On Oct. 5, women across the United States waited to see whether a man would be appointed as a judge to the highest court despite accusations of sexual assault.
They all watched Capitol Hill repeat history once more: 27 years ago, it was Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Dr. Anita Hill; today it is Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
Outside the hearing on Sept. 28, protesters wearing “I believe Dr. Ford” pins and “Women for Kavanaugh” T-shirts stood in close proximity.
The divide was clear, illustrating the sharp cultural differences in today’s attitude toward sexual assault victims awakened by the rising #MeToo movement.
Inside the courtroom, another contrast was clear. A sexual assault victim displayed a collected and composed attitude to a heartbreaking and personal encounter, while a hopeful judge cried, yelled, interrupted and displayed a petulant and unbalanced composure.
Kavanaugh nervously fiddled with his water bottle cap, defensively answered senators’ questions, spewed theories of Democratic involvement and criticized the media for taking what was his as he was on the verge of success.
His testimony illustrated the extent to which white privilege propels one forward: Not only is he undeserving of the job because of these allegations (although that alone should be enough to disqualify him), his temperament proves him to be unfit for a justice of the Supreme Court.
“It is startling his immediate response was not an apology, or grace or mercy or any kind of calm response. Instead, it was fuming anger,” political science professor Laura Brantley said. “His defensiveness is not disqualifying — you can have poor character and still be a judge—but it’s just in bad taste.”
On the other hand, Dr. Ford, a professor in psychology, recollected her memories with a quiet yet strong composure and a scientific approach to her traumatizing experience. And it was Dr. Ford’s story that called for sympathy across the country, not Kavanaugh’s.
“It seems to me that between Dr. Hill and Dr. Ford, they were both mistreated in similar ways,” Brantley said. “They were both dragged into a process that they did not want to be dragged into. And, though we are collectively praising Dr. Ford for being cool-headed — it was the case with Dr. Hill as well — but both of them sort of have infamous reputations now, as a result of things they did not want to [say].”
Moreover, “hyper partisanship,” as Brantley called it, weighed over senators during the hearing. When Dr. Ford bluntly stated that she was “100 percent” sure of the facts, an eerie silence followed. It was as if Republicans took a silent moment to count their losses: the female vote or Trump supporters’ vote? Which group has the potential to get them re-elected? It was simple: The Republican senators do not care whether Dr. Ford’s and Kavanaugh’s testimonies were true or not, just as long as they get elected this November.
The hearing concluded with a one-week postponement in the vote to confirm him as a Supreme Court Justice, although the Senate did finally confirm him on Saturday, 50-48. And in light of Dr. Ford’s testimony, both Julie Swetnick and Deborah Ramirez have come forward with accusations of a sexual nature that did not put Kavanaugh in a favorable light.
In 1991, the Senate Judiciary Committee dismissed Dr. Hill’s testimony, making way to Thomas’ seat on the Supreme Court. Today, as if to symbolize a new era, Senator Kamala Harris looked into Dr. Ford’s eyes and said, “I believe you.”
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