The conservative assault on women’s basic human rights just doesn’t stop.
And just as the GOP hired Arizona-based sex-crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to serve as a kind of figleaf to cover the obscene nakedness of their shameful misogyny, we also see Republican-aligned women coming out in full force to play an identity-politics game geared toward masking the extreme anti-feminist ideology steeping the conservative political agenda.
If a woman says it, can it really be anti-woman?
I can hear now that swarm of white male Republican senators who hired Rachel Mitchell telling us, “Hey, some of our best commentators are women.”
Take conservative commentator Carrie Sheffield who recently published an opinion piece on CNN.com titled “Democrats Have Hijacked #MeToo for Political Gain.”
Positioning herself as a #MeToo supporter, she charges the democrats with having “hijacked #Me Too for political gain.” While lauding the movement for toppling serial sexual predators and harassers and advocating for and protecting the most vulnerable, she expresses concern that “the noble justice of #MeToo has been politically hijacked and weaponized, co-opted by Democrats seeking to extrapolate this just cause for liberal policies that go beyond equal and fair treatment for women.”
We really never get an answer in her column, which focuses on Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school, as to how pushing for the FBI to investigate these accusations goes beyond advocating for the “equal and fair treatment of women”? Doesn’t trying to ensure that someone appointed to the Supreme Court isn’t a sexual predator, misogynist, and liar a rather big deal when it comes to defending the “equal and fair treatment of women”? After all, appointing a justice who disrespects, maybe even hates, women wouldn’t bode well for guaranteeing the highest court in the land will decide law that protects women’s rights.
She does endorse a recent Wall Street Journal editorial titled “The Presumption of Guilt: The New Liberal Standard Turns American Due Process Upside Down,” in which the editorial board argues, with particular regard to Kavanaugh’s situation, that “the Democratic standard for sexual-assault allegations is that they should be accepted as true merely for having been made. The accuser is assumed to be telling the truth because the accuser is a woman. The burden is on Mr. Kavanaugh to prove his innocence. If he cannot do so, then he is unfit to serve on the Court.”
And then, like The Wall Street Journal, she distorts the position democrats are taking and the process they are calling for, as she writes, “They are attempting to tip the scales of justice away from evidence and data toward emotion and speculation — assuming guilt first — and without credible evidence to support their conclusion.”
Again, when does asking for an investigation to attempt as vigorously and responsibly to arrive at the truth become the equivalent of “assuming guilt first” and moving away “from evidence and data toward emotion and speculation”?
The democrats have not arrived at a conclusion; they have called for a search for facts. Republicans and the President have refused to support such a search.
Indeed, in a manner that saddening, maddening, and cruelly ironic, Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake announced his “yes” vote for Kavanaugh, providing as his rationale the uncertainty that remained after yesterday’s hearing. He invoked the standard line that our justice system honors the presumption of innocence, “absent of corroborating evidence.”
Absent of corroborating evidence!?! It was the Republicans, including the President, who barred the FBI from investigating so that corroborating evidence could be produced—or not.
Both Sheffield and Flake ignore the fact that Democrats were arguing for a fact-based hearing and an FBI investigation that would produce facts. They weren’t simply believing Blasey Ford or privileging emotions and speculation about facts and evidence.
It was precisely the gang of Republican senators who took Kavanaugh at his word and praised his heartfelt testimony, empathizing with pain and hardship of the hearing process. The poor man! The poor man who had every resource at his disposal to clear his name by himself insisting on an FBI investigation.
These are arguments by Sheffield and The Wall Street Journal are inane and poorly-reasoned distortions and misrepresentations of what has transpired, reeking of bad faith.
The worst part is, especially with regards to Sheffield who proclaims her feminist bona fides, that these arguments fuel the dynamics that make it all the harder for women to come forward to speak of their experiences of sexual assault. They seek to take the burden off of Kavanaugh to explain his past and thus work to realize the threat of appointing yet another sexual predator and misogynist to the highest court in the land to adjudicate our lives.
Tim Libretti is a professor of U.S. literature and culture at a state university in Chicago. A long-time progressive voice, he has published many academic and journalistic articles on culture, class, race, gender, and politics, for which he has received awards from the Working Class Studies Association, the International Labor Communications Association, the National Federation of Press Women, and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association.