Do we really have to be here for this?
By “we,” I mean America. And by “this,” I mean some form of forced group therapy session for adult women who cannot move past an ugly event from their teen years and feel the need to relitigate it in public nearly four decades later. A serious vetting process for a Supreme Court nominee has suddenly devolved into the GenX version of “The Big Chill.”
Here’s the deal: Christine Blasey Ford is one year older than I am. We came of age in the hard-partying 1980s when binge drinking among Americans teens was at an all-time high. A huge cultural shift was happening: Moms were entering the workforce and divorce rates were surging. Teenagers had extra latitude to do naughty things while our parents were busy working or finding new relationships post-divorce.
Plenty of GenX women have at least one story somewhat similar to the one Ford now says happened to her in the early 1980s: Attending a “house party” with a small group of drunk teens at a home where no parent was present; getting so blitzed you can’t later recall important details—like the exact date it happened or how you got home. Having inebriated boys take advantage of the situation—getting sloppy and aggressive, maybe even trying to force themselves on you. While the behavior was not excusable or acceptable, nor was it criminal. Especially if it ended after a firm “no.” (And, before any of you morons say it, NO I AM NOT DEFENDING RAPE.)
Human Nature Doesn’t Change
Moreover, these kinds of situations are not unique to the 1980s because they still happen every weekend in towns and on campuses across the country. Something that is definitely different today than it was in the 1980s is that responsible parents of boys now caution their sons about the dangers of even the perception of mistreating a girl. Parents now are keenly aware of the legal and long term consequences of alleged abusive behavior. And girls are more informed about how to defend themselves, whether its moving in groups, watching your drinks, or having each other’s backs to mitigate situations that may get out of control.
My generation, as parents, do not pretend that the impulses of teenagers and young adults do not exist, or that these impulses are not fueled by drugs and alcohol. Human nature does not adapt to conform to any particular cultural moment.
Which brings me back to Ford. I don’t doubt that some version of the incident she described did happen to her—or to someone she knew—at some point during her teen years. It appears to be traumatizing enough that it was brought up during her marriage counseling.
I am, however, highly suspect that Judge Kavanaugh was the assailant, particularly because she has no proof he was, nor can she recall crucial details such as when it happened, where it happened, or how old she was. No one has corroborated her account. There now are conflicting versions between her letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and comments made by Ford’s attorney.
Kavanaugh and another friend who is alleged to have attended the drunken gathering have fiercely denied the accusations; Kavanaugh has offered to testify publicly. Ford has backtracked on her initial offer to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The whole thing is a mess.
If Ford were interested in healing—or even seeking justice after all these decades—there are plenty of other paths she could have pursued. Disclosing it to a politician rather than a law enforcement official seems to be a sure way to make it worse, not better.
How Big Girls Think
And unfortunately for the helpless Americans trapped in this collective therapist’s office, Ford’s tale has prompted more women to “speak out.”
Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas’ accuser, has reappeared. A weird video montage of women, including a few celebrities, assured Dr. Ford that they believed her and that her (nonexistent) testimony was “credible.” After coddling her as a victim, the gals then swooned about how she was a survivor and whatnot. Amy Schumer tweeted the ad, telling Ford she was believable because “we’ve all been you.”
Alumni of Ford’s prestigious alma mater signed a letter of support, claiming they, too, are “survivors” of the same kinds of “stories we heard about and lived” while attending the school. The sisterhood at the Huffington Post scoffed that Kavanaugh might lose a job but “victims can lose faith in their ability to create a positive future for themselves.” Not uncoincidentally, the Washington Post published a lengthy opinion feature on Wednesday about a teen girl who was raped in Texas more than a decade ago. The subhead was, “What Do We Owe Her Now?” The reporter tweeted her piece, claiming “every town, every high school has some urban legend about some girl to whom something terrible may have happened, or may not have.”
MSNBC contributor Ana Marie Cox claimed a public hearing featuring the accuser would force “millions of women and men who have been through something like this in their lives . . . to kind of have to live through it again. They will be retraumatized.” She also said Kavanaugh must be judged not on what he did or didn’t do, but “how he treats a woman’s pain.”
Other women from the Duran Duran era are sharing their own scary teen encounters. Caitlin Flanagan, a writer for The Atlantic, authored a lengthy piece titled, “I Believe Her.” Flanagan claimed she “confronted her own Brett Kavanaugh” in high school when she and a boy “struggled against each other” in a car after he drove her home. (She does not get into details, but insisted the encounter was date rape even though he stopped.) In her yearbook, he seemingly fessed up to the incident, then apologized to her a few years later in person.
Because of her own personal experience, Flanagan therefore thinks Ford is telling the truth. Further proof that Kavanaugh is guilty, according to Flanagan, is that he never apologized: “By Ford’s account, Kavanaugh’s acts did cause lasting damage, and he has done nothing at all to try to make that right. And that is why the mistake of a 17-year-old kid still matters. If it’s not true, Kavanaugh should be confirmed without a cloud of suspicion. If it is true, we’ll have to decide whether you get to attack a girl, show no remorse, and eventually become a Supreme Court justice. My own inclination is: No.”
That’s not really how big girls think.
Work It Out
Professional women given the constitutional duty of vetting a Supreme Court justice here sound more like spurned sorority sisters than like thoughtful adults. “It is time to end this kind of treatment of people who come forward when they don’t need to talk about very painful parts of their life experiences because they care who sits on the Supreme Court,” lamented Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). “This is patently unfair to her. I just want to say to the men in this country just shut up and do the right thing for a change.”
Of course, this all is politics wrapped up in feigned sympathy and phony I’ll-hold-your-hair-while-you-puke sisterhood. If Ford was still haunted by something that happened back when Michael Jackson was teaching the world how to moonwalk, there were other ways she could have handled this. (She apparently now is getting death threats, an unfortunate consequence of going to politicians rather than to law enforcement officials with vague details of an ancient event.)
No matter whose political agenda it serves, we are under no obligation to help Christine Blasey Ford or any grown woman work through whatever issues they might have. And turning American politics into a late-night dorm chat while trying to destroy the professional and personal life of a man these women don’t want on the Supreme Court is a spectacle we can all live without.
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