By Claire Crites | Guest Contributor
Dr. Anita Hill and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford: separated by over 25 years, yet joined by the same issue still so clearly pervading American political life — to believe women or not to believe women.
When the respected professor, Hill, stepped forward to accuse potential Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual misconduct, the year was 1991. Hill was subjected to an all-male Senate Judiciary Committee that discredited and disregarded her. When Hill testified, she was forced to graphically recount her experiences of sexual harassment while working with Thomas and was told by the committee that the allegations were completely false — part of a smear campaign.
She was pressed on the intimate details of her sexual harassment such as when Thomas sought out private opportunities to discuss his porn-watching habits, films involving group sex and rape. Rather than focusing on the potential truth of her testimony, Hill was shamed simply for speaking out.
Before Hill even took the stand, the default reaction was skepticism. Her fate was already decided no matter what she said; she would not be believed because women who speak out are doing so for their own self-interest, political gain or for their dislike of the candidate. Women were simply not believed. The attitude and the treatment of Hill by the senators in her hearing was not only disrespectful but degrading.
Fast forward 27 years, and there are now four women presiding on the Senate Judiciary Committee. With the #MeToo movement and the Women’s March, it is clear there has been a long overdue cultural shift in the way women should be treated when sharing their stories of sexual harassment, discrimination or assault.
Enter, Ford— Also a respected and successful professor, she is accusing potential Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. From taking a polygraph administered by a former FBI agent to publicly releasing her therapist’s notes, Ford has taken every feasible step to prove the truth of her story. With Ford to testify this upcoming Thursday, will her treatment by the Judiciary Committee and the public be as horrifying as Hill’s experience, or will she be believed —or at the very least respected?
The crucial difference between Hill and Ford’s accusations is that Ford’s occurred in high school when Kavanaugh was just 17 years old, while Hill’s occurred when they were both professional adults. This has led to discreditors of Ford to state that this happened so long ago that it does not matter, or that this is just how young men act at that age — boys will be boys.
Ari Fleischer, President George W. Bush’s former press secretary, stated in response to Ford’s accusations, “How much in society should any of us be held liable today when we lived a good life, an upstanding life by all accounts, and then something that maybe is an arguable issue took place in high school? Should that deny us chances later in life? Even for a Supreme Court job, a presidency of the United States or you name it.”
Yes, yes it should. I want to live in a world where sexual assault is taken seriously at all ages. If a man commits sexual assault, even at 17, he is responsible as a citizen of the United States to follow the law of the land. Step outside your realm of political bias — whether conservative or liberal — this a woman’s life. His actions were illegal and morally reprehensible no matter when they happened. The culture of impunity must end. Women are no longer shrugging off these stories and experiences of harassment and assault — they will be heard whether you believe them or not.
While some of you sit back and try to determine whether you believe the overwhelming evidence of Kavanaugh’s assault, just remember this: Hindsight is a gift.
Claire is a junior University Scholars major from Trabuco Canyon, Calif.