Brett Kavanaugh’s SCOTUS Seat Rests on a Mountain of Misogyny

It’s been one year today since Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Every woman in this country should still be livid over the blatant misogyny that polluted the entire confirmation process. I know I am.

(Creative Commons: Mobilus In Mobili)

From his nomination through his confirmation hearings, Kavanaugh’s extreme, anti-choice record became eclipsed by multiple sexual assault allegations against him and his angry, dishonest testimony that followed. After weeks of public outrage over the allegations and the lack of transparency around the nominations process, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee quickly rushed to ramrod his confirmation through.

During that time, our government belittled Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Kavanaugh and stifled the account of another credible accuser, Deborah Ramirez.  New information has been brought to light since then that further substantiates Ramirez’s charges against Kavanaugh, which the FBI failed to pursue despite the credibility of her account.  

Survivors who come forward break the rules of silence a sexist society demands, and society expects them to pay a price. All women have experienced the double standard in which men who speak with authority are described as decisive, and women inevitably as difficult. 

Dr. Ford well knew that she would pay a price for her bravery. Before her allegations were made public, she was hesitant to come forward, understanding that she risked being “personally annihilated.”  Yet, out of a sense of civic duty, she shared her account, testifying with magnificent dignity and honesty.  

In contrast, Kavanaugh’s intemperance—his anger, petulance and disrespect—were on full display during his testimony. He alternately expressed his “outrage” over not being able to testify sooner, decried the FBI investigation as “a circus” and lamented that this “has been the worst experience” of his life.  

Kavanaugh said that “allegations of sexual assault must always be taken seriously.” But he didn’t take Dr. Ford’s allegations seriously, nor did his defenders. South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham ranted about the “hell” Kavanaugh endured and accused Senate Democrats of wanting to “destroy this guy’s life.” 

The common thread throughout Kavanaugh’s entire confirmation process is the entitlement that privileged men so often feel. From the Senate to the White House to the armies of conservative pundits, they minimized Dr. Ford’s serious and credible testimony as an emotional overreaction to “rough horseplay” because they believe that power is their birthright. 

Within this framework, questioning a high-status man’s fitness or character during a Senate confirmation process isn’t a matter of constitutional duty or due process—it’s an act of sabotage.  And as she expected, Dr. Ford was “personally annihilated,” because her account threatened the outcome Kavanaugh and men like him believe they deserve.

Kavanaugh’s confirmation reminds us misogyny is deeply baked into our institutions and our political leadership. Not only were Senate Republicans willing to excuse serious allegations of sexual violence, they made clear that they truly believe it doesn’t matter, and that it’s really men who end up being the victims.

We all must demand more, and we should start by holding these Senators accountable for their shameful votes to confirm Kavanaugh.  

Women who come forward about their experiences with sexual violence deserve to be taken seriously. Instead, Senate Republicans tried to bury the truth to move a powerful man’s career forward, and in turn, made clear their belief that credible accusations of sexual violence aren’t a disqualifier for a seat on the country’s highest court. 

Our country was founded on the premise of justice for all. But systemic sexism in our culture and our institutions preclude our achieving that reality. It’s far past time to challenge the status quo. Let’s remember that next year at the ballot box. 


Kathleen Turner is an advocate and Academy Award-nominated actor and serves on the board of People For the American Way’s affiliated PFAW Foundation.