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Nothing Has Changed Since Anita Hill

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Amy Fried, Ph.D.       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   6 comments

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As the nation is riveted by the testimony of alleged sexual assault victim, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a few themes repeat themselves in the commentary.

First, Ford herself comes off as extremely credible. Credibility is a subjective judgment, of course, but her raw emotion, her efforts at precision, and lack of robotic repetition, helped that impression. But more than anything else, the power that Dr. Ford holds, is the very ubiquity of her experience. Sexual assault is a crime almost as common as it is underreported. Of course, the latter serves to conceal the former.

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The ostensible argument against Ford's account by the Republican supporters of Judge Kavanaugh takes a legalistic (if victim-blaming) approach: why does Dr. Ford remember some details and not others? Why didn't she tell someone at the time? Why didn't she tell law enforcement?

Women who have experienced sexual assault, instantly recognize the pitfalls of such questions in a patriarchal society. It assumes that girls and women will be believed. It is oblivious to the dynamics of trauma that Dr. Ford tried to explain to us at the hearing. And it ignores the refusal by the Republicans backing Kavanaugh's confirmation, to bring the FBI in now.

The anti-Ford arguments have also attacked Senator Feinstein for her decision to hold on to Dr. Ford's letter for several months during the hearing. Republicans have painted this failure as a deliberate attempt to drop the issue at supposed "last minute," in the confirmation process. (Of course, the definition of "last minute" may be relative, as the Democrats who waited approximately a year for Judge Merrick Garland to be granted even a meeting, much less a hearing, learned.)

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But the underlying subtext of the Republican outrage was - perhaps inadvertently - revealed by Senator Lindsey Graham's "meltdown" (according to at least one twitter account) in the hallway, during a break in Dr. Ford's testimony. Watching on TV, his expression struck me as terrified as Dr. Ford:

"I think we've been very fair. And to my Republican colleagues, if you can ignore everything in this record, looing [sic] at an allegation that's 35 years old, that's uncertain in time, place, date, and no corroboration, if that's enough for you, God help us all as Republicans, because this happens to us, it never happens to them.

"Let me tell my Democratic friends, if this becomes the new norm, you better watch out for your nominees."

A similar defense was - sadly - caught on camera, as a mother drew her daughters into a discussion of the fact that groping is so common as to be "not a big deal."

In other words, the response to generations of women attempting to educate the country about the ubiquity of sexual assault is: yes, sexual assault is not only common, it's normal. It's to be expected; it is part of women's everyday experiences, and they should just suck it up. And any woman who tries to interfere with a man's career, should expect hell to pay. We have made no progress since Anita Hill.

(Article changed on September 28, 2018 at 05:35)


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Amy Fried applies her Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior to writing and activism on church-state separation, feminism, reproductive rights, corruption, media and veganism.

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