Brett Kavanaugh and the Revealing Logic of ‘Boys Will Be Boys’
One defense of the Supreme Court nominee against sexual-assault allegations, Megan Garber wrote last week, has been the notion that the cruelties Christine Blasey Ford described are “simply part of the natural order of things.”
The subtext of the vigorous dismissal of this woman’s charges isn’t just that we all committed regrettable acts in our youth; it is highly insulting to men of any age. Here’s an interesting exercise: How would you or I react to learning this about our male partners? The pinning-down. The hand over the mouth. I don’t know one woman my age (64) who doesn’t have at least one story to tell about having our heads forced onto a man’s lap, being groped by a stranger, or being humiliated in the wake of a one-night stand. But if a boy/man forced himself on me while covering my mouth to muffle my screams? Sorry, that says a bit more about a person than the destiny of his chromosomes. What would we do knowing such a thing were true of our fathers, our brothers, and, perhaps worst of all, our sons? No doubt our first thought would be: Do I really know this person? Would you want any postpubescent person capable of this to teach or tend your child? Can we all agree, at the very least, that a Supreme Court justice should be above reproach in every way? He didn’t steal an apple, he didn’t get into a schoolyard fight. He violated someone who is still feeling the consequences. Those powerful men who say he was just being a teenage boy—would they say that about someone who assaulted their daughters?
Ms. Garber captured my thoughts precisely, and I believe that she and Christine Blasey Ford have brought new light into the conversation about male entitlement and responsibility. What is the message we are sending our daughters?
I am so discouraged knowing that something so sensitive could be taken so lightly. This is something that should be taken seriously considering the fact that a lot of women have encountered sexual abuse. It is the government we put our trust in, and if they fail us all hope is truly lost. Being a woman who suffered from molestation and also the mother of a young woman, it frightens me to know how our government could be so apathetic to this situation.
Ms. Garber has successfully captured the essence of what is at stake for American social mores as Republicans, traditionally vocal champions of respectable social behavior, abandon all pretext in order to defend the interests of their only remaining constituency: privileged white males who would dearly love to bar the clubhouse door.
St. Albans, Vt.
You wrote in your article on Mr. Kavanaugh’s nomination: “But those claims have also been met, revealingly, with a collective shrug by people who see themselves in him but cannot see themselves in her.”
I am writing to say that I see myself in her, in Christine Blasey Ford. Nearly the exact same thing happened to me in May 1980 with a boy/man who did not rise to the public stage. I confronted him with his actions in 2010 and he truly did not understand what I was talking about. It was revealing of his character. He is currently a disabled alcoholic who was never able to overcome his dysfunctional family.
The issue for me isn’t whether or not Judge Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Ms. Ford when they were teenagers. I just watched The Breakfast Club to refresh my memory of those days. What happened between Judge Kavanaugh and Ms. Blasey Ford, or me and the boy who assaulted me, was not unusual for the time.
Something that was not seen as abnormal cannot be now held up to the scrutiny that this issue is receiving. It’s grossly unfair to Judge Kavanaugh and to the country. We have bigger and broader problems. Furthermore, Judge Kavanaugh is a sitting United States Circuit Judge and deserves our respect for his service. We must ask why would Blasey Ford would come forward now and why publicly?
Additionally, finding a man in his 50s who hasn’t done something similar to what Judge Kavanaugh is accused of doing will be nearly impossible. That doesn’t mean I’m shrugging. It doesn’t mean I’m accepting. It’s simply a fact. The assault on me by the boy from my high school wasn’t the only similar assault that occurred in my life; I experienced five others from age 17 to 30. However, it was the most serious and the most scary. What about Ford? Doesn’t she too have other similar experiences of sexual assault in her young adulthood?
What I learned from my assault was to be more careful and clear in my communication. Yes, it was an onus and a burden that I had to bear that hopefully fewer young women will have to experience.
Nowadays, with my daughters of 18 and 24, certainly boys/men should be held accountable. That’s what my mother’s experiences (she was a Delta Airline stewardess in the 1950s whose head stewardess told her to be “more friendly” to the pilots; my mother kept a copy of the memo in her files) and my experiences have done for women in America. Combined, my mother’s and my experiences would disallow countless men from public office. But this isn’t news, is it? To hold Judge Kavanaugh accountable in this way is not fair. It was a private matter between him and Ford and should have been handled in that manner.
On a positive note, what my experiences, my mother’s, and Ford’s have done is make young women today know that the appropriate time to raise the issue is right then. Immediately. And not 40 years and four academic degrees later.
Rejecting Judge Kavanaugh for his behavior nearly 40 years ago is not a wise course of action. I hope if the boy who assaulted me had grown up to be a success, instead of an alcoholic failure, that instead of bringing his behavior to public debate as Ford chose to do—in her case, to national debate—I would have handled the matter as I did, injured person to injuring person, for restorative justice. I have had my restorative justice. Is this the path to Ford having her restorative justice, or will Judge Kavanaugh just be made into another Robert Bork, and the Trump administration will have to come up with another appointee? Will that person be better or worse, with fewer past indiscretions or more?
In conclusion, I see myself in Ford, and while I may not shrug, I do ask us to disqualify Judge Kavanaugh, if we must do so, on some other grounds than his behavior, attitudes, and actions as a 17-year-old boy growing up in the white suburbia of the 1980s.
Amy L. Sandridge
New Orleans, La.
When I was a senior in college, a group of friends went out to a party, and I was the last one to get dropped off at home by a friend of a friend. This man pulled over on a dark street and assaulted me in the car. I was terrified and definitely thought I was going to be raped or killed. I fought back and was lucky. I told my friends about what happened; the offender brought a bouquet of flowers to my work. I thought I was going to be sick. I don’t know why I didn’t call the police.
Just about one year later, on my first job overseas as an aid worker, I experienced another frightening and humiliating sexual assault, by a work colleague in a remote village in Uganda. No alcohol was involved.
A few years ago, I was sexually harassed in the most vulgar way on an airplane in business class—and yes, the word pussy was used by this vile man.
I was not raped in either of these assaults, but felt completely traumatized nonetheless. I’ve told my husband about these experiences in detail. To some extent, I altered my entire way of being around men after these experiences. Many years ago, I bought a giant Rhodesian Ridgeback, and I felt a lot safer having that dog for protection. I still won’t walk alone in the early morning or after dark in many parts of suburban Santa Cruz.
We should never normalize any violent sexually predatory behavior or any form of violent masculinity—especially the kind of frat-boy violence that has become normal on college campuses, or harassment in the workplace—from Hollywood to Silicon Valley. Some of my best friends and colleagues are men. We need to tell more stories about the boys and men who never acted this way, and never would. The #MeToo movement has been a revelation. We cannot go back.
I’m already talking to my 12-year-old about protecting herself from sexual assault. We don’t need a misogynist on the Supreme Court. It’s frightening enough that we have one in the White House.
Name Withheld by Request
Santa Cruz, Calif.