Last week, Sen. Susan Collins made headlines when, after a supposedly arduous deliberation, she voted to approve Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. In a lengthy speech made before the Senate, the Republican senator from Maine explained that although she believes Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony and that she also believes Ford was sexually assaulted, she does not believe Kavanaugh to be the perpetrator. By facilitating an abusive man’s rise to the top of his profession, Collins failed not only Ford and Kavanaugh’s other victims, but sexual assault victims and women everywhere. Her approval of Kavanaugh to a prestigious and lifelong position is permanent and will likely be extremely damaging to women’s rights, considering how Kavanaugh has voted on such issues in the past.
What is so confounding and frustrating to me is why a woman would support a man who may have sexually assaulted multiple women and has a history of ruling against women’s rights. It is extremely hard to comprehend that Collins would sooner believe what is written in Kavanaugh’s calendar from 1982 than Ford’s testimony and the testimonies of Kavanaugh’s former classmates about his history of sexual harassment and excessive drinking.
Maybe Collins believes what is past is past and Kavanaugh’s actions from decades ago shouldn’t impact his present life — but should they be considered inconsequential if they have had such irreparable impacts on Ford’s life? Did Collins just want to be seen as a hero by her fellow Republicans? She did receive a standing ovation, many congratulations and a few hugs from other Republican senators after her speech, but that can’t possibly be a good enough reason to vote a certain way on such a critical nominee.
Maybe Collins truly feels she has no duty to the members of her gender and thus has no responsibility to vote against a man with several sexual assault allegations against him. This would certainly be a new concept for her, since she responded so vehemently to allegations of sexual misconduct levied against now former Sen. Al Franken just last November. When the story first broke, Collins strongly condemned Franken, calling the allegations “credible, disgusting and appalling and degrading to women.”
While Franken’s actions were indeed all of the above, it’s difficult to comprehend how the forceful groping and kissing he was accused of is in any way different or more egregious than the multiple accusations of sexual assault Kavanaugh is accused of. I suppose Collins may only find sexual assault allegations “credible” when they’re levied against someone with opposing political views?
Collins is hardly the only one to jump to Kavanaugh’s defense, and certainly not the only female senator to do so: four other Republican women voted to approve Kavanaugh, too.
Unsurprisingly, President Trump expressed his support for Kavanaugh on several occasions, first by infamously saying that “it is a very scary time for young men in America” and then stating that Kavanaugh was “proven innocent” by the FBI investigation. While it’s not shocking in the least that one abuser would defend another, many women believe Kavanaugh to be innocent as well, most notably white women.
What do all these women think they stand to gain from defending abusive men? Do they think siding with these men will allow them some unique privileges or entry into the boys’ clubs that so many aspects of our society are? Do they think they will appear more trustworthy than other women if they proclaim their loyalty to men? Do they think men will respect them more for doing so?
This is yet another way women feel the need to compete with one another under the patriarchy. Perhaps Collins thinks that being a decisive player in the Kavanaugh vote would gain her favor or respect among her male peers, or she did it simply to be considered a “hero” by the Republicans. She could have just as easily been considered a hero of American women had she voted against Kavanaugh’s nomination.
I remain confused by the possible reasons these women have for defending Kavanaugh and other abusive men, for none of them seem like a good enough reason to side against victims of sexual assault. One thing is certain, though — these women have nothing to gain from doing so. They will never receive the respect they seek from these men, because simply by seeking it in such a way they are disrespecting other women, the victims of these abusive men.
By siding with these men, these women are betraying their own sex and aiding a system that already disproportionately favors men. Men do not need women’s support. Sexual assault victims do. If women cooperate instead of compete, we can transform the oppressive system that denies us equal pay, that continues to disbelieve us when we come forward with traumatic stories of sexual assault and that does not even grant us bodily freedom and autonomy. And we can finally have a truly equal, or at the very least, respectful, society.