The last scene of the horror story that is President Trump’s Supreme Court nomination is what any screenwriter would have predicted: a cast of panicky strangers trapped in a haunted house, trying desperately not to say the words that will loose a monster hiding in the walls.
That monster is sex—gender, women’s rights—as lived in America in 2018. From the beginning, gender, and nothing else, is what this confirmation struggle has been about. The nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981, the first female justice, was a milestone for many women; in 1993, that of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a feminist trailblazer, electrified equal-rights advocates. But neither of those, to me at least, conveyed the ominous gendered subtext of the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.
Because that is true, there was no way, in the logic of the nightmare that is American life in 2018, that the nation would avoid direct confrontation between the sexes, between #MeToo and #MAGA.
And now it is upon us.
Now Kavanaugh has been accused of an attempted sexual assault years ago. The accusation was at first anonymous, and was received and kept quiet by Senator Dianne Feinstein, but details began to leak, sparking confusion and outrage on both sides. On Sunday, the accuser came forward in an article in The Washington Post. Her name is Christine Blasey Ford; she is a psychologist and biostatistician affiliated with Stanford and Palo Alto Universities. According to the Post, she has now provided a detailed account, taken a polygraph test, and produced copies of a therapist’s notes from 2012. The notes recount her memory of a party at which, she says, a teenaged Kavanaugh and a friend locked her in a room and held her down (with, she said, Kavanaugh covering her mouth to stifle her screams) until she managed to escape.