that’s being handed to us from on-high.