This article was updated to reflect Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony on Sept. 27
On Sept. 27, the whole country was riveted to the testimonies before the Senate of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who she accuses of attempting to rape her in high school. What had been a story on paper for the last week came to life in dramatic fashion, as Dr. Ford, choking up at several points, recalled in painful detail her fear three decades ago that Kavanaugh was “accidentally going to kill me.” Her most vivid memory were the laughs of Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge as they held her down.
The polar opposite of Dr. Ford was the appearance of Kavanaugh himself. Lashing out with rage and vitriol, Kavanaugh exuded extreme arrogance and entitlement. He came off as the living embodiment of the ruling-class culture of Georgetown Prep and Yale University fraternities, whose elite members expect to go through life without ever being challenged and see the most powerful positions in the country as their birthright. Kavanaugh presented himself as a victim, a point that Senate Republicans like Lindsay Graham explicitly drove home. Trump and the Republicans are moving fast to carry out the confirmation despite the mounting evidence against him, and despite the obvious sincerity of Dr. Ford’s testimony. The Republicans insist the whole accusation was a political invention of the Democratic Party to stop the nomination.
Huge numbers of women and survivors of sexual violence watched the testimony from their homes, work computers or cell phones. Across social media, many expressed how painful it was to watch another survivor, already being torn apart by the media and facing death threats, then be undermined by aggressive rich white men, banding together to defend one of their own. Dr. Ford, who says she was motivated by a sense of civic duty to tell the truth about a potential Supreme Court justice, faced questions that at times made it appear that she was somehow on trial. This, of course, is why so many survivors find it difficult to come forward in the first place.
Big stakes for the women’s rights movement
Anyone who was paying attention knew that Brett Kavanaugh is an extremely reactionary judge, that he opposes abortion and could potentially cast a vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Indeed that is why the Trump administration selected him — to help carry forward the war on women’s rights. As we wrote earlier,
If Kavanaugh is confirmed, the court will also be more likely to uphold capital punishment and solitary confinement, weaken anti-discrimination laws, roll back LGBTQ rights, and end affirmative action in college admissions. It will shift even further right on issues such as the environment, civil rights, fair housing, voting rights and disability rights, as well.
Kavanaugh was on track to be confirmed by Oct 1, the start of the new Supreme Court term.
Then something happened. A woman stepped forward to assert that during his high school years, Kavanaugh had assaulted her, held her down at a party and attempted to take off her clothes. The accuser turned out to be Dr. Ford of Palo Alto University.
Predictably, Kavanaugh denied this and a group of women who had attended Catholic “sister schools” to ultra-elite Georgetown Prep signed on to a letter defending Kavanaugh.
Then a second accuser, and a third, also stepped up, now disclosing sexual assaults that took place while Kavanaugh was at Yale.
Now, Kavanaugh’s confirmation hangs in the balance, due to the power of the #MeToo movement, a movement that demands accountability for sexual harassers and assaulters, regardless of their positions of power and privilege.
Kavanaugh comes from the most privileged layer of society. Attending a highly prestigious prep school followed by years at Yale where he joined a “secret society,” the accusations have shined a light on a culture of impunity in which “boys will be boys.”
Now women all over the country are saying “No!” Protesters are coming out into the streets to demand that Kavanaugh not be confirmed. A large crowd of mostly women assembled recently in Palo Alto, Ca, home of Dr. Ford, the first woman to step forward and break her silence. Other protests are spreading across the country.
There has been some backlash against the accusers. The question asked is often “Whey did they not report it at the time?” This has spawned a hashtag, #WhyIDidntReport. The biggest reason women in general do not report is that they know that they will all too be often be treated as the one at fault and that reporting will not result in anything resembling justice.
But now the stakes are even higher. Not only is Kavanaugh known to be a deeply reactionary judge; these allegations are exposing him as a misogynist. If confirmed, he will be a position to rule on many issues of great concern to women, including but not limited to abortion. With nothing to gain personally and much to lose, the accusers are stepping forward to stop the confirmation by sharing their experiences.
Polls show that record numbers now oppose Kavanaugh’s confirmation. People are coming out into the streets. If Congress rams this confirmation down the throats of the people, they expose the undemocratic nature of our political system. Ultimately, it is the power of the people that will be decisive in this struggle.