Feminism and the Kavanaugh Hearings

 /  Oct. 3, 2018, 9:11 p.m.


Lorie Shaull

In the age of social media and the Trump presidency, it has become increasingly difficult for the sins of ambitious government officials to be hidden from the public. A new struggle has emerged: ensuring that perpetrators are held accountable and made to answer for their past transgressions.

The Ford-Kavanaugh hearings have rocked the nation and further exposed our political reality for what it is—cold, calculating, callous, and, at times, grotesque. Yet our shared national experience of being rocked by sexual misconduct allegations is by no means novel; the whole debacle fits into a cyclical pattern within our society. The Hill-Thomas hearings shocked the American people, as did the Lewinsky-Clinton scandal. Yet Clarence Thomas was still confirmed to the Supreme Court; Bill Clinton is still loved by the public and wields considerable political clout; Trump became the most powerful individual on earth. With this recent history in mind, I believe that Judge Kavanaugh will likely be confirmed in the near future, despite the allegations against him and his obvious lack of an even-keeled temperament under pressure.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, whose story has become the bellwether case of the mounting allegations against Kavanaugh, has more than demonstrated her credibility to the country and given us every reason to believe her. She has passed a polygraph test regarding her claims against Kavanaugh (a method previously commended by Kavanaugh as a reliable source of information). She has requested a full FBI investigation into the incident. She has referred specifically to witnesses at the scene of the crime and to past therapy sessions where her assault was discussed. Her heart-wrenching account of Kavanaugh’s alleged attempted rape was delivered to the American people at the expense of her personal safety and that of her family. She has acted with decorum when forced upon a national stage and grilled about the most intensely personal trauma she has ever experienced. Ford has done everything in her power to eradicate any doubt regarding her testimony.

Brett Kavanaugh’s conduct, on the other hand, warrants no benefit of the doubt, let alone a seat on the Supreme Court. We must keep in mind that these hearings are a job interview, and Kavanaugh’s crimes do not have to be proved beyond the shadow of a doubt in order for him to be deemed unfit for the position. He has failed to actively ask for the FBI to investigate these claims to clear his name, knowing that lying to the FBI is a felony, although he has agreed to cooperate with the investigation now being forced by Senator Flake and other concerned political actors. The phrase “Renate Alumnius” in Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook, most likely referencing past sexual conquests from the all-girl high school Renate Schroeder, completely undermines Kavanaugh’s claim that he respects women.

Judges are supposed to be impartial, above the fray of partisan infighting. Kavanaugh repeatedly denigrated the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee who questioned him, distracting from the substance of the allegations by claiming that they were orchestrated as delayed retaliation for Trump’s election. Kavanaugh conveniently never acknowledged that Trump has already successfully appointed a conservative white male judge to the Supreme Court—one who received three democratic votes. Kavanaugh cried, yelled, talked back to his questioners, spoke of his love of beer, and all of this during what is technically an extended job interview. He did not conduct himself as an impartial and grounded intellectual determined to prove his innocence. Rather, he lashed out in an outpouring of entitlement, emotion, and a noticeable lack of cooperation. He may have even perjured himself on the stand during his many outbursts, rendering him wholly unfit to sit on the bench.

Yet I believe he will still be confirmed. The vote for his confirmation has already been pushed to the Senate floor, where partisanship rules and morals are left at the Capitol doors. Ford was compelling, moving, and joined by other accusers, but her story will be cast aside. Republicans have every reason to want another conservative justice on the Supreme Court, especially with a major issue such as the continuation of Roe v. Wade lingering over the confirmation process. They have the political sway to confirm Kavanaugh and swivel the Supreme Court to the right for another generation.

Not long ago I was shocked to see a TV commercial advocating for Kavanaugh’s confirmation in which a female friend of Kavanaugh essentially vouched for the fact that he was not a predator. The fact that a Supreme Court nominee needs to have an advertisement run on his behalf to convince the American people that he is not a serial sexual predator is as deeply disturbing to behold, as it is darkly reminiscent of an Orwellian nightmare. A judge whose confirmation process has, in his own words and through his own failures, become a “national disgrace,” should never serve on the Supreme Court.

In an article I wrote last year about Roy Moore’s Senate bid, I claimed that feminism had failed. I wondered how, if feminism had truly succeeded in the #MeToo era, predatory men could continue gaining power in our government. Today, the failure of feminism to convince the Republican party to sincerely believe and act on the trauma women suffer at the hands of unchecked and power-hungry men lingers like a cancer, slowly corrupting whatever faith we may have in our republic’s ability to protect all of its citizens.

But all is not dark. There is hope in the Twitter hashtag #WhyIDidntReport, which triggered a wave of women moving to defend Ford’s reluctance to come forward by sharing their own reasons for staying quiet when they were assaulted. There is hope in the (mostly female) voices of protestors ringing in the background of the Ford-Kavanaugh hearings, demanding that the truth be laid bare. There is hope in the righteous anger I see swelling within my friends on campus, male and female alike, and within my family members, young and old. There is hope in the fact that Roy Moore did not win, even though it was a travesty that he was ever considered in the first place. Most critically, there is hope in the power of the vote and in the ability of Ford’s heroic testimony to galvanize voters into electing people into power who believe survivors rather than trample over them.

To the angry: vote. To the traumatized: take a moment to heal. And to feminists: soldier on, because ensuring that predators are removed from positions of power will continue to be a ferocious yet necessary battle. 

Kate Healy is a Staff Writer for The Gate. Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily reflective of The Gate.

The image featured in this article is used under the Creative Commons 2.0 License. The original was taken by Laurie Shaull and can be found here.

Kate Healy

Kate Healy is a third year majoring in Political Science major, and possibly double minoring in Spanish and History. Last summer, she interned with State Senator Heather Steans in Chicago. On campus, she is a member of the Women in Public Service Program, New Americans, and Kappa Alpha Theta.


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