I had a completely different post that I was going to submit for my FAR contribution this month, but that went out the window on Thursday September 27th with the Supreme Court Justice Nomination hearings of Brett Kavanaugh and the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford. And with the Friday’s senate committee’s vote to allow for Brett Kavanaugh to be one step closer to being sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice, I am reminded once again how important our work here on Feminsmandreligion.com is. It has put a spotlight on the pervasive and pernicious rhetoric that surrounds sexual violence, toxic masculinity, and hatred.
Dr. Blasey-Ford stood before a largely, white male audience. And many of which were coming into the room already hostile. Dr. Blasey-Ford was courageous in coming forward. You can watch her opening testimony here.
As Senator Cory Booker stated to Dr. Blasey-Ford:
Because what you are doing for our nation right now, besides giving testimony germane to one of the most sacred obligations of our offices. You are speaking, Truth, that our country needs to understand. And how we deal with survivors that come forward right now, is unacceptable. The way that we deal with this, unfortunately allows for the continued darkness of this culture to exist. Your brilliance shining the light unto this. Speaking your truth is nothing short of heroic.
Full clip here.
I believe Dr. Blasey- Ford. I believe survivors, I believe that those that have experienced sexual violence, no matter the time, have the right and voice to tell their story, to heal. The rhetoric sounding sexual violence, around the lack of value on women and minorities has to change.
The language that started to be used after Dr. Blasey-Ford’s testimony while questioning Brett highlights the toxic rhetoric and as Booker says, darkness, that surrounds when a victim/survivor comes forward. The rhetoric that was being used in support of Brett Kavanaugh is the toxic rhetoric that is used for all sexual abusers, and more importantly young men. It plays into a large reason sexual assault is heavily disproportioned in reporting and convictions as the focus and support is largely on the alleged abuser and what will happen to them, their futures. What about the victims? What about their good name? Their future? Their ability to have confidence in walking on a street alone, having a drink in public or even private for that matter, the clothing that choose, the makeup they wear.
This is highlighted the immense divide that is still present in American culture – about masculinities, protection of male youth mores about learning gender politics and sexual activities. It comes to a fever pinch when Senator Lindsey Graham erupts into an angry tirad against Senator Diana Fienstein and goes on to praise Brett. The questioning went on with Brett continually acting cavalier, talking back, and maintaining a smug demeanor. The Associate Press tweeted “He let his anger flare, interrupted his questioners and wept. She sought to present herself as cooperative and respectful. The Kavanaugh-Ford hearing provided a tutorial on gender roles and stereotypes. It also played out in how the senators would not let go of Kavanaugh as a nomination despite the credible testimony. It became a he said she said where it was more important to stand by their man.
This is also seen in the photo included below of the women sitting in the audience reacting to the statements given by Brett Kavanaugh.
Friday morning saw the hearings full of drama. One of the undecided Republicans, Jeff Flake, announced that he would be voting for Kavanaugh, was confronted by a courageous unnamed woman who demanded that Flake answer to her and all the other women and victims. It also saw both sides provide passionate speeches that saw many Democrats walk out of the room in protest. The vote still went on with a ruling of 11-10 to send Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Senate floor. Flake would state that his official vote in the Senate is still in question until an FBI investigation and a week delay is enacted.
Social media has erupted in hashtags on both sides. I honestly don’t know where to go from here, how this will play out but I know one thing. We must continue to find spaces, champion the forgotten, the sacred, the enempowered, and to continue to listen, really listen. Former President Jimmy Carter states “The abuse of women and girls is the most pervasive and unaddressed human rights violation on earth.” A statement found in his 2014 A Call to Action which continues to strike a code in 2018.
Anjeanette LeBoeuf is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Whittier College. She is the Queer Advocate for the Western Region of the American Academy of Religion. Anjeanette also writes the for activist blog, Engaged Gaze. Her focuses are divided between South Asian religions and religion and popular culture. She has become focused on exploring the representations of women in all forms of popular culture and how religion plays into them. She is an avid supporter of both soccer and hockey. She is also a television and movie buff which probably takes way too much of her time, but she enjoys every minute of it. Anjeanette has had a love affair with books from a very young age and always finds time in her demanding academic career to crack open a new book.