How Do I Explain Justice Kavanaugh to My Daughters?

Before he entered politics, President Trump was a fan of a different sort of spectacle: professional wrestling.

In pro wrestling, with its long-running, soap-opera-like story lines about heroes and villains, "faces" and "heels," you don't just win. You flatten your opponent, then you climb onto the turnbuckle, hop onto the ropes, hurl yourself onto the body of your defeated foe and are declared the winner.

That was what Monday night's prime-time swearing-in ceremony of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court felt like. From the standing ovations to President Trump's apology to Justice Kavanaugh and his family "for the terrible pain" they had been forced to endure, it wasn't just a victory lap, it was a body slam, a way to add insult to the injury that the hearings had already done to so many survivors of sexual harassment and violence.

With his wife and young daughters in the audience, Justice Kavanaugh made all the correct, conciliatory noises. Gone was the red-faced, furious man of late September, with his claims about dark money and Clinton-funded plots; gone was the man who alternately wept and roared and looked as if he was trying to pass a kidney stone of compressed rage. In his place was a judge promising to be an umpire, not a partisan. But for all of his talk about how he was "not appointed to serve one party or one interest but to serve one nation," what was unsaid came through the loudest. You could see it, scrolling by in real time if you, like me, were watching the comments on "Kavanaugh is a stud for wading through this hailstorm," said one representative sample. And beer emojis.So many beer emojis.

The gloating crested over the weekend. On Saturday, once Justice Kavanaugh was a sure thing, Senator John Cornyn tweeted out the #beersforbrett hashtag, along with a picture of a glass of champagne.

This was Senator John Cornyn's tweet.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, thanked the "clowns" who protested Justice Kavanaugh's ascension and helped unify his party. Senator Marco Rubio complained about the "angry mob" that "stormed the steps of the Supreme Court building," while Senator Rand Paul praised the "incredible group of kind and friendly" women in pro-Kavanaugh T-shirts who showed up at his office. "What a difference from the other violent protesters we've seen around here."

For the record, the "clowns," the "angry mob," the "violent protesters," were the women who confronted elected officials in office halls and in elevators. Many are survivors of sexual violence, the same kind that Christine Blasey Ford testified that she endured. They were trying to get the men in power to hear them and act accordingly.

Clearly, that did not happen. Emotional women, loud women, angry women get ignored. Emotional, loud, angry men get to sit on the Supreme Court. They rise ever higher, born aloft on gusts of male laughter. The spectacle of Justice Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing reminded us that, for so many conservative men, and the women who support them, women's suffering is still a joke.

What am I supposed to tell my daughters about all of this?

Of course, I already know. I've been talking to them about it for years. Be aware of your surroundings. Make sure someone knows where you are, and when to expect you back. Don't drink too much. Don't put your drink down. Don't walk or run or bike the same route. Don't stay out too late. Don't walk alone in the dark. If a guy asks you out and you're not interested, don't hurt his feelings, and don't laugh at him, because a humiliated man is an angry man, and, sometimes, angry men hurt women.

Our girls will learn to police their clothes, their words, their drinking, their behavior, their choices, because they've been watching, and what they've seen is this: If you get hurt, it's probably your fault, and if you tell, probably no one will believe you, and even if people do, probably nothing will happen.It's the old Ginger Rogers chestnut: To get where men get, to be believed as men are believed, women have to do what men do, only backward, and in heels. Our behavior must be impeccable; our manner, above reproach; our back stories, pure inspiration; our histories, spotlessly clean.

That was all I could think of on Friday night at Princeton, when I sat, surrounded by some 3,000 alumnae, listening to the Princeton graduates Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor describe their paths to the highest court in the land. Justice Sotomayor was a first-generation college student. While Justice Kavanaugh and his buddies were preparing for their beach-week bacchanal, Justice Sotomayor and her mother were at "Alexander's — which, if you know, is a little below Macy's," buying a raincoat that she could take to Princeton, to the admiration of the clerks, she said.

Neither woman's high school yearbook featured jokes about drinking and mockery of the opposite sex. Neither woman had to offer clumsy, laughably dishonest definitions of "boofing" and "devil's triangle" to the Senate, and the American people.

Neither woman joined a hard-partying Greek organization in college. Both graduated Princeton with highest honors, both, they laughingly admitted, a little notorious, not because of any bad behavior, but because of the extra-long senior thesis that each of them wrote.

Of course, neither woman's nomination could have survived a sliver of the scandal of Justice Kavanaugh's high school behavior, or a hint of the emotion that he displayed. Imagine if Brett was Bette. Imagining a female judge, red-faced and railing about how the Senate was on a "seek and destroy" mission. She would have been a punch line, a cautionary tale, a joke.

"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter," Dr. Blasey said when she testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about her strongest memory from when she was sexually assaulted in the summer of 1982. Right now, what's seared into my memory is the uproarious amusement of the men and women in the audience at President Trump's rally last week in Mississippi, when he tore into Dr. Blasey, a moment that political analysts say pushed Justice Kavanaugh's nomination over the top.

Laughter is President Trump's weapon of choice. Mockery is his go-to, especially where women are concerned, and other Republicans have learned well from him. They know the names to call us — clowns. A mob. Angry. They know how to claim that they're the real victims — harassed at their homes! Hounded out of restaurants! They know how to do what it takes to win, and, when they do, they don't just claim victory, they humiliate their vanquished foes.

For so many women, these past weeks have been agony, the doubled dismay of having been hurt, then having been mocked; our pain disbelieved and drowned out by their laughter. The world my daughters, and Brett Kavanaugh's, will inherit is the world we inhabit now, where men get excused, and women get interrogated: How much did you drink? Who drove you to the party, and where was the room where it happened and who drove you home when it was over?

What will I tell my daughters?

Speak up, even if those in power do not want to listen. Speak your truth, even if men laugh. Be loud, even though power prefers girls quiet. Speak up, even if they call you strident or shrill. Don't let anyone put a hand — real or metaphorical — over your mouth. March, demonstrate, chant, shout, vote. And maybe someday, you, or your daughters, or your daughter's daughters will be the ones with the last laugh.

Jennifer Weiner is the author, most recently, of the memoir "Hungry Heart" and a contributing opinion writer. The New York Times published this on October 9, 2018.


October 10, 2018

Post Script. This is a serious question: what will we tell our daughters? Add this: what will we tell our sons? Trump and the GOP leave us with a morally bankrupt SCOTUS. We must stop them. Yes, #Midterms2018

A motivational reminder: If Dems take the Senate, Mitch McConnell is no longer Majority Leader. Chuck Grassley is no longer Chair of the Judiciary & Susan Collins is in the Minority. #FlipTheSenate #FlipItBlue

(Source last paragraph@AmySiskind)

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