This opinion column was originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press
The Kavanuagh hearing featuring his accuser, Dr. Blasey Ford, was an emotional roller coaster for both “witnesses”, a term that implies a trial and jury although it was more of a job interview. Yet, this was an opportunity for the accuser of sexual violence to be heard and for the accused to rebut. The GOP senators chose a woman district attorney to question Dr. Ford, making it look like a trial where “innocent until proven guilty” applied. But this was a job interview, not a trial, and it focused on demeanor rather than legal jurisdiction.
Dr. Ford’s quiet, unassuming, and authentic description of high school trauma had many of us in tears. Despite the hearing not being a trial, criticism of her focused on her inability to corroborate her charges. Either Ford misremembered and the perpetrator was someone else, or the charges are true but irrelevant.
There was a careful avoidance of the reports about Kavanaugh’s behavior and drinking problem that had beg to rise to the surface from other women, his yearbook, and former roommates. Ford’s charges and the new rumors lit a fire under Kavanaugh. His raging partisanship disrespected Democrats and particularly, Democrat women. Any shadow thrown at his character became a Democrat conspiracy to destroy and none of what had been revealed should be believed. The threatening, stink-eye face of a man on the war path was not displayed by Kavanaugh alone. Chuck Grassley ran on the battle field like an ancient Visigoth sacking Rome.
Hostile, accusatory attacks are not an option for women. Do you think the American public would excuse harsh words and threatening facial expressions from Dr. Ford? She’s an intelligent woman with few delusions about the consequences of going public. She’s braver than I am. I’ve been silent about being pinned down on a couch by a 6’3” Harvard graduate student trying to rip off my clothes. I haven’t forgotten who did it or how I cried out to God to save me. I never will.
When I confronted the man years later, he was stunned that I’d accuse him of sexual misconduct. Sound familiar? The sense of entitlement among powerful men, particularly Ivy League males, defies negative self-awareness. My angry rage was regarded as proof of insanity and delusion, not as understandable stress.
We now face a future in which women’s claims of sexual abuse, already discounted, dismissed, and denied, will be subjected to today’s demean-and-attack treatment. President Trump is now calling Ford’s claims a hoax. He labels protesters “rude,” a term implying that these women don’t know their place. Conspiracy theories are encouraged as is referring to Democrats as the “mob”.
Yet, Harvard removed Kavanaugh as a teacher on its campus. Yale students demanded that Yale do the investigation that the FBI would not, or could not, do? Why did more than 2,400 law professors ask the Senate not to confirm him? Universities understand that empowering ugly drunks and their denials is bad for campus life and bad for business.
Compare these actions to elected officials who depict women accusers as confused pawns who destroy nice men while also dismissing, denying, or excusing rage-filled behavior, drunken or not. Given such polar opposite responses, it’s unlikely that this will all “go away” as Sen. McConnell suggests. We have entered a war of gender and partisanship. The backlash against the #MeToo movement is about to become both virulent and socially acceptable. What will “Winning” this war look like? Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Deborah Levine is an award-winning, best-selling author. As Editor of the American Diversity Report, received the 2013 Champion of Diversity Award from diversitybusiness.com and the Excellence Award from the Tennessee Economic Council on Women. Her writing about cultural diversity spans decades with articles published in The American Journal of Community Psychology, Journal of Public Management & Social Policy, The Bermudian Magazine, and The Harvard Divinity School Bulletin. She earned a National Press Association Award, is a Blogger with The Huffington Post, and is featured on C-Span/ BookTV.