3 Questions about Kavanaugh

The New York Times is soliciting opinions about the Kavanaugh confirmation. I had *a lot* of things to say. Posted below are my answers as I submitted them to the Times, typos and all. I won’t post the questions themselves because you can you find them at the survey here.

Before you decide whether or not to participate it’s worth noting that they want your picture, a brief bio, and permission to use it. 

Let me begin with a couple of things: I have a PhD in American Studies from Purdue University. My dissertation, “Virgin Land: Young Women and Sexual Citizenship in the Contemporary United States” is about the mutually constitutive medical and legal discourses that shape the way we think about and understand virginity in the United States. It turns out, if you want to understand virginity you have to know a lot about rape (it has to do with raptus, or rape, being a category of property crime in English common law–happy to explain in more detail if you like). Moreover, if you want to understand virginity in the contemporary United States then it is imperative to understand the increasing political role of Christian Nationalist organizations (a subject I’ve written about previously for Ms. Magazine). I’ve spent the better part of the past decade teaching feminist sexuality studies. All of that is to say that I am, perhaps, more knowledgable about the statistics in cases like this than is normal? I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (and I’m very curious as to why you used his title but not hers in the phrasing of this question). I believe her for several reasons. First, because it is well known that false accusers, regardless of their sex, have an identifiable psychological and behavioral profile which Dr. Blasey Ford did not fit. In fact, the failure of news outlets to report this key fact in their coverage indicates that they are either lacking in the basic research skills it would take to uncover this information, uninterested in accuracy, or complicit in the demonization of Dr. Blasey-Ford. Second, Judge Kavanaugh’s account of the described incident was consistent with the profile of someone who is lying. He claimed he had calendars showing he didn’t go to the type of party described but his calendars did show precisely that. He purposely obscured facts, like the testimony of people who were purported to be there, and used the evasive tactic known as “derailing” to avoid questions when he had no other route.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the story of David and Bathsheba in the book of Samuel. To punish David for his killing Uriah God killed the first-born son of David and Bathsheba after 7 days. While the baby was alive David was inconsolable. He did all the mourning things appropriate in his culture. On the day that the baby died David ended his morning. When his flummoxed servants asked him why he said that he mourned to show contrition while the babe was alive thinking that perhaps God would see his contrition and spare the babe’s life. After the babe was dead so was hope so there was no longer any need for mourning as God had made his decision. I did just about everything I knew how to do while the confirmation was dragging on. I called my representatives. I urged my friends to call theirs. I followed the news exhaustively. Now he’s confirmed which makes the battle for women’s rights in this country harder but there is no time for mourning. It’s time to focus on the midterms now and hope to God we can make a difference there. If we can’t things will be very dire. Kavanaugh, as was made abundantly apparent in his behavior throughout his hearings, not to mention his judicial record, doesn’t really see women as people. He exhibits all the characteristics of Christian Nationalist like Mike Pence. What I don’t think many people realize is that The Handmaid Tale is, absolutely, a world Mike Pence wants to live in. In fact, The Handmaid’s Tale isn’t as extreme as Pence is. Kavanaugh is, if not an ideological twin, a willing judiciary accomplice. I think everyone in this country should be terrified about the fact that we know have Christian Nationalists in powerful positions in all three branches of government. So many women will die. They will die of botched back alley abortions. They will die in prison for trying to get those abortions or for miscarrying (something Mike Pence actually did in Indiana–I lived there at the time). They will die from the lack of maternal healthcare because the US is the only OECD nation in which maternal mortality rates are increasing. Over 500 women die every year from complications of pregnancy and over 60% of those deaths are preventable. 500 women may not seem like a lot out of the amount of women who successfully deliver every year but it feels like a lot to their families–and it’s especially galling that it’s so unnecessary. The cuts to social programs that the GOP envisions, combined with the crackdown on women’s reproductive rights likely to be pursued by Kavanaugh whenever possible (because, after all, that’s what he’s done in his judicial career so far) means that so many more women and children are going to die unnecessary deaths. It makes me sick. I’ve been so, so tired since this started. But, again, the time for mourning is over. We keep fighting.

 

Ah, this old chestnut. I think there’s a bit of a fallacy in your question. I would take a panel stocked with Patrick Leahys and Cory Bookers over one filled with Susan Collins’ any day for any case. The idea that women will, inherently, support other women is (1) demonstrably wrong and (2) based on the idea that all women have a common experience from which to draw from. They don’t. Our lives are intersectional. There are a lot of white women who don’t do anything about institutional racism because it benefits them (I believe 53% of them voted for Trump in the 2016 election). There were vocal women opponents to women’s suffrage and there were and are vocal women opponents to almost every political gain that women have made in this country. I’m sure the New York Times has a few pieces about Phyllis Schlafley’s anti-ERA campaign it could reference. There’s so much work to draw from here–bell hooks, Kimberle Crenshaw, Nancy Hartsock, Patricia Hill Collins, Susan Harding. Essentially, to have an identity is not enough. It is important to have a political consciousness rooted in that identity to make change. I think the question “how important is it to have more of [group] in public office” is misleading. The question ought to be, “How do we remove barriers for marginalized groups to participate in democratic government?” Because that’s the heart of the issue is. It’s not enough to talk about who is in the room–we also need to talk about how and why they got there. Trump won the election because of the electoral college which disproportionately favors rural, predominately white areas. Folks who can’t take time off of work for fear of getting fired so they don’t make it to the polls, folks who don’t have a reliable vehicle to make it to the polls, folks who don’t have the $90 on hand it takes to get a driver’s license (which is what it recently cost me in WA and was necessary to register), folks who live in rural areas where county services have been slashed due to budget cuts and polling places (or places to register) are few and far between or have odd hours, felons who don’t know or have the time or the money to pursue their re-enfranchisement–all of these are citizens who don’t vote but absolutely should. Simple policies such as automatic enrollment, letting prisoners vote, and making the day we vote a national holiday would enable these folks, often poor and often of color, to vote for who they want to be in the room which would change the dynamics of who is in the room. This hasn’t even begun to talk about corporate money in politics which is a whole separate issue. Again, don’t distract folks with “should we get more women in the room” but look at the real, hard issues of what institutional and structural barriers there are to actual democracy taking place–that’s the kind of journalism I subscribed to the New York Times for in the first place.

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