Marisa Wright: Brett Kavanaugh and the year of the woman

Sunday, October 7, 2018 - 4:12pm

Marisa Wright

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If the past few weeks have taught us anything, except how misogyny is still swiftly flowing through the veins of America, it is that 2018 is not the year of the woman.

A year after Anita Hill testified before the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee alleging Clarence Thomas sexually assaulted her, 1992 was dubbed the “Year of the Woman." More women than ever before ran for elected office, many of whom credited the injustice of the Thomas hearings as a primary motivating factor. Current Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Patty Murray,  as well as former Sens. Carol Moseley Braun and Barbara Boxer, chose to run for the U.S. Senate specifically because they were appalled at the treatment of Hill by the all-male committee panel. They wondered what could have been different had there been a woman, or two or three, on the committee questioning Hill and Thomas.

While the strides women made in 1992 are important for the history of increasingly equal representation in the U.S. government, the year of the woman did not ultimately succeed as it ended with the election of a man whose sexual improprieties were more than problematic.

Almost 30 years later, many pundits and commentators have haphazardly designated 2018 another “Year of the Woman” after a record number of women have filed to run for elected office and, in many cases, won their primaries and are predicted to win in November.

Many bad men, including former CBS CEO Les Moonves, former Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold and former news anchor Charlie Rose, have been cast down from their towers of power following excellent reporting on how each used their societal power and male privilege to sexually harass and assault women. For the cherry on top, female physicist Donna Strickland just won the Nobel Prize in physics.

At the same time, Brett Kavanaugh was just confirmed to the highest court in the country despite being credibly accused of sexual assault and demonstrating what can almost certainly be considered the exact opposite of judicial temperance.

Kavanaugh and Mark Judge, a friend of Kavanaugh’s, allegedly  shoved Christine Blasey Ford into a bedroom, played loud music to drown out her cries for help, repeatedly and violently groped her and drunkenly attempted to remove her clothing. Since Ford so courageously shared her story of the most traumatic night of her life, several other women have also accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, including exposing himself, forcing a woman to touch him without consent and being present during a gang rape.

A year of the woman does not include a man like Kavanaugh being nominated to the Supreme Court. It does not even include the nomination of a man who has the ability to strip the reproductive rights of millions of American women, in addition to stripping other individual freedoms such as voting rights or queer women’s right to legal marriage. It also does not include a Republican-sided all-male Senate Judiciary Committee that forces a woman to testify about the most traumatic moment of her life over several days without allowing other witnesses to testify. It does not include hiring a female prosecutor to question and attempt to discredit the woman to avoid bad optics — all while throwing tantrums about how this man’s life is ruined because he might not get the job he wanted. In a year of the woman, there is most certainly not a president of the United States who brags about sexually assaulting women, has dozens of sexual assault allegations against him, mocks the brave woman standing up to Kavanaugh or bemoans how terrible the world is to men while saying women are doing great.

The next presidential election will take place in the year marking the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which constitutionally gave women the right to vote; however, it is important to note it only guaranteed white women suffrage and it took another 45 years before all women could vote. Though 2020 will already be symbolic of this anniversary, it has the chance to finally fulfill the promise of being a year for women through the election of the first female President of the United States.

 

Marisa Wright can be reached at marisadw@umich.edu.