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17th October 2018

Brett Kavanaugh hearing: #MeToo is not enough

Eleanor McLaughlin speaks of the recent appointing of Brett Kavanaugh as Supreme Court Justice and the impact of this vote for victims of sexual misconduct.
Brett Kavanaugh hearing: #MeToo is not enough
Photo: US Department of Defence

The US Senate Judiciary committee last week voted 11-10 in favour of appointing Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice, despite allegations of sexual misconduct from three women. How can we ever expect justice for victims of sexual abuse in a society where women are damned if they speak, and damned if they don’t?

In the year following the Harvey Weinstein scandal that drove the founding of the #MeToo movement, the conversation surrounding sexual abuse and harassment of women in the workplace has skyrocketed. #MeToo has given women a voice and a cumulative strength within industries rife with abuse and presided over by men. The impact of #MeToo is also all over the media — several powerful men have been accused, investigated, and have lost their jobs.

The Brett Kavanaugh case would act as a barometer of the impact and scope of the movement. Did #MeToo have the potential to tackle ingrained biases regarding abuses that are found even at the highest points in the judicial system, or was it only limited to bringing to justice actors and directors with high profile victims? Sadly, it seems it would be the latter.

The vote in Kavanaugh’s favour, despite the candour of Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony (the first accuser), shows us that the #MeToo movement is yet to truly challenge the institutions and systems that are supporting abusers and disregarding victims.

Watching Ford’s brave testimony before the supreme court, I am without doubt that she is speaking her truth. The pain caused to her and to the women who have subsequently come forwards, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick, along with their families, is not one that could possibly be endured lightly. Yet, how is it that a Senate Committee could possibly vote with a clear conscious to appoint Kavanaugh as a justice of the highest US court? Despite the public outrage, #MeToo has clearly not been enough to change the problems so deeply ingrained within the judiciary.

Following the committee’s vote, the FBI is conducting a further investigation into the accusations, due to a call for review from US Senator Jeff Flake — an operation the White House, allegedly, continues to attempt to thwart. Julie Swetnick, the woman who “witnessed efforts by Mark Judge [and] Brett Kavanaugh … to cause girls to become inebriated and disoriented so they could then be gang-raped in a side room…” has now been excluded from the FBI investigations, reportedly due to restrictions ordered by Trump.

To make it clear, Brett Kavanaugh is not on trial for rape; these allegations are not going to see him imprisoned. These women hope only to stop him from becoming a supreme court judge, a position with the power to influence the way that cases of abuse are handled and exert genuine sway over society. The fact that, despite multiple allegations of abuse made by women with nothing to gain, those in positions of power still are not taking women’s accounts of abuse seriously, shows us the limits of the #MeToo movement. Regardless of the outcome of the FBI investigations, it remains deeply worrying that the Senate committee was able to vote in favour of appointing Kavanaugh.

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