The Sick Entitlement of the Kavanaugh Class

By Emma Goldberg

It takes a very particular, a very insidious kind of entitlement to convince a man that he has earned a supreme court seat. It takes a very particular, a very twisted worldview. But if there’s anything to be taken from Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony on Thursday, it’s exactly that — he believes he’s won this appointment fair and square.

“I busted my butt in academics,” Kavanaugh offered. “I always tried to do the best I could. As I recall, I finished one in the class.” He did sports. He ran track. He tutored and volunteered at the soup kitchen downtown. A simple set of questions lurked beneath his aggravated outbursts: Shouldn’t that all be enough? Don’t I deserve this? After all, that’s what Kavanaugh and his peers were taught to believe. You play by the rules. You collect the winnings you’re promised that all good, smart boys deserve.

What Kavanaugh, Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Chuck Grassley, and the other male members of the Judiciary Committee seem to misunderstand is that for women, those rules have never applied. The notion that an average, intelligent person can sail through elite circles collecting accolades all the way to the highest court in the land — that’s a masculine worldview.

Women don’t get to fight tooth and nail for their Supreme Court seats because they’re busy fighting for survival. They’re busy fighting for their dignity, for their humanity. For the right to be believed when they air their traumas, or at least not to be laughed at.

When Christine Blasey Ford took the stand on Thursday and her voice cracked, most of the women I knew teared up. Their stomachs churned. They tried not to think of the memories evoked­ — maybe they looked away. Then they tried to go about their days, to finish their work and their cheery conversations as if nothing were amiss. Meanwhile, Ford’s trauma was coolly dissected by a group of men who understood her testimony as politics, as something sterile and even partisan, and not the soul-churning business of packaging a lifetime of suffering into live TV.

We saw, in a tradition as old as the bible and as recent as Anita Hill, male emotion validated and female emotion disdained. While Kavanaugh and his legislative protectors burst out with frustration, Ford tried to keep her pitch steady and fight back tears. In Kavanaugh, we saw someone who’s been able to get too drunk, too loud, and too angry without suffering the consequences; in Ford, we saw someone who has always had to police her tone.

Ford’s testimony spotlighted the toxic, self-reinforcing cycles of patriarchy. A man took from her what he wanted. He laughed, because he felt it was all well-deserved. She was left to contend with her emotions in silence, carrying a trauma that gnawed at her for decades while she watched her assailant soar to national renown. This week, women across America watched that all unfold on the livestream. For so many men, it was just another Thursday.

When will we build a system that validates, amplifies, dignifies female emotion? When will we stop putting women on trial for their pain?

When I tell my granddaughters someday where I was watching Ford’s testimony, I hope Brett Kavanaugh’s isn’t even a name that they’ll know. I hope he’s not remembered as the justice who was given the authority to adjudicate our bodies and our power. I hope it’s Ford’s words that are remembered — raw and real, the sounds of a testimony that put one more crack in the sleek, glass structures of patriarchy.

Emma Goldberg is a writer and activist based in New York. She is currently at the start-up initiative Longpath.  She is a recipient of Auburn’s Lives of Committment award. 

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