I was in elementary school when, in 1991, Anita Hill testified before an all-male Senate Judiciary Committee that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her when he was her supervisor.
My memory is more of an emotional impression. The university law professor was worse than disbelieved. She was treated like a joke. In the wake of controversial allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, one thing is clear. Very little has changed.
Sexual Assault and the Supreme Court
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is accused of sexual misconduct by three women: Stanford University professor Christine Ford, Yale University graduate Deborah Ramirez, and web developer Julie Swetnick, who has held multiple U.S. security clearances.
According to their statements, Kavanaugh is a sexual predator who felt entitled to force his will on a series teenage girls. Now the Republican Party wants to grant him the power to force his will on every woman. It feels like violation, but by the entire political system.
Ford offered powerful testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, moving many women to tears. In contrast, Kavanaugh yelled, cried, and rambled his way through a 45-minute speech, then dodged questions by committee Democrats, offering non-answers and lies.
Unfortunately, such behavior does not disqualify a rich, white man for the Supreme Court.
I’ve had a lot of conversations lately about the infamous nominee. Many men seem preoccupied by the fear that passing over Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court would ruin his life, an absurd statement given the gravity of the crimes of which he is accused.
You almost couldn’t dream a more credible witness than Ford. A professor at one of the most prestigious universities in the world, she has little to gain and a lot to lose by lying to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the world. Perhaps that’s why most women watched the hearing and concluded her allegation is reasonable.
And yet, most men watched the same testimony and came to the opposite conclusion. To disbelieve women is normal. There’s always an excuse for a man accused of rape. If she’s not a slut who deserved it, then she’s probably a lying bitch.
Nice Girls Get Raped Too
Right now, women of all ages are angry. For at least a generation, girls have been raised to believe they could do anything. The gap between our expectations and experiences has become unbearable.
“You can be whatever you want,” our parents and teachers said.
But, like generations of women before us, we were told to be nice, good, not hurt anyone’s feelings. We were trained to believe purity is a defense against sexual degradation, because if you don’t wear revealing clothing, drink too much, or be alone with strange men you’ll be safe.
We were taught to control men by controlling ourselves, so when we are violated we blame ourselves. After an acquaintance grabbed my breast in public, a guy I’ve known for over a decade yelled at me for overreacting. When I got home, I swore to never again wear that tank top.
Thanks to social media, thousands of women have shared stories of street harassment, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. It created a language for a problem that had no name. Instead of blaming ourselves for the violent words and actions of classmates, colleagues, friends, and strangers, we are starting to place blame where it belongs—on men who violate women’s rights and a system that supports abusers.
An entire generation, many generations, are finally starting to see the lie that has lived on since the Victorian era: by changing our behavior we can control men’s actions. The idea that women are a civilizing force is an old one, and it lives on every time a woman blames herself for her own violation. It took a few weeks, but I eventually wore the tank top again. It wasn’t the shirt’s fault.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re sober or drinking, wearing a short skirt or sweatpants. Christine Ford is not responsible for Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual assault, and it’s not her fault most men don’t believe her.
Women’s Bill of Rights
Except for a few true psychopaths, we all carry inside us the noblest intentions and lowest instincts. Men are not beasts beholden to their basest urges. It degrades all men to excuse Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual assault because he was 17-years-old and “boys will be boys.”
It degrades all women too. My sexual assault is not your free pass.
To all teenage girls and young women, I am sorry. I’m sorry so little has changed. But I believe you. You matter. Your likes and dislikes, laughter and pain matters. Your sexual assault should not be his free pass.
- You have the right to be free from violence and abuse.
- Never accept or excuse abuse. Women often excuse minor and major violations by analyzing the psyche of their abuser, whether it’s their friend, partner, or father. If it makes you feel better, understand your abuser. Analyze every trauma until you create a story that makes sense in your head. But don’t excuse intolerable behavior because his alcoholic mother and absent father made him afraid of love.
- The only person you can control is yourself. It doesn’t matter whether you wear a short skirt or sweatpants. Nice girls get raped too.
- You have the right to your self.
- You exist for yourself. Your identity is your own. You don’t owe anyone your time, touch, words, or actions, or even your good graces.
- Be bold. The world will tell you you’re too thin or too fat, too smart or too stupid, too much or not enough. Don’t believe it.
- You are more than your appearance. You are more than your body and its desirability or lack thereof.
- You have the right to your body.
- Your body is your own. It does not exist for anyone else’s pleasure.
- If someone touches you without your consent, it’s not your fault.
- You have a right to sexual pleasure. Virginity is a myth men and there’s no such thing as a slut.
- You have the right to your mind.
- Speak your truth. Unless the truth is that you hate your teacher. It’s ok to bend the truth sometimes.
- Don’t pretend. Don’t shrug off or laugh at crass comments unless your safety is at risk.
- Your feelings matter. Don’t apologize for them. If someone hurts your feelings or makes you angry, discuss it in a healthy manner or it’ll come out in dysfunctional ways.
It’s not a comprehensive list, but it’s a start. What did I miss? What do you think about Brett Kavanaugh? Let me know in the comments.