Means to toxic ends

At this writing, it appears increasingly likely that a probable—even if only marginally probable—sex offender, Brett Kavanaugh,[1] will be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.[2] This will occur in the wake of a woefully deficient FBI report on its investigation of some allegations against Kavanaugh[3] and as Kavanaugh’s supporters engage in ad hominem attacks against his accusers.[4]

In short, even officially, and even having been challenged not to do so, Republicans are attacking victims and discounting their stories, reifying the reasons so many victims refuse to come forward. The standard applied to Kavanaugh as he is confirmed for a lifetime position in one of the most powerful jobs in the U.S. is not that he should be beyond reproach but that it should not be possible to convict him of a heinous crime. “Innocent until proven guilty,” he is, to hear Republicans tell it, entitled to a place on the Supreme Court simply because one of the worst presidents in U.S. history nominated him. Even having identified the Donald Trump presidency as a black hole—there seems to be no bottom to his depravity—I am astonished.

Yes, it is probable that despite her own dubious history on the issue of sexual assault and rape,[5] Hillary Clinton would not have committed this particular crime against women. Clinton, however, cannot keep her nose clean; it is probable that in this counterfactual, Clinton would have managed to produce a state of outrage in the country comparable to that we now see with Trump. In the reality we’re in, however, I am wondering how women can bear to remain in this country.

Imagine, if you even can, a case involving the issues women face in reporting rape, sexual assault, or even sexual harassment coming before a Supreme Court with Kavanaugh on it. We might not hear any of the justices express the misogyny that Republicans do today. But we will have ample reason to suspect that at least one harbors it.

And the fact, or even the question, of that misogyny raises doubt about the impartiality of the Court on any issue particularly affecting women. Whatever one thinks about abortion or contraception or gender-based discrimination, Kavanaugh’s confirmation declares that women are not entitled to an equal voice, that they are means to toxic masculine ends.

  1. [1]Benjamin Wittes, “I Know Brett Kavanaugh, but I Wouldn’t Confirm Him,” Atlantic, October 2, 2018,
  2. [2]Seung Min Kim and John Wagner, “Kavanaugh moves closer to Senate confirmation as GOP argues FBI report exonerates the judge,” Washington Post, October 4, 2018,; John Wagner and Seung Min Kim, “Key Republicans signal satisfaction with FBI report, increasing confirmation odds for Kavanaugh,” Washington Post, October 4, 2018,
  3. [3]Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow, “The F.B.I. Probe Ignored Testimonies from Former Classmates of Kavanaugh,” New Yorker, October 3, 2018,; John Wagner and Seung Min Kim, “Grassley, White House stand by Kavanaugh as Senate reviews FBI report,” Washington Post, October 4, 2018,
  4. [4]Sean Sullivan and Gabriel Pogrund, “Adopting Trumpian strategy, Republicans level personal attacks against Kavanaugh accusers,” Washington Post, October 3, 2018,
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Yes, Hillary Clinton must answer for Bill Clinton’s sexual assaults,” Not Housebroken, October 10, 2016,

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