It was perhaps inevitable that the #MeToo movement should wind its way through a variety of industries to the pinnacle of Washington D.C. For at its heart, #MeToo is about power – specifically white, male power and privilege – and what those have wrought on others, specifically the female of the species.
Now we are asked to judge a mystery that might have made an excellent novel – might still make one – but is all too real. A federal judge, beloved by conservatives and nominated by a domineering president, stands at the threshold of a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land. But in the eleventh hour, a woman, a psychology professor from Palo Alto University, comes forward to accuse him of attempted rape when she was 15 and he, 17. Alcohol was a key player. The accused, judge Brett Kavanaugh, says this never happened. The accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, has passed a polygraph test but wants an FBI investigation before she’ll testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
A third party – the other person allegedly in the room with Kavanaugh and Ford when the attempted rape took place, the ironically named conservative writer Mark Judge – has declined to testify, saying that he doesn’t remember what happened. (He is also the author of the memoir “Wasted,” about his drunken teen years.)
He said. She said. It happened years ago. Who can tell? Why should we care? Boys will be boys. And girls will mean “yes” when they say “no.”
We’ve heard these comments all before – regarding Anita Hill then and any number of actresses who tangled with Harvey Weinstein now. The question becomes not can we sort it out but should we? It’s easy to say “yes” if you oppose what Kavanaugh stands for, harder if you wish to see him appointed to the Supremes. President Donald J. Trump says he feels “terribly” for Kavanaugh and his family.
I feel terrible, too – not for Kavanaugh, whose views I do not share and whom I couldn’t care less about personally, but for the way sexual harassment has damaged the New York City Ballet, a company that I have watched and loved for half a century, first as a fan, then (and now) as a journalist. But that is where I live as a longtime cultural writer. We are all fans of someone whose immoral, illegal behavior becomes our inconvenient truth. So it may prove for Kavanaugh’s defenders.
It’s gotten so in this country that we can no longer see others’ perspectives. Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum here, there are two truths to consider: Rape, even alleged rape, is a crime like no other. You enter someone’s body to take from her something she can has not freely given and can never regain. It is an experience from which she will never recover. The mere accusation of attempted rape must give us pause then.
Secondly, a judge is a job like no other. I can still appreciate the skill and beauty of a dancer while acknowledging the ugliness of his treating a woman like a whore. But a judge is going to be asked to consider matters of sexual misconduct and the pregnancies that can result from sexual misconduct. If Kavanaugh’s appointment is railroaded through, he’s going to spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder and we’re going to spend the rest of ours second-guessing him. (If you think not, ask yourself how effective a Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas has been – appointed as he was after Anita Hill accused him of sexual harassment. Can you think of one memorable decision he has ever been involved in?
The truth is we may never know the truth of what happened to 15-year-old Christine Blasey.
We owe it to our sense of justice to try to find out.
Tags: United States Supreme Court, Christina Blasey Ford, Brett Kavanaugh, Donald J. Trump, Senate Judiciary Committee, Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, New York City Ballet,