As an American, a millennial, a feminist, and a mother, I watched the hearing in which Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh both recalled a summer in high school with a pit in my stomach. It’s easy to scoff at this, especially for someone who did not endure a trauma or an assault as a child or teen. It seems that a memory from so long ago is certainly irrelevant. But as science is continuing to prove, the past, is very relevant to the present. In fact, an unhealed past can unleash destruction many years later. And so we watched, some with disdain, others with pain, as Dr. Ford told her story. I know, I know, her “alleged” story. Then we watched Judge Kavanaugh answer questions, declare his love of beer, and defend his honor and his character.
I watched this, and I thought, like many people, “I think they both are telling the truth.” You see, I don’t think Dr. Ford is lying or a single detail of her story is untrue. I think Brett Kavanaugh was blackout drunk when he climbed on top of her and his friend Mark jumped on the bed gleefully beside them. I think he is a “good man” in this social climate, and was a pretty normal teenage boy in that social climate. I think the rules have changed, and the problem, is that he is being called to answer for actions committed in a very different time. I think he genuinely has no memory of assaulting fifteen year old Christine that night in 1982. But I think he also doesn’t want the FBI continuing to sniff around, because he was admittedly an avid teen drinker, and knows that it’s very likely that he did in fact cross the line of 2018. The norms have changed. And they are continuing to change. And this is good for both girls and boys.
I was speaking to a good man the other day. Not a mediocre guy, but a really good guy. He told me, with sadness and guilt, that this situation has been really weighing on him, because he has some memories, not just one, that are similar to Dr. Ford’s story. I could feel the weight of his guilt when he told me this. He was a teenager and intoxicated when they happened, and he hasn’t put much thought into them. Until now. This made me wonder, that as much as the #metoo movement has given women everywhere a sense of community and support for their trauma, that there are so many men out there, only now realizing how damaging some of their adolescent behavior might have been. And they are alone. I am a mother of three boys. I do not take the mental health of men lightly.
So how do the boys and girls of the past both get to reconcile with the present? I honestly do not know. I think the painful exposure is an unfortunate part of the healing process that our society is undergoing. I wish there was a way for men to find their voice in this without fear of self-incrimination. I wonder how different the Kavanaugh ordeal would be, if ten years ago, Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh had spoken and reconciled. A man who apologized with a broken, open heart for the pain he caused when he was a hormonal and inebriated child, would be a brave and courageous man indeed. That might be a man deserving of a life-long position of supreme power.
So the men of today are in a tough spot. I get that and I appreciate that. But what about our boys? I would like to see this ridiculous “fear for our sons” madness put to rest. Our sons have nothing to fear. These growing pains are paving a path for them, to be intentional, aware, and accountable men. They will not have to worry about the drunken nights of their past coming back to haunt them when they’re men, because the social climate change will demand better behavior from them. As a mother of boys, I am so proud of Dr. Ford and the women that ran into the elevator to confront Senator Jeff Flake, and I don’t care that this is also a wonderful moment for Democrats. This is greater than politics and parties, and if we can’t put our partisan feelings aside, then we’re missing the point.
Brett Kavanaugh will likely be confirmed regardless of the hearings and the investigation, but that’s not the point. The shift has occurred. The change towards accountability for sexual assault has just taken a giant leap forwards, and I’m grateful to have lived through this momentous time in history. Opening up these unhealed wounds will not be simple or easy. And in some ways, it might get worse before it gets better. But I am certainly not afraid for my boys. If anything, I am relieved for them. They will be the generation of young men to act with greater empathy, intention, and masculine responsibility for the well-being of humankind.