Months have passed since Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and while the headlines no longer bear his name every day, it is crucial to understand the implications of his appointment and seek answers from representatives who overlooked his alleged behavior with their vote of support. Kavanaugh’s acceptance to the highest court in our country was a disservice to our justice system because empowering a man accused of criminal conduct to rule on the conduct of others threatens the respect the Supreme Court requires. Moreover, appointing a man enveloped in suspicion and scandal jeopardizes the legitimacy of the Supreme Court. For multiple reasons, I object to his confirmation and believe it merits further reflection and a more nuanced conversation about gender issues, our government, and our legal system.
While I believe the testimony of Dr. Blasey Ford, we may never definitively know whether the allegations against Kavanaugh are true. But, if they are in fact true, then a man capable of illegal violence is now a part of the highest court in the country. Kavanaugh claims that his confirmation hearing has irreparably harmed his reputation and scarred his family. And yet, he had the opportunity to clear his name with an FBI investigation to prove his stated innocence, but instead, he denied officials the opportunity to cast further clarity on his past and his character. To me, that begs the question: is there something for him to hide? Perhaps he simply wanted to retain some privacy with the nation’s eyes on him, but his neglect to subject himself to further investigation reinforces doubt that he is fit to serve on the nation’s highest court. Further, Kavanaugh’s behavior during the confirmation contradicts the Trump Administration’s position that he has the temperament to make judgements on some of our country’s most sensitive cases; he presented himself as erratic, emotional, and politically divisive. His performance, therefore, tampers hope that he will serve the country as an impartial adjudicator of the law.
While Kavanaugh’s placement on the Supreme Court will impact law and federal precedent throughout his life tenure, I believe the societal consequences of his confirmation hearing and appointment may be more grave to the American public. First, the spectacle signified to women that the reputation and careers of powerful men are more important than their safety and well-being. The elected officials who dismissed Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony, demonstrating an indifference and apathy to her experience, while portraying Kavanaugh as a victim of slander, chose to champion his career or their political agenda over all other considerations. The bias for Kavanaugh was evident when the President mocked Ford at a rally and when Republican members on the Senate Judiciary Committee dismissed the credible and scientific description of Dr. Ford’s trauma, instead focusing on small details to minimize her reliability. The committee used a detailed map of DC suburbs to argue she must have been in a car the day of the alleged assault and she was unreliable for not remembering who drove her that day. They also chose to call attention to the fact that she has a reported fear of flying, though has travelled by plane many times to somehow paint her as inconsistent. Republican members thus largely overlooked the issue at hand, a very serious allegation of assault, to cast doubt on tangential information and attack her credibility. Kavanaugh, on the other hand, was not met with the same detailed scrutiny. His mysterious high school calendar was accepted as evidence and he was promoted despite evading several questions, even asking whether Senator Klobuchar if she blacks out from drinking when she posed that very question to him. There was a stark difference in Dr. Ford’s testimony and Mr. Kavanaugh’s testimony, and yet Kavanaugh prevailed. His career and the mission of securing a conservative court disturbingly outweighed the significance of Dr. Blasey Ford’s trauma for many elected officials.
The President’s rhetoric in the wake of the confirmation hearing also reflects the indelicate treatment of the whole process. President Trump stated “it’s a very scary time for young men in America, when you can be guilty of something that you may not be guilty of.” His hyperbolic outcry demonstrates his bias for Kavanaugh and his neglect of the reality women face today; false accusations are extremely rare and roughly one in five women are sexually assaulted before they complete their undergraduate degree. The alarming frequency of assault and the impression that our lawmakers are unaware or indifferent to it, perhaps in order to secure their own political power, raises the important question: who is truly more at risk in our country? Some of our elected officials are more concerned with tarnishing a man’s career than the physical safety of women and criminal justice when that safety is violated. Kavanaugh’s confirmation reveals that men who disrespect women, who disregard women, and who assault women, can evade punishment and reach the height of their careers. This both incentivizes continued institutionalized sexism and discourages victims of assault from seeking redress. Simply put, not holding powerful men accountable may embolden them to act similarly and abusively in the future. Furthermore, when women see that victims who come forward are scrutinized, threatened, and discredited, they are less likely to raise their own voices and share their experiences. It’s astonishing that women subject to assault can be further attacked by the public when trying to seek justice and bring awareness to the issue. Although many people showed resounding support for Dr. Blasey Ford, they could not eliminate the hateful threats that also came in response to her brave testimony. Thus, the publicity of Kavanaugh’s confirmation exposed the dark reality that awaits people who challenge the integrity of men in power.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation demonstrated to the nation that men often face less scrutiny than women, sexual assault is not treated with the severity it should be, and at present, powerful men can continue to dodge serious allegations in our country. His assent to the Supreme Court may embolden violent men and encourage the public to doubt survivors. These ramifications will continue in the lives of Americans unless men are held accountable for their actions. Even though Kavanaugh is now confirmed and the attention on him has subsided, we cannot forget what his appointment revealed: women are largely still not valued as equals to men in America. Dr. Blasey Ford and the trauma she experienced was not treated with the equal respect and consideration that Mr. Kavanaugh and his career was treated with. The ubiquity of gender inequality is evident in the gender pay gap, workplace harassment, discriminatory promotions, and even healthcare practices. But how can we be hopeful to improve the many covert forms of sexism when something as overt and abhorrent as gender violence goes unpunished? Placing Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court bench condones sexist practices that still lurk in American life. We cannot overlook the consequences of his appointment and we must continue to hold the representatives who protected Brett accountable. Our elected officials chose securing a conservative court over the integrity of the Supreme Court and dismissed the traumatic experiences of women all over the country. Kavanaugh may feel like old news, but I believe that we must stay vigilant in eradicating the institutionalized sexism that his confirmation displayed and remain committed to holding those in power accountable.
By Emily Atseff