The Brett Kavanaugh Saga – Victory of One, Defeat of Many
On the 6th of October, 2018, US President Donald Trump’s “great” judicial nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his supporters celebrated a victory, but for Professor Christine Blasey Ford and the #MeToo movement, it was a defeat.
It was a defeat because the bravery and faith of many women was crushed by the votes of a male-dominated Senate endorsing Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). What was more upsetting was that even female members of the Senate supported his nomination, with Senator Susan Collins denying that Kavanaugh was Professor Ford’s assailant and saying,
“I do believe [Professor Ford] was assaulted. I don’t know by whom. And I’m not certain when.”
Following the retirement of Justice Kennedy from the SCOTUS, President Trump had nominated Brett Kavanaugh as his replacement. It was not long after his nomination that Professor Ford brought sexual harassment allegations against him. She alleged that at a high school party in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh had assaulted her. Soon after her accusation, more women came forward with their allegations against Kavanaugh for improper conduct. Kavanaugh straightaway denied the accusations, whilst President Trump defended his nomination.
Just hours after the Senate voted to confirm his nomination, Kavanaugh got sworn in as the 114th Supreme Court Justice. His confirmation is not merely a discouragement and disappointment for women and #MeToo supporters but has also left a question mark on the judiciary’s selection process. It has given a message to dauntless women like Professor Ford that this world still doesn’t care about their traumatic experiences. On the other side of the story, President Trump, when asked about the reactions of women to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, commented,
“…a lot of women are extremely happy.”
For Trump and the women he is indicating to, it may be a “tremendous victory”, but for Professor Ford, for the #MeToo movement, for sexual harassment victims it is a virulent battle that has ended in a depressing loss.
Some of us were optimistic that Professor Ford was being heard in the Senate—it surely was something extraordinary that she was given a chance to tell her story while the whole world was watching— sadly, she was considered a deceiver because “she took too long to speak up”. She was suspected, while Kavanaugh was acclaimed. Professor Ford stood before the world with noteworthy courage, encountered her terrors, her darkest memories and the distress she had gone through. Unfortunately, the world still questioned her honesty and demanded proof of the events that took place in the early 1980s in a party, as if women can foretell that they’re going to be harassed so they better record it or keep some evidence of the incident to throw it on the face of those who demand evidence.
A day after Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Professor Ford’s legal team conveyed a message from her that she was not going to further pursue her case against him. This again is not a shocker. When, after fighting with your fears for years and finally working up some courage to speak up, you still get mocked and characterized as a ‘liar’, have the the accuracy of your story questioned and watch the Senate appoint your assailant to the highest court in the country and send you a message that they don’t consider you worthy of respect and don’t care whatever happened to you, why would you or Professor Ford or any other woman even consider pursuing the case when all the optimism and courage has been crushed by a male-dominated Senate that has zero respect and empathy?
This has not only shattered Professor Ford’s hope but has also discouraged other women from coming forward to report incidents of assault and harassment. The same can be said about the reactions people have had to Meesha Shafi’s claims against Ali Zafar. Our message to her and other women has been the same as that of the Senate to Professor Ford.
However, in the time of huge dissatisfaction and discouragement that the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh has caused, the #MeToo movement has taken India by storm. Hats off to courageous women like Tanushree Dutta for going against all odds and coming forward with their personal stories of sexual harassment. It’s not that they have not been questioned or that people have not demanded proof of the incident from them, but at least they have taken a step in the right direction and have encouraged more and more women to come forward in support.
People will forget the story of Professor Ford as time goes by, but it’s a heartbreaking defeat for her and the #MeToo movement. In one part of the world, movements like #MeToo are being turned into a joke and people are continuously discouraging women from coming forward to report their stories of sexual harassment, but in another part of the world, more and more women are coming forward and telling their stories to the world despite the fear of being termed as a “liar”. Women are showing courage and coming forward with their stories, yet they will continue to be asked the same questions:
“Why didn’t you speak up sooner?”
“Do you have proof?”
“Why should we believe you?”
As Professor Ford and the rest of us sit in our homes and see the world mocking victims and survivors of sexual harassment and assault, a man with multiple sexual misconduct accusations against him will sit in the Supreme Court of the United States as its 144th judge.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any organization with which she might be associated.