Hannah Liu ‘21:
As a female, I have encountered plenty of unsolicited advice – criticisms in how I speak, sit, stand, walk, dress, eat, laugh and breathe in order to make myself appear “ladylike.” In middle school, I remember our eagle-eyed lunch patrol officer scoping out girls who were wearing tanks or shorts or skirts and checking to see if the strap was three fingers wide or if the hem of the clothing passed our fingertips. If our outfits violated the dress code, we were told to go to the nurse’s office to change into clothes from the lost-and-found. My Sunday school teachers told me dress-code rules existed so boys wouldn’t be distracted by our clothing. The school administration told us dress code rules existed to “promote a professional atmosphere.” But, we never heard the boys told to change out of their tank tops.
In high school, we were given presentations on rape prevention “tips.” Included in these “tips” were: “Stay in a group,” “Keep pepper spray in your bag” and “Stay away from alcohol and drugs.” Although these tips may have been well-intended, they ended up having a harmful effect. The focus on what people can do to avoid being sexually assaulted puts the blame on the survivors and not the assailant. Throughout my relatively short life, I was taught again and again that I – and other girls – are responsible for the actions of boys. In the past couple of weeks, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has had her story questioned endlessly – one of those questions being, “Why didn’t she come forward sooner?” I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know I would have been afraid of others not believing me and I would have asked myself if it was my own fault.
Sexual assault should never be blamed on the survivors. If we reward Judge Kavanaugh with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, even when a credible allegation of sexual assault is laid against him, we are saying that in cases of sexual violence, the assailant is not at fault. In a way, we are also saying the blame falls on the survivor. The courage Dr. Ford has shown in coming forward, like the courage shown in the #MeToo movement, has already inspired thousands to come forward with their own stories. How we move forward in this unique moment in history will affect how many more survivors will come forward in years to come.
Hannah Liu ’21 (email@example.com) is from Shoreline, Wash. She majors in music.
Elizabeth Trewartha-Weiner ‘21:
Thursday morning, after a filling cafeteria breakfast, I opened my laptop, typed CNN in my search bar, clicked “go live.” I didn’t move again until 3:30 in the afternoon. The feeling of sickness and anxiety that began when I turned on the Kavanaugh hearing live stream didn’t leave me until I knew it had ended. The hearing illustrated a contemporary reality – that society is more protective of the future and reputation of a white man, than it has ever been of a single woman.
Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing on Thursday was nothing new. This has been a theme, wherein famous, accomplished men use their credentials as a way to quiet the female voices that could harm their reputation. However, they never consider what these women are giving up in order to tell their story, and speak their truth. This brings me to Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford.
The two have similar levels of education from equally prestigious institutions. During his testimony, Kavanaugh brought up multiple times his accomplishments from high school (didn’t you hear? He went to Georgetown Prep) to his most recent credentials. He brought these accomplishments up to give his story more validity, he wanted people watching at home to think to themselves: “Well he couldn’t have done it because he’s smart!” However, Ford isn’t given this same privilege. As a woman, her credentials do not provide validity to her statements, even if they are nearly the same.
I couldn’t help but think the entire time I listened to the hearing that no matter what happens with this vote, not much will change. Kavanaugh, even if he isn’t put on the bench, will still be a respected academic. Can we promise the same for Ford? Will people still respect her the way they once did? Or will they see her as a liar? As someone pining for fame at the expense of some man?
This is something I imagine a lot of victims deal with. Back and forth. “What will this do to me? Will people believe me? Or will they throw my story away? And with it, throw away my validity? Credibility? What will I become as a result? As a result of asking for justice?”
Elizabeth Trewartha-Weiner ‘21 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Rochester, Minn. Her major is undeclared.
Brigid Miller ‘21:
If you needed proof that in 2018 sexism and misogyny are as prevalent as ever, look no further than the Senate Judiciary Committee and the hearings of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
After watching both of the testimonies, it became clear to me that there is still a stark difference in the way men and women are treated, especially when it comes to their past actions. Dr. Ford spoke of how past events have haunted and impacted her future, whereas Judge Kavanaugh was defended in that his alleged actions should not haunt his future.
This clear double standard became glaringly obvious when Judge Kavanaugh repeatedly brought up his past accomplishments in an attempt to change the narrative of the hearing. Judge Kavanaugh seemed to be saying that his high school and college achievements shouldn’t and cannot be overshadowed by these allegations. But nothing was said for the survivors, like Dr. Ford, whose futures are forever impacted and changed by the actions of someone else.
Shortly after watching the hearings, I saw a tweet which read, “Brock Turners grow up to be Brett Kavanaughs who make the rules for Brock Turners.” This tweet seemingly summarized the sexist culture that makes up many of our institutions today. Men accused of rape and sexual assault are still able to have successful futures, meaning their past actions have little influence on their future careers.
Unfortunately, this is a common practice throughout the country. I am certain there are many of us who have seen or read about instances in which men are let off the hook or not charged after being accused and oftentimes found guilty of sexual assault.
If Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed and appointed to the Supreme Court, the Senate will not be straying from common practice. That is, when it comes to men committing acts of sexual violence, past actions and attacks do not and should not affect their future. The overarching issue that has been exposed by these hearings and clarified by the aforementioned tweet, is that men have constructed the institutions which regulate our society, and, because of this, their futures have been unaffected by past actions for decades.
Take, for example, the Senate Judiciary Committee. Of the 21 members of this committee, only four are women. This male-dominated group has the power to approve Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination and send it to the Senate for a confirmation vote, and this is exactly what they did on Friday. This is just one example of a system designed by men, which benefits men and forgives their past actions to ensure their futures.
Although the Kavanaugh hearings cast a negative pall on our current state as a nation, and highlight the sexism in our political and judicial institutions, I remain hopeful things will change. This is because there is a record number of women running for office in 2018. Electing women to federal and state seats is the solution to both dismantling the male-dominated institutions that govern this country and changing the sexism that permeates our nation.
Brigid Miller ’21 (email@example.com) is from Downers Grove, Ill. She majors in history.