Sunday, September 30, 2018

Brett Kavanaugh's Anger-- And Mine

I admit that the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings the other day were compelling television.  And I'm sure that folks on each side saw exactly what they expected to see:  if you were in favor of Judge Kavanaugh before, his performance probably reinforced your belief that he was a good and decent man who had been wronged; he had every right to be outraged and to defend himself from partisan smears.  If you were opposed to Judge Kavanaugh before, you probably came away questioning his judicial temperament, wondering why he was so belligerent (he even used a number of Donald Trump talking points as he lashed out at every Democrat in the room), and wishing he'd tell the truth about his past drinking problems.

On the other hand, if you were female, your views of the proceedings may have been somewhat more complicated, no matter which political party you were from. As many of you know from my past posts, years ago, I endured two very difficult experiences of sexual assault:  one during my first year as a teacher, in the early 1970s; and the other during my time in broadcasting, later in the decade.  I'll spare you the details, but in the one case, the man who assaulted me was a principal; in the other case, he was a record company executive.

In both cases, I was warned not to say anything; I was told nobody would believe me even if I did say something; I was asked what I had been wearing or if I had led the man on in any way; and in the end, I was advised to just get over it-- after all, if a guy behaved inappropriately, that meant the woman hadn't done enough to keep him under control. Guys couldn't help themselves, I was told. Boys will be boys, I was told. And for several decades, I didn't talk about it. I just lived with my memories:  feeling helpless, feeling angry, and knowing that in neither case would the men who tried to force themselves upon me suffer any consequences at all. (And both probably did the same thing to other women, something tells me.)

Flashback to my sophomore year in college: I go into in the ladies room and I see a girl standing by the mirror, sobbing. I ask her what's wrong. She tells me she just found out she is pregnant. Her boyfriend, a star athlete and an influential member of his fraternity, wants no part of it. He basically blames her for it, tells her it probably isn't his, and says she'd better not try to ruin his reputation on campus. Instead of being upset with him, she blames herself.  

Flashback to when I was working at a radio station in Washington DC and a drunken rock star grabbed me and tried to put his hand up my shirt. I pushed him away, but what stays with me even today is how all the guys who were watching thought this was hilariously funny.  I did not. And I was told I needed to develop a sense of humor.

Watching Dr. Ford testify, I had a profound sense of deja vu. My experiences occurred in the 1970s and early 1980s, yet here we are in 2018, and what has changed?  These days, the mantra is "believe the women," but in the wider world, many men did not believe Dr. Ford. Some of it was partisan, yes; but as with Harvey Weinstein or Donald Trump or other powerful men, there are guys who will not accept any responsibility for their own behavior.  There's always a "yes, but," always an exception.  These guys always want to blame the woman ("But she was drinking" is one I heard about Dr. Ford--  although NOT about Judge Kavanaugh). When she says "no," they hear that as a potential "yes." And whenever a woman is upset with their behavior, they become indignant, or enraged. I've seen it before. And so have many of you.

Some of the comments on social media were depressingly familiar: the guys who claimed that most women regularly make false accusations against men; the guys who claimed she was promiscuous, or called her a liar, or said she was crazy.  It took great courage for Dr. Ford to tell her story to an entire nation, not knowing if anyone would believe a word she said, not knowing if the man who did this would ever be held accountable. For those who insist she identified the wrong guy, I don't think that's the case. I believed her. And I believe she's telling the truth. But whether our country can handle the truth is something that still remains to be seen.     

1 comment:

  1. Kathy Gilbert SheltonOctober 6, 2018 at 3:05 PM

    Why does this topic bring up so many emotions? What does it say about who you (anyone reading this comment) are as a human, part of a society? Why do you feel so strongly? Is it a symptom of social media delivering information quickly that has so many people reacting to this in such a frenzy?