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Judge Kavanaugh

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Judge Kavanaugh

NBC News

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Zoey Greenwald, News Editor

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  The #MeToo movement has brought up previous cases of sexual misconduct. It’s been tentatively hailed as a social change — a last straw; a tipping point. Powerful man after powerful man has struggled to defend the undefendable. They are thrown in jail and their products are boycotted. No sooner than this new social precedent has taken hold is it being put to the ultimate test: Does the #MeToo movement reach all the way to the highest court in the land? Is this truly a new precedent for how society ought to operate, or is change — true, withstanding change — impossible?

  Most recently in this string of allegations, Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court was threatened by an investigation of sexual misconduct he may have committed in high school. Three women have come out against him, and evidence is mounting to suggest that he may not be so innocent.

  One such woman, Dr. Christine Ford, testified in front of the Senate as part of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings. She began her statement, “I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified.”

  She goes on to describe in detail the night she was sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh. The story is graphic and intense. At the time, Ford was fifteen and Kavanaugh was 17. Ford testifies that Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge, had locked her in an upstairs bedroom, at which time a heavily intoxicated Kavanaugh began “running his hands over [her] body and grinding his hips into” her. Traumatized, Ford states that she “believed he was going to rape” her.

  Kavanaugh denies all of these claims. He and many of his supporters believe that this is a partisan plan to block him from the Supreme Court. At the hearing, he appeared belligerent. He testified, under oath, “the truth is that I have never sexually assaulted anyone—not in high school, not in college, not ever.” He notes his “good name,” which he intends to upkeep. He says that “The allegation of misconduct is completely inconsistent with the rest of [his] life.”

  But male entitlement is a pervasive societal standard. It permeates through all facets of society, including what “good name” any one person might have. Kavanaugh’s actions as a highschooler were socially permissible at the time. They have been permissible up until now. There is a reason that the #MeToo movement is happening now. In the ‘80s, this was allowed. Written off as juvenile antics or horseplay. It was supposed to be unacceptable now that we’ve changed as a society. It should have never been acceptable, and any moral person — nonetheless a person to be a moral backbone of this country — should’ve known that. In a 2015 speech Kavanaugh gave to law students, he says “What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep.” He goes on to say, “I think that’s been a good thing for all of us.”

  Kavanaugh was wrong.

  It doesn’t. And it hasn’t.

  

  Still, Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court with a voting margin of 50 to 48. Considering his conduct during the hearings, Ford’s testimony, and what appears to be a hasty FBI investigation, the confirmation is boggling to many and rage-inducing to women who expected something else.

  But I’m interested in one particular defense that may have contributed to that confirmation: that he was “only 17.”   

  I am 17 years old. I’ve only been actively following politics for the past four years, but I’ve found it odd growing up in the Trump era. I wonder, at times, what my mother thinks as she witnesses my growth from a girl into a woman — the Access Hollywood tapes are released. He’s elected president. The #MeToo movement takes hold. Miramax logos still play in front of my favorite films. And now, this.

  I wonder what my mother thinks because she was 17 at the same time that Brett Kavanaugh was 17. Because there are things she still won’t tell me about the men she encountered when she was a young actress. Because she knows more than anyone that this should have always been absolutely unacceptable; if not for her 17-year-old self, then at least for me.

  I am only 17. How long do I have to wait before men mature enough to respect me as an autonomous, functioning human being instead of being rewarded for the destruction of my dignity?

  If Dr. Ford’s accusations mean nothing, then do any women’s accusations mean anything? The point of the #MeToo movement was to set a new social precedent. To show that powerful men will be held accountable for their actions. 27 years after Anita Hill, something should’ve changed. We should have learned something.

  The greatest consolation I can now offer myself is that social attitudes ebb and flow, so even facing such turmoil, we ultimately still follow the arc of progress. That’s something that gets harder and harder to believe. But even if the fight for change is harder than my bright-eyed, 17-year-old self thought, it must be fought.

  All of the attention and debate brewing around Kavanaugh — all of the half-hearted letting-it-slide — only seems to capitalize upon one point that’s been made overwhelmingly clear to me during this administration: your rights do not matter. Even though there are morals. Even though there are investigations. Even though there are laws. That there will always be supporters, no matter the heinousness of the crime, and there will always be a vitriolic retort, no matter the composure of the accuser. It has taught me that the only force which can really eradicate evils such as this is radical social change. Not a hashtag, not a movement, and not even laws alone. We need to decide as a society that this is absolutely unacceptable. This is the only way we can avoid more stories like Ford’s in the future — it’s not by suppressing or silencing them. It’s by making sure they never happen in the first place.

  As a young woman watching the hearings, the most distinct emotion I feel is fear. I hope that young men watching the hearing feel that same feeling — I hope they’re afraid of accusations that might come out against them if they’ve done anything to be accused of. I hope they’re afraid of a changing social tide which prohibits them from being entitled to women’s bodies.

  I hope that at least some of this gruesome spectacle will cause more people to vote in November than were going to before, now that they’ve seen what their passiveness has culminated in. Now that they’ve seen who gains power when we don’t do anything.

  The only way we can build a better future is by social change, and that is achieved by using our voices where it counts: open discourse, the press and the voting booth.

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Zoey Greenwald, News Editor

Zoey Greenwald is currently a Senior at West Ranch high school and a California certified Arts Scholar in creative writing and theater. When she’s not...

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