As the nation watched Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, it witnessed the unfolding of a decisive moment in the #MeToo movement.
Ford testified that an intoxicated, teenaged Kavanaugh — who vehemently and explicitly denied all allegations of sexual assault and misconduct — pinned her down on a bed and attempted to remove her clothing during a party 36 years ago. But despite public outcry from women’s rights advocates, Kavanaugh’s confirmation process was successful. After a 50-48 vote, Kavanagh was sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice on Saturday, October 6.
When Ford took the stand, she was supported by a community of sexual assault survivors and women’s right activists, but they were unable to derail Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Dr. Sarah J. Brubaker (Virginia Commonwealth University associate professor, and Criminal Justice and Public Policy Director) said she believes the Kavanaugh hearings are illustrative of a larger societal problem in America.
“Both the allegations regarding sexual assault and the threat to eliminate women’s reproductive rights reflect the overall status of gender relations in our society,” Brubaker said, “and the power differentials that continue to place women in subordinate position to men.”
As Kavanaugh was sworn in, protests erupted at the court doors. These protests continued outside the high court Tuesday, as Kavanaugh prepared for his first day as a U.S Supreme Court Justice. USA Today reported that over 40 protestors arrived at 7 a.m. on Tuesday morning to meet Kavanaugh as he entered the building.
This level of support for Ford and opposition to Kavanaugh comes in the wake of the strengthening #MeToo movement.
In a CNN discussion with Jake Tapper, Sen. Nina Turner, D-Ohio, stated that the Kavanaugh hearings are an important moment for #MeToo and the treatment of assault survivors.
“This is a watershed moment for this country, and I hope that more good can come from this,” Turner said. “We have lots of work to do, even beyond what is happening in this Kavanaugh case.”
Turner’s opinion, however, is not universally shared. Conservative commentator and journalist Tiana Lowe argues that Ford’s allegations do more harm than good for future of the #MeToo movement.
In an article for Politico Magazine, Lowe stated that Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh represent a shift from credible “evidence-backed” claims to politically-motivated “revenge” accusations. Lowe wrote that the partisan tunnel vision seen within the two parties throughout this process only served to delegitimize the #MeToo movement.
“It’s these two factions, keen on engaging in scorched-earth political bloodsport, that threaten to derail the groundbreaking potential of the #MeToo movement,” Lowe said.
Conservative writer Lisa Boothe noted in an op-ed article for The Hill that the #MeToo movement has begotten an unprecedented weaponization of sexual misconduct claims.
“Since the #MeToo movement started less than a year ago, we have seen an overcorrection in society that is dangerous and inarguably anti-men,” Boothe said.
Boothe thinks #MeToo has led Americans to be “coerced” into believing a woman’s allegation solely because she is a woman. Furthermore, Boothe states that Ford’s allegations are being used as a “battering ram” to attack Kavanaugh’s character and career.
Boothe’s opinion correlates to the rising #HimToo movement, which emerged as conservative response to #MeToo.
Sandra E. Garcia, a reporter for The New York Times, wrote that Kavanaugh’s confirmation “energized” the #HimToo movement — which was popularized with a rogue tweet from a mother, claiming her son was afraid to go on solo dates because of the current political climate surrounding sexual assault allegations. Her son, a Navy vet and ally of the #MeToo movement, quickly cleared up the incident and spoke out in favor of women’s rights.
After the Kavanaugh hearings, this hashtag quickly became representative of belief that the current political climate in America is dangerous to men.
“During the hearings, many people tweeted #HimToo to show their support for Kavanaugh,” Garcia wrote, “and to reprimand women who they believed had made up accounts of sexual assault to destroy a man’s career.”
A multifaceted debate, Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court represents a pivotal point for #MeToo.
On one hand, this process has significantly furthered the conversation on sexual assault and misconduct in American society. Furthermore, the ongoing opposition against Kavanaugh from sexual assault survivors, #MeToo supporters, and women’s rights activists demonstrates the continuing vigor of this movement.
On the other hand, allegations of political agendas and the “weaponization” of sexual assault claims may discourage individuals from coming forward in the future. Additionally, these assertions may negatively affect the perceived legitimacy of individuals who found a voice under #MeToo.
The next few months are likely to have a long-lasting impact for the #MeToo movement. If it is to remain strong in the future, women’s rights activists will have to be prepared to continue the fight at full strength.