We find ourselves yet again perched on the precipice of confirming a supreme court judicial nominee who stands accused of sexual misconduct. I can’t help but ruminate on my own catholic high school education and connect it to how it set and continues to set the foundation for men like Brett Kavanaugh to rise.
I grew up in a large Italian, Catholic family and was 10 years old the year that Clarence Thomas was confirmed to the Supreme Court. I remember the ongoing testimony of Anita Hill blasting from my grandparent’s TV as my whole family seethed with anger…at her. Racism and misogyny emanated from their collective whole and they unequivocally did not believe her. “Why did she wait so long to come forward? I don’t just don’t trust her. I don’t like her” were some of the comments I heard, her impossible situation eluding their grasp.
Unable to empathize or try to understand how hard it must be for a woman of color to rise through the ranks of a male-dominated industry that is architected for women to experience inequality.
Unable to empathize or try to understand how hard it must be for a woman of color to rise through the ranks of a male-dominated industry that is architected for women to experience inequality. Unable to see that the fear of losing a career she toiled for in prohibitive circumstances may have prevented her from coming forward sooner. During that hearing we saw men like Joe Biden, who today fancies himself a feminist excoriate her, more willing to back a man with whom he wasn’t even politically aligned with.
And again, here we are, the right already fuming with outrage at Kavanaugh’s accuser: why did she wait so long? How dare she ruin his career? Can anyone corroborate her story? His future is at stake! The modern-day equivalent of “what was she wearing?”. Because in the age of #MeToo, just as it always has, the burden falls to women to find corroboration. But what passes the muster for corroboration today? How many women does it take to come forward before credibility is achieved? The cases of Cosby, Weinstein and Brock Turner prove that we’re looking for an immense volume of trustworthy (white) witnesses or corroborators to prevent the ruin of a man’s future.
An entire cover of Time Magazine filled with Cosby accusers still did not sway the perception of many that he was not capable of sexual abuse. Harvey Weinstein was only toppled by a group of famous and mostly white women with the backing of Ronan Farrow who the powerful tried to continuously silence. Brock Turner was sentenced to just 3 months in jail for raping an unconscious woman with 2 witnesses. Their futures are valued over women’s trauma.
What is ignored in our situation is that the victim has already lost more and has just much to lose in the future as the accused and yet the perception that she has something to gain from coming forward persists.
What is ignored in our situation is that the victim has already lost more and has just much to lose in the future as the accused and yet the perception that she has something to gain from coming forward persists. The statute of limitations on legal action has expired, the savage discourse of the American public is already eviscerating Kavanaugh’s victim, trying to find any flaw in her character and now she is in the midst of having to re-live a trauma that took many years of therapy to try and heal.
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When I opened the New York times to see that the accuser came forward and read the contents of emails between he and his well-connected friends, I realized: I know Brett Kavanaugh because I went to High School with a gaggle of him.
My small Catholic High School in an affluent suburb of San Francisco sold our student body the lie that only women have the responsibility of preventing their own sexual abuse and biology disavowed my male peers of that responsibility.
Ladies keep your skirts long and your legs closed because men cannot be held accountable for their behavior. After all men are supposed to behave that way.
My very good education was accompanied everything standard of a wealthy, religious environment: abstinence speakers, anti-choice lectures, morality policing, skirt measuring, a disproportionate volume of white students, a parking lot full of cars no teenager should be driving and a football culture to rival Varsity Blues. It set the stage for a privileged group to evade accountability for consistent incendiary behavior. And the message from the administration was clear: ladies keep your skirts long and your legs closed because men cannot be held accountable for their behavior. After all men are supposed to behave that way.
A group of future Ivy League fraternity brothers dominated our school culture with plenty of resources and no rules. They could find their way out of almost any trouble that a drunken Friday night post-football game party would offer up. I remember being at a house party where when any female would walk into the room, a group of male students would circle and chant “show your tits!”. If one of my female friends was outed as having a sexual experience with a male peer she was deemed a slut and verbally smeared by the men who grew up under fathers that didn’t want their boys lives to be ruined by “5 minutes of action”.
The culture created for that environment delivered the same message that the religious right is trying to permanently legislate into American culture with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh: women are merely sexual objects who cannot be trusted to make decisions about their own bodies.
Make no mistake, regardless of the collective outcry that progressives are delivering, Brett Kavanaugh will be confirmed to the supreme court. He’s got the purse strings of the Federalist Society and a litany of powerful men poised to enable him to evade consequences. They have been salivating to deliver their message loud and clear through the court since January 2016: ladies keep your mouths shut and your legs closed, unless I tell you to open them, because you belong to me.