Yesterday felt familiar. It felt like the day in 1991 when I was a senior in college at UCSB and I sat watching the confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas as Anita Hill was interviewed about the ways he had sexually harassed her. The discussions of porn. The pubic hair on her coke can. I have never forgotten those details of her story, details that would be hard to make up. I always remembered her courage and power as she stood for herself, her own dignity and for what is right.
We know what happened. Clarence Thomas was confirmed and indeed has been a consistent conservative vote on the Supreme Court since.
I loved Sonic Youth. They wrote a song on their new record called Youth Against Fascism and put out bumper stickers that said “I Believe Anita Hill.” I still have mine on my old filing cabinet that carries a lot of my music history on it still.
Yesterday, nearly 30 years later, Christine Blasey Ford had a similar hearing and was put on trial the same way Anita Hill was, the same way so many victims of rape, sexual assault and harassment are put on trial when they have been harmed. Why?
Because not believing women prevents women from having power and maintains a violent status quo that does not protect us, and in fact, is designed to harm us, control us, and prevent us from having shared political and social power.
The senators may have behaved slightly better yesterday than they did with Anita Hill and the outcome looks like it will be the same.
What is very concerning is how many people are decrying “Boys will be boys” and all young guys do stuff like that, it shouldn’t “ruin their lives.”
Why do we hear so much concern about ruining a boy’s life who does something violent, and none about the impact of sexual assault on women? On victims?
Depending what study you look at, 2-8% of sexual assault allegations are unfounded.
What does that mean? MOST allegations are true or are not able to be proved false. It’s unlikely that an accuser is not telling the truth across the board, and yet this is the narrative constantly brought forward.
That doesn’t mean that there are not people who are falsely accused, but by and large, accusations are truthful. And hard to prove.
Anyone who watched Dr. Ford yesterday could see how emotionally impacted she was, how real, kind and authentic her testimony was. She was not lying.
I believe Christine Blasey Ford. And I believe that her testimony matters deeply for a Supreme Court nominee.
Brett Kavanaugh in contrast, performed an angry man fascade, not unlike our current president does.
My friend and colleague, Diana Adams, a respected attorney, had this to say about his performance:
“Dr. Ford’s testimony was credible and damning. Even beyond her accusation and all the others, his behavior at the hearing should disqualify him. We choose judges based in part on JUDICIAL TEMPERAMENT, an ability to maintain composure, neutrality and clear-thinking when faced with emotionally jarring facts and situations.
“Kavanaugh is a federal judge. He knows how to behave at a hearing. He would sanction anyone in his courtroom for behaving as he did at his own hearing! Interrupting Senators, yelling about conspiracies, refusing to answer questions like a petulant kid, and asking a Senator if she’s ever been blackout drunk? He knows better but could not control himself. The mask slipped and we got to see more of the real Brett. Job interview failed.”
This was a very high level, a public job interview. We have references that speak to his character and his behavior is completely unacceptable for a job interview. And yet. He gets a pass. Imagine what would have been said about Dr. Ford if she had behaved that way.
Last week when I sent out my love letter, entitled “I believe Christine Blasey Ford” I received an email from a man who simply wrote, “You are an idiot.”
I wrote him back and asked why he thought it was okay to talk to me that way and told him it was unacceptable.
He responded with: “OK- I apologize for being obnoxious. But do you realize that this whole…” and went on about the political situation.
I wrote back: “Pete, I want to be clear. This is not about being obnoxious. This is about how men think they can belittle women. It happens every day in all kinds of underhanded ways and it’s not okay. This is one of the ways misogyny is perpetuated, by not listening to women and telling them that what they have to say is not important or welcome. This is toxic masculinity at work. I invite you to consider this pattern and where else/how else it shows up if you’ll talk to me, who you do not know at all this way.”
What is happening is part of a bigger picture of shutting women down, denying our voices, denying our experiences of violence and maintaining a status quo.
We will not back down.
We will keep speaking up and using our voices and power.
We will stand for ourselves and each other.
We will get women elected to office and change the game.
We will not care more about boys’ lives than girls’ lives.
We will teach all children to honor others and that they never get to touch others without their consent.
Anyone who thinks this is a “boys will be boys” situation, has very low standards for boys.
In fact, the term: “Boys will be boys” should never, ever be said. It takes away the responsibility people have for their own behavior and no one gets a pass because of their gender.