It probably seems irrational that, knowing that it is torture, that I would continue to look at coverage of Judge Kavanaugh’s hearing.
I’ve mentioned it to the men in my life. They are, like all decent men, disgusted. But they keep advising me to just stop looking. I’ve looked up articles on how to stop. They say “filter out key hashtags,” but even if I filter out #KavanaughHearing, I can’t also filter out Lindsey Graham, We Believe You, Mark Judge…
It appears that I need to explore why I can’t stop looking.
I can’t stop looking at coverage of Judge Kavanaugh’s hearing because knowing how the people I know respond to this is life-or-death information.
You see, I, like many (most) women in your life, have been a victim of sexual assault. I, like many (most) women you know, have never reported, have no plans of reporting it, and have even maintained civil relationships with our assaulters.
You see, I live in a world that is openly hostile to women. Men on the street have felt entitled to my body since I was a teenager. Even without recounting the two instances of assault I’ve experienced, I can recount all of the times I’ve experienced cringe-worthy not-quite-assault.
When I was 15, a 24-year-old man I worked with kissed me after work. When I was 16, my boss called me jailbait. When I was 17, a 40-something-year-old family friend I trusted got drunk and sent me text messages calling me “sexy” and “pure.” Right around this time, I was the child of a low-income single-parent household making decisions about my future, and I wanted nothing more than to start applying to music conservatories. This family friend was helping me through this decision, including introducing me to local producers and studio owners. My mother, without knowing what text messages I had received but knowing about the world women lived in, asked me to reconsider a career in music – at least for now. “I can’t protect you,” my mom said. “I don’t have the money or social standing to do anything if something goes terribly wrong.” And in the music industry, things go terribly wrong all the time. I entered university on a full scholarship as an economics major.
So yeah, #MeToo. We went over that last year.
But women – my mom, me, my friends, my work colleagues – don’t generally feel like helpless waifs in the face of a sea of abusive men. No, the women I know are strong, and the advice they give each other is proactive: carry mace. Walk with your keys in your hand, a sharp key between your fingers. Cover your drink. Own your own finances.
When my MBA came in the mail, I was living in a windowless shared room in Manhattan with 8 other girls. I texted a picture of it to my mom, and she said texted back, “now you can have a career in music.”
This is what women believe. We may live in a world that is openly hostile to women, but if we are proactive, walk in groups, get educations, earn our own money, and develop skills we can always fall back on, then we will be OK. That doesn’t mean we’ll be safe – anything can happen, whether you’re living in a fortress or in a 9-bedroom loft in Manhattan. We live in a world where people hurt other people, often in unknowing ways. If all of us sought to seek retribution for every injustice done upon us, we would not have enough time to pursue our happiness and passions. So we focus on the future and on the single, most productive thing we can do: we make sure we have the power to fight back if one day we must.
When I see Dr. Christine Blasey Ford on the stand: an extremely educated, wealthy, white woman, I see a person who is living the most extreme example of the warning my mom gave me when I was 17. I see a woman who has cultivated every possible defense a woman could, in a position where she must fight back against the most powerful assaulter one could have.
And I see people laughing at her.
I can’t look away.
I have to know how this ends.
If Dr. Ford, with all of her cultivated strength, can’t fight back this aggressor, how can I believe I can? My generation’s mothers told us, daughters, that if we invested in ourselves then we would be able to fight back the monsters if we needed to. Today, we are more educated and more united than ever. If even in this strength, we cannot prevent an abuser with a fickle temperament from becoming a Supreme Court justice, was this advice wrong all along?
We were told that strength exists in education, unity, and incremental progress towards equality. We were told that these honorable factors make revenge unnecessary.
Was that wrong?