The United States of America versus Women

October 1, 2018 Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , United States

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By

Sarah Ito

 

 

The year: 1991. I was a patient in the West Haven Veterans Administration Hospital, watching television in the dayroom. When the network abruptly broke away from “As the World Turns” due to breaking news in Washington, D.C., we turned up the volume. For many of us, we never turned the volume back down.

 

At the time, a buzz of excitement centered around the nomination of Clarence Thomas, a Republican nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States, and a black man. If confirmed to succeed the retiring Justice Thurgood Marshall, Thomas would become the second African American to sit on that bench. A black male nominee to this lofty position was, to put it mildly, a very big deal at that time.

 

Then came Anita Hill, with her accusations of sexual harassment against Thomas. There was no social media in 1991 to tell us how to think, or to fan the flames of dissent and convert that dissent into hatred. We had hardcore Republicans and Democrats, we had the House and the Senate, and we had Joe Biden. These people were the elected arbiters of Truth, Justice and the American Way.

 

Anita Hill, a 1980 graduate of the Yale Law School, a quiet academic and consummate professional, was immediately discounted by those arbiters, and was subject to derogatory names so disgusting that I will not repeat them. Thomas’s angry denials were believed, almost without question. I struggled to find any plausible motive for a woman of Ms. Hill’s standing to lie before the Senate, and to subject herself to such ugly proceedings. After a three day investigation was completed by the FBI, in an attempt to shed light on Ms. Hill’s claim, Senator Joe Biden, who was at that time Chairman of the Senate Judiciary, said the following: “The reason I have worked so hard to keep FBI reports totally secret is because they have little or no probative weight, because they are hearsay.”

 

Clarence Thomas blamed his accuser of racism, using his now infamous rant of “The high tech lynching of an uppity black man,” indifferent to the fact that it was a consortium of white men who were pushing him onto the bench, and indifferent to the fact that Ms. Hill is African American. Thomas got his way, because his rant carried more weight than Ms. Hill’s understated words.

 

The year: 2018. I am still an outpatient at the Veterans Hospital. I no longer watch soap operas on television. On my Smartphone I received a text regarding Christine Blasey Ford and her allegations of attempted rape by Brett Kavanaugh, a Republication nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States, a privileged white man turned out by a Catholic prep school. The Senate Hearing members have been outraged by this woman’s claims. The arbiters of Truth, Justice and the American Way have familiar names, as three of these white males were present at the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings: Republican Senators Chuck Grassley, 85 years old, Orrin Hatch, 84 years old, and Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, 78 years old.

 

Ms. Blasey Ford, another quiet academic with a stellar reputation, is one of four women now accusing Kavanaugh of aggressive sexual attacks against them. The women’s detractors cannot or will not accept that these women are not “Dem OPs,” nor do their detractors consider why any woman would want to subject herself to the cruelties and ridicule of the white males of the Senate, as well as some segments of the American people. Kavanaugh, who was deceptive during his pre-allegation hearings, decompensated into an angry, snarling, and, at times, nonsensical figure, especially when being questioned by female senators during his later hearing. Still, he is being hailed by far too many men, and some women, as being an angelic altar boy, perfect gentleman, and loving father and husband, while the women who have accused him of the most vile of crimes are, once again, being called names so vulgar that I will not repeat those slurs.

 

Joe Biden, now 75 years old and a man who wants to be President, states that he regrets the manner in which he conducted the Hill/Thomas proceedings, and is quick to point out to the American people that he did not vote for Thomas’s confirmation. In the meantime, women across the country have reached a boiling point from which there is no return. Women of all ages have come forth to tell their story, and it is a story of being unsafe in one’s own home, in one’s own school, in one’s own church, in one’s own country, in the military and in the office; of being branded “liars,” when they speak out, of having a man accused of sex crimes being appointed to a lifetime seat on the highest court of the land by a 72 year old president who in his own words, described how he would grab women, again in the most vulgar of terms. This, from a President of the United States, a country with staggering statistics regarding the frequency of sexual assault, and the belief that many such crimes go unreported, underscores why American women frame every move they make in terms of personal safety.

 

The temperature may have been turned down a degree by the recent decision to have a one week delay in confirmation hearings, while the FBI conducts additional background checks. It is appropriate to take a “wait and see” attitude. I am not optimistic about the outcome, as I have no faith in the elderly white males who control the Senate, nor do I have any faith in the Republicans in the House and Senate to do the right thing, nor do I inherently trust Democratic members, who have had their own repugnant issues with sexual abuse of men and women. Ultimately this is a crisis of morality that is infecting every aspect of our country, up to, and including, the highest level of government.

 

When the FBI concludes its investigation, my sense is that the frustration and rage expressed by so many men and women regarding the Kavanaugh matter will explode into the streets. History has shown us that there is only so much that a people will take. Whether it be the way of Doctor Martin Luther King, or something more fiery, the American War on Women will be brought to an end. The culture of sex abuse will be redefined, and the long night of governance by elderly white men concluded. Whatever the road taken by good men and women, I’m in.

 

 

 

 

Sarah Ito

I am a novelist (GROWING UP GREENWICH, Outskirts Press), blogger and essayist, and occasional poet.

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2 Comments

  1. Sarah Ito October 15, at 14:50

    Sooner or later, Bert, I hope that Americans will say "Enough!" Thank you for your kind comments.

    Reply
  2. Bert Cisneros October 03, at 22:27

    Sarah, you have dotted every 'i' and crossed every 't' there is. Great job. Now it's hold your breath, not for Cavanaugh's approval but for Americans to catch up to the dire possibilities that lie ahead. And again we began at square one.

    Reply

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