I’ve been thinking lately about how well my life is going and how privileged I am. But the obscene farce going on in the U.S. over filling the Supreme Court vacancy has reminded me that there are still a lot of men in this world who want me to stay in my place.
Which, since I’m no longer young enough and never looked good enough for their taste, is out of sight and out of mind. They really don’t want to hear from the likes of me.
I would be enraged by the whole process even if I weren’t a woman, just as I am enraged by the treatment of immigrants, the ongoing racism and white supremacy, and the fact that people in my neighborhood are sleeping on the sidewalks because they have nowhere else to go.
But I am a woman and that makes this particular fight very personal. And I am known to be loud and occasionally accused of being intimidating. So I have things to say.
Those men — those old white men with lots of money and even richer supporters — want to keep women from claiming and using their power. They may frame this as “she said, he said,” just as they pretend their assault on women’s reproductive rights is a matter of ethics instead of a doctrine of forced pregnancy aimed at controlling women, but their true agenda is to keep women in our “place.”
Part of this is the basic misogyny of the culture: women are supposed to be the caretakers and sexual partners of the men who do things; we aren’t supposed to speak out about sexual assault and harassment, much less go for power of our own. But these powerful white men want women kept in their place for the same reason that they support voter suppression and attacks on immigrants and laws that increase income inequality: they want to keep running the world.
And I’ve had enough. It’s time for them to go.
I am finishing this essay the day before the hearing at which Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is supposed to testify. You are probably reading it as that happens. I’m sure another shoe or two will drop during that hearing. Things may be very different by tonight. We can hope they’ll be better, but even if they are it won’t change the rest of what I have to say.
The thing that made me the maddest in the earlier hearings was not the treatment of Dr. Blasey, awful as it has been. It was a statement by Ben Sasse, a Republican senator from Nebraska, about protestors in the Senate gallery. As Rebecca Traister explains it in this book excerpt published on The Cut:
Ben Sasse suggested that maybe the ladies should all just calm down, noting that “screaming protesters [have been] saying ‘Women are going to die’ at every hearing for decades.”
It probably wouldn’t change Sasse’s mind if someone took the time to compile all the data and show how many women have died because of judicial appointments just like this one, not to mention attacks on Planned Parenthood and the worldwide anti-abortion measures approved by Republicans. He thinks we’re all just being “hysterical.” Or maybe he just doesn’t care if women die.
That’s the attitude that pushed me over into rage. The nervous dismissals of Dr. Blasey by senators (“she must be confused”) just adds to that rage. And my anger increases when I realize that those old white men on the Senate judiciary committee are going to make all this about personal credibility instead of investigating all the related material that Dr. Blasey’s report has raised and the additional sexual allegations that have come out in the last week.
Further, there are lots of reasons besides his behavior to question the man’s suitability for the Supreme Court, as Linda Greenhouse’s latest piece for The New York Times points out.
Misogynistic attitudes and behavior alone should be a reason to keep people off the bench, and particularly off the Supreme Court bench. But of course, the majority of people charged with this decision are misogynists.
This is why I advocate for empowerment self defense. Those men aren’t going away on their own. They won’t change their minds until they’re forced to. The only way we’re going to get rid of them and staff our courts with those who believe in real democracy, in fairness to all, is for women to claim their power.
The self defense aspect of empowerment self defense is important, because there are many situations where women need to use their powerful voices and stances, and even to fight, to keep themselves safe. But it’s the empowerment part that is most important. Once enough women learn just how powerful we are, how much we can do, those tired old white men won’t be able to stop us anymore.
If that’s hysteria, bring it on.