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Women Roar in the Face of Men Like Trump, Kavanaugh, Cosby

With masses of women on the outside backing bold and powerful women on the inside refusing to be silenced and diminished, there can be no going back

Women gather on Capitol Hill on Sept. 4 to protest Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination. (YouTube screen shot)

Women gather on Capitol Hill on Sept. 4 to protest Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination. (YouTube screen shot)

It is a telling fact that the least surprising news item this week has been President Trump making himself the laughingstock of the world at the United Nations General Assembly. But aside from that predictable outcome of Trump’s presidency, several other enormously critical political clashes are expected to take place this week alone that were hard to imagine just a few years ago.

We will, first and foremost, see a fight over how seriously we take violence against women at Thursday’s Senate Judiciary hearing, at which Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the woman accusing him of attempted rape will testify. But at the same hearing, we will find out just how deep Republicans and Trump will sink into a pit of ugliness of their own creation in order to cement the position of a deeply unpopular nominee to the Supreme Court—a man who could jeopardize so many rights we take for granted.

The breathtaking pace of destruction wrought over the past two years ought to be viewed as the desperate last gasp of a defunct conservative ideology that is utterly shameless in its designs and boundless in its scope.

The breathtaking pace of destruction wrought over the past two years ought to be viewed as the desperate last gasp of a defunct conservative ideology that is utterly shameless in its designs and boundless in its scope. No issues are sacrosanct when it comes to today’s Trump-supporting, card-carrying Republican Party—from every woman’s right to safety and security; to workers’ rights to living wages, decent jobs, health care and Social Security; to immigrants’ rights to safety and family; to children’s rights to breathe clean air and drink clean water; to the right of our species to be safe from a changing climate; and to so many more. No issues, that is, save for the U.S. military and white supremacist Christian fundamentalism.

Against this barrage of violent assaults, our primary weapons—and I speak as a woman—are our voices and our bodies.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has shown the world the power of her voice, intervening at the potential height of her alleged assaulter’s career, because she could no longer bear the facade of his perfect, pious life as he appeared easily to sail toward confirmation to the nation’s highest court. She knew exactly how right-wing media and trolls would threaten her with rhetorical and real violence. But she has spoken out anyway, just as Julie Swetnick and Deborah Ramirez, Kavanaugh’s other accusers, have done.

Women are speaking up everywhere. In the lead-up to Thursday’s hearing, an unnamed woman who was among hundreds protesting Kavanaugh’s nomination in Washington, D.C., on Monday relayed her own story of rape and survival in a packed hallway filled with activists and police. She is seen in a now-viral video saying, “He started choking me. … He raped me as he choked me. And when I heard Professor Ford say that Kavanaugh had his hand over her mouth, I believed her. You do not forget someone choking you.” She explained to the rapt crowd, “I came from Boston on the train last night because I cannot tolerate the way the Senate is responding to these allegations against Kavanaugh.” This brave woman has used the power of her voice and her presence in the nation’s capital to speak out. Similarly, celebrities like Alyssa Milano and Padma Lakshmi have added their stories of surviving rape to the record of male violence against women.

Conservatives certainly do not have a monopoly on rape and sexual assault of women. Just as a seemingly nice guy like Kavanaugh (he coaches girls’ basketball, we’re constantly reminded!) could have sexually assaulted multiple women while calling himself a good Catholic, and just as hundreds of Catholic priests claimed their religious leadership while systematically raping children, America’s favorite dad, Bill Cosby, spent his adult life as a serial sexual predator. This week, Cosby was dragged away in handcuffs for the crime of drugging and raping Andrea Constand, a punishment he is finally suffering because Constand stuck to her guns despite being called “a gold-digger, a con artist, and a pathological liar.” She continued speaking out because, in her own words, “[I]t was the right thing to do, and I wanted to do the right thing, even if it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.” Cosby, like Harvey Weinstein, is among that faction of powerful men in liberal Hollywood that has gotten away with committing violence against women for far too long.

Even the Democratic Party is not immune, as we have found. Most recently, Amy Alexander and Karen Monahan have used the power of their voices to call out a giant among progressives: Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who they say was physically abusive toward them. A Minnesota Democratic Party investigation into the allegations is now wrapping up. And of course we know of the misdeeds and alleged crimes of Bill Clinton and former Rep. John Conyers, among others.

Despite centuries of being shut out of decision-making power, women have slowly clawed their way into the halls of power and are pushing back against the juggernaut of patriarchal domination.

Presidents, judges, priests, actors, producers, politicians and others are all part of the problem women face. So are corporations. Last week workers at McDonald’s restaurants in 10 cities walked off their jobs to protest rampant sexual harassment in their workplaces. These working-class women risked being fired or losing pay to speak out about what they have tolerated for far too long from their corporate employer. The action was backed by the pro-union labor group Fight for $15 and by Time’s Up, a group that emerged from the #MeToo movement. The McDonald’s workers aimed to highlight the shocking statistic that—in the words of one organizer—“One out of two workers experience workplace sexual violence under their watch.” Similar stories of rampant sexual abuse and harassment have emerged from companies like Ford, Vice Media and Bank of America.

Despite centuries of being shut out of decision-making power, women have slowly clawed their way into the halls of power and are pushing back against the juggernaut of patriarchal domination. An unprecedented number of women are running for office this year, with progressive women winning Democratic primary races and heading to Congress.

A powerful gathering of hundreds of women at the SHE THE PEOPLE summit in San Francisco last Thursday highlighted the gains that women of color in particular have made in the electoral realm. Joining their voices together in eloquent rage, figures including Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, soon-to-be Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and House candidate Deb Haaland of New Mexico shared the stage with powerhouse activists like Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, and Linda Sarsour of the Women’s March. They represent a long-neglected constituency of women of color who are flexing their political muscles and are ready to take on Trump, Kavanaugh, Cosby, Ellison, Weinstein, McDonald’s and all those arrayed against women.

We have reached a tipping point. With masses of women on the outside backing bold and powerful women on the inside refusing to be silenced and diminished, there can be no going back.

Cosby’s imprisonment and the coming derailment of Kavanaugh’s confirmation are only the beginning.

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Sonali Kolhatkar

Sonali Kolhatkar
Sonali Kolhatkar is a columnist for Truthdig. She also is the founder, host and executive producer of "Rising Up With Sonali," a television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV (Dish Network, DirecTV, Roku) and Pacifica stations KPFK, KPFA, and affiliates. She is the former founder, host and producer of KPFK Pacifica’s popular morning drive-time program “Uprising." She is also the co-director of the Afghan Women's Mission, a U.S.-based non-profit solidarity organization that funds the social, political, and humanitarian projects of RAWA. She is the author, with James Ingalls, of "Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence" (2006).

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