It Takes a Village
written by Lola Jean and Tim Mousseau
Before you speak against Kavanaugh alone, talk about the village that raised him.
Anyone who emerges from the Maryland private school bubble can likely tell you the actions of Brett Kavanaugh are not an anomaly, nor hardly surprising. Professor Christine Blasey Ford’s classmates share sentiments her accounts seem on par for behaviors of those surrounding their social circle. Of course, like many similar accusations, they are met with doubt and scrutiny. The incident in questions happened over thirty years ago, why does it only become relevant now?
Before anyone questions why Ford waited thirty years, why now as Kavanaugh is in his “prime” as some would accuse. If you wonder why she waited, look no further than the response she is currently receiving: the scorn she has been met with let alone the outright justification of Kavanaugh’s actions. A slew of defenses for his behaviors have sprung up from the literal “boys will be boys” to the outright calling into question every facet of her integrity. In the scramble to defend Kavanaugh, talking heads to policiations have all but accused Ford of being complicit in this behavior—of welcoming it by being there--or they justify it because of how “young” he was. Those who say it is unfair this is happening now remove the agency of Kavanaugh and his abhorrent actions because of what he might “lose.”
These defenders are quick to forget that he chose to engage in these behaviors. No one forced his hand. But, the system he grew up in allowed his behavior. This system also stoked her silence. Ford waiting to speak is not because the assault did not occur. It is because she already had to pay the price of surviving, let alone living, in a system that empowers “boys” to act atrociously yet forgives them with impunity for a slew of reasons. By coming forward, Ford risks everything from her career to relationships. The scrutiny she will face has already been deafening.
Imagine telling a fifteen-year-old to face this type of probing not just the event in question, but their entire life. Now, tell the same fifteen-year-old they are fighting against a system that hushes reports of sexual violence lest it “ruin” the life of the young man. Why would she come forward? Especially then, in a society that didn’t outlay rape within a marriage until 1993. Why would she even want to speak out now in a society where a “boy being a boy” like Brock Turner, the Stanford rapist, can get off with only a few months despite having been caught in the act because he had a “bright future.” A society where football players can get off with a three game suspension for groping an Uber driver during a ride. A society where a group of high school students can get caught in the act of sharing countless nude photos without consent only for nothing to occur.
The system has always protected those with power. Whether fear of how she would be heard, or the likelihood she knew she would not be, Ford had countless reasons to stay silent. Dismissal. Accusations against her person as everyone from the community to the legal system would ask “but why was she there” instead of “but why did he not commit assault.” Let alone archaic laws that still only lead to an estimated conviction rate for 6% of perpetrators even in todays much more educated criminal justice system.
For those who do not understand why she didn’t speak up: consider the outcome now. Consider the likely outcome in 1983. She never asked for this harm, yet we have unfairly shackled her into silence in a society that doubts survivors, villainizes victims, and consistently accounts for the “future” of the boy who they keep telling each other “knew no better.”
Why didn’t she speak up? Because she had constantly heard this refrained excuse of boys will be boys, especially in the case of privileged boys. Her community gave her no other reason to believe her case would be treated any different.
Now, I do not know Ford personally. Her sexual assault was well before I was born. Yet, the accounts against the Georgetown Prep graduate resonate with me. Not because I was physically restrained as a group of boys watched, but because twenty years spanned the time to which Ford and I were suspended in that orb of oxfords and khakis. Twenty years spanned, yet her words sound like the same stories I heard and lived growing up.
I, too, am a product of Maryland prep schools. I am a graduate of a privileged background from a mostly white environment of upper middle class overachievers, cliques and trust fund babies waiting in a line to take over their parents business. Each prep school in Maryland may have had a different uniform, values, and price tag, though the tales an alumni could weave would sound eerily similar. Those formative years were, indeed traumatizing. I am triggered every time I see a clean cut basic banker those lacrosse players likely grew up to be. Those experiences are mostly put behind me though they are responsible for the strong independent, take-no-bullshit person I’ve become. If we’re able to overcome those traumas, they make us stronger. I wear my experience in the private school system of Baltimore less as a badge of honor and more as a collection of years I’d like to forget.
Sadly, stories similar to that of the accusations of Kavanaugh are not unique. Paint it a different color and it easily could be a story from a girl from Bryn Mawr, RPCS or a boy from Gilman or Boys Latin. It was only a passing murmur about the girl unknowingly filmed having intercourse with the boy who went on to show his entire lacrosse team. It was she who fled and moved to another state. It was news for a couple weeks of the girl who’s naked photos spread throughout the schools male population and eventually the student body. This is not argument against lacrosse players or athletes as much as it is not an argument against private school boys in Maryland. Both of these groups exist in a highly pressurized bubble that protects and produces abusive behavior. Both of these groups can easily exist--and do--outside of Maryland. It is a unique blend that acts as a sorority or fraternity in a vacuum. Add immense privilege, homogeny and alcohol and the prophecy is self fulfilling unless a force intervenes to change the tide. Ahem, #metoo.
The homogenized army and the families who stand behind them are an intimidating bunch to speak out against. Especially if you are a teenager with little agency and capital at stake. What #metoo has shown us is that silence is no longer the more attractive option. For all the years we were able to forget about those who haunted our nightmares, when they reappear in the most public of formats—or are nominated for supreme court—we now have the option and agency to be heard.
You may be quick to paint us as one of those “feminist man-hating revenge seeking etc.. etc…”. Much like the many women who are brave enough to put their faces in the forefront, my mission and actions are not to punish those of my past. I’m saving myself. I am being the person I wish I had. So things like this do not happen or at the least don’t damage those in the way which they damaged me. So girl can have agency. So the cycle can break. Not everyone is as privileged and bold to speak out as Ford has—even thirty years after the fact.
Before you write off future accusations as bitter, a scorned lover or are foolish enough to use the word “crazy” to describe a woman: think of the larger picture at play. Not all of the accused are white or men. But those with privilege, with money, and with power are more likely to skirt the repercussions and threaten the safety, equality, and reputation of an entire gender along with them.
If you feel your gender is being viewed unfairly, do something about it.
It would be a disservice to put the weight of the assault only on Kavanaugh's shoulders or paint him to be the demon. He is another. Another Weinstein. Another Louie. Dismissing this as an isolated incident dismisses much more than the act in question. While the actions that this man undoubtedly committed are inexcusable, the “bad guy” label need not be thrown. This is not to excuse him, nor undermine the foundation of the issue. This is systemic. Just as it is not solely guns that kill people, but those holding them, those who sell them, and the lawmakers who facilitate the purchase process.
Kavanaugh isn't the monster, he is the face of many monsters. He is a product of a system. He is a product of socialization. The socialization that reached its tipping point and fueled the movement prompting this entire conversation. #metoo is a the fully loaded gun that rightfully leaves men shaking in their wingtips. Remember, though: the purpose is not to scare, but to remind those in the past, present, and especially the future that this is the new normal. There are no more excuses, only endless opportunities to prove yourself.