The coverage of the Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford hearings are yet to near their end. I watched the hearings, from my computer in the living room to my phone on the way to class. No matter what is said to try and diminish it’s significance, it was a monumental occasion and one that encapsulates so much of what has been occurring in our cultural landscape. From MeToo to partisanship to gender norms, it hit all the talking points.
There has been much analysis of the hearings with the temperament of each interviewee, especially in relation to gender dynamics, being a particularly intriguing aspect of the coverage. While Ford was softly-spoken and accommodating, Kavanaugh remained in a state of resistance and defense. The conduct he displayed would arguably not have been so readily accepted if Dr. Ford was in his place. A poignant example being when he asked Senator Klobuchar if she had every blacked out from drinking when she had asked that of him.
Over the course of watching the hearing, I was surprised how affected I became. Watching Dr Ford’s face contort in her will to keep her emotions concealed while Democratic senators lauded her with praise and calls of heroism, it was difficult to keep my own eyes from tearing. When it came to the time of Kavanaugh’s statement, it became clear that he was presenting a version of himself that would most appeal to supporters, defiant, strong and with all guns blazing.
Can you feel affected and not be a victim? Of course, if you have gone through an instance of sexual abuse, the hearings and the coverage would have been upsetting on a whole other level. Especially as other victims are not even being permitted the chance to speak and to have their personal experiences being considered with equal respect and dignity.
Not being a direct victim is no reason to dismiss a woman’s reaction. I recently saw a thread on Twitter* where it was asked, “What would you do if all men had a 9pm curfew?” Examples that came to mind were, could I walk myself home after a night out? Take the night tube home without fear? Or take a walk around the city in the middle of the night, just because I wanted to? These seem so trivial and minor but are instances that are taken for granted by men and are so often out of the question for women.
That is not to diminish the fear that men have. Men are also attacked and threatened and made to feel vulnerable. Nonetheless, while perhaps not all being victims of sexual abuse, women know what it is to have a different experience of the world and as such reactions should not be diminished or swept aside. As events and instances in current affairs seem to trickle into the more absurd and upsetting, we should not differentiate between who is allowed to feel what.