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Story Publication logo October 5, 2018

Opinion: One Year In, #MeToo Hasn't Brought the Change We Need

Pulitzer Center Executive Editor Indira Lakshman speaks President Trump's use of the term "Fake News." Screenshot from a Washington Post video stream. United States, 2018.

"Indira Lakshmanan Reports" highlights Lakshmanan's reporting, commentary, and public event...

Women, many wearing black veils protesting the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court at the Hart Senate Office Building on Friday, September 7. Image by Phil Roeder. Washington D.C., 2018. (CC BY 2.0)
Women, many wearing black veils, protesting the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court at the Hart Senate Office Building on Friday, September 7. Image by Phil Roeder. Washington D.C., 2018. (CC BY 2.0)

Friday marks a year since once-unstoppable Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was exposed as a serial predator by dogged reporting and brave survivors who agreed to be named. 

Women across the country joined in solidarity with #MeToo, sharing stories of harassment and abuse, raising consciousness of misconduct across industries, toppling numerous men who abused power, and inspiring a record number of women to run for office.

But a week after Christine Blasey Ford gave riveting testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee — only to be mocked by President Trump at a rally of whooping supporters a month before midterm elections — I don't see a sea change in attitudes ushering in equal representation in the halls of power or equal treatment for the rest of us.

Instead, we saw a chorus of male Republicans encourage and amplify Brett Kavanaugh's jaw-dropping tirade of entitlement and partisan rage, his disrespect to a committee whose duty it is to vet his nomination on behalf of the nation, his barefaced denial of a self-evident history of hard-drinking, frat-boy antics. 

Ford testified that the most painful, indelible memory of the night in 1982 when she alleges she was assaulted by Kavanaugh and his friend was of "the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two and their having fun at my expense." 

The president initially tapped his underutilized super-ego, calling Ford "a very fine woman" whose testimony was "very compelling." But Trump's id took over Tuesday night when he ridiculed Ford, falsely claiming she had no memories of that night other than drinking "one beer," and laughter reverberated through the rally. Thirty-six years after the alleged attack, a crowd was having fun at Ford's expense. 

It's not surprising that Trump, who rose to the top acting like a schoolyard bully, would turn Ford into a joke and goad voters to laugh at her — and by extension, at any woman with the temerity to protest an assault. Trump was caught on tape by "Access Hollywood" boasting about grabbing women by the genitals and has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than dozen women — and still got elected. 

Inexplicably, the FBI didn't interview Ford, or witnesses who alleged Kavanaugh drank to excess and thrust his naked genitals in the face of a female Yale student, again while laughing with other men.

Setting aside allegations of decades-ago sexual misconduct that Kavanaugh may not remember even if it did occur, what is most stunning is that he would deny under oath what is easily verified: that he was a hard-drinking party boy. In his high school yearbook he called himself treasurer of the "Keg City Club" and made derogatory sexual references to girls. In speeches as an adult, he joked about drunken exploits at Georgetown Prep and Yale. Kavanaugh testified he had no connections to Yale, though his grandfather attended. He claimed "boof" and "devil's triangle" meant something they don't.

If he would deny under oath small things easily disproved, what else would he lie about? Surely there are other conservatives, like Kavanaugh's Georgetown Prep contemporary, Neil Gorsuch, who could win confirmation without such dubious inconsistencies.

Kavanaugh spewed partisan bile when one is supposed to demonstrate judicial temperament and nonpartisanship, angrily turning questions on senators, snarlingly challenging Senator Amy Klobuchar if she'd ever blacked out. He was rewarded for the injudicious outbursts by the president, Senate Republicans, and the crowd that jeered at Ford.

Trump and Senate Republicans are sending the wrong message: that men are the real victims. In fact, false reports of rape are in the single-digits, according to studies cited by the National Sexual Violence Center. Meanwhile, 80 percent of sex assaults go unreported, the National Academy of Sciences reports.

Sadly for our nation, on the anniversary of #MeToo, the fight over Kavanaugh — and his defense by a president himself accused of misconduct — has turned into a partisan referendum on a long-overdue cultural reckoning.

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