CW: sexual assault
The Kavanaugh hearing was viscerally upsetting to watch.
While Christine Blasey Ford remained calm before a nation ready to doubt and disprove, Brett Kavanaugh exhibited the boiling belligerence of a man realizing his thick-walled privilege may not protect him this time.
As a woman in Trump’s America, nothing surprised me about Kavanaugh’s demeanor during last Thursday’s hearing. Trumpian machismo relies on a foundation of arrogance and entitlement — and that was exactly what Kavanaugh displayed.
Many people have discussed the contrast between pre-hearing Kavanaugh and last Thursday’s Kavanaugh, how the hotly enraged and bitterly defiant Kavanaugh from the hearing was unlike the one we had seen in previous weeks.
Choir-boy Kavanaugh was replaced with a contemptuous, reactive man who dodged questions and howled his innocence — all in a desperate display of entitlement.
It’s not surprising that Kavanaugh’s demeanor in court changed so drastically. Before the hearings, we had seen a man whose privilege was going to award him even more power. On Thursday, we saw his reaction when the prospect of accountability threatened to halt his rise to power.
With quintessentially Trumpian nostalgia, Kavanaugh looked back on the glory days.
“I was focused on trying to be number one in my class and being captain of the varsity basketball team and doing my service projects, going to church,” Kavanaugh explained to a concerned Martha MacCallum on Fox Sept. 24. “The vast majority of the time I spent in high school was spent studying or [being] focused on sports.”
Privilege plants the seeds of entitlement during formative years. From a life of comfort grows the guise of meritocracy: I have what I have because I worked hard for it and therefore deserve it. According to Kavanaugh, his admission to Yale Law school followed the same pattern.
“I got into Yale Law school. That’s the number one law school in the country,” he said in response to one of Sen. Mazie Hirono’s questions. “I have no connections there. I got there by busting my tail in college.”
I do not doubt Kavanaugh received good grades throughout his years of schooling. I do, however, doubt the Bethesda-raised, prep-school graduate reached his prestigious institution solely by “busting [his] tail.”
Sure, Kavanaugh may not have had connections at Yale (besides his grandfather) when applying. But at Georgetown Prep, one of the most selective boarding schools in the country, students receive ample resources, generous college counseling, and exist in an environment where attending top-tier schools is the norm — all privileges that contribute to the ease and success with which one navigates the college process.
Kavanaugh fully disregards the way his lifelong privilege helped carve him a clear path to power. For someone who so deeply believes that his hard work produced all of his success, it is no wonder he is so shocked to find roadblocks on his path now.
From interrupting Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to asking Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) if she ever blacked out from drinking, Kavanaugh answered questions with hostility and brashness. I understand frustration with the process, but the arrogance with which he answered questions, the disdain, the disrespect, the refusal to cooperate, all sent a glaring message: I believe I am above this.
Such a mentality should not shock us when our current president often acts as though he himself is above the law.
All in all, Kavanaugh neglected to tame the way he presented himself because he does not know the fear of being labeled “overly emotional,” “overly impassioned,” or “too angry.” He could give a tantrum-like testimony where Ford surely could not.
Ford was eager to ensure her answers were as clear and helpful as possible. “Is this good?” she asked as she leaned into the microphone. “Does that work for you?” she responded when Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked if she needed a break.
In the midst of interrogation, Ford was cooperative, while Kavanaugh was combative.
So, to those still saying, “How dare Ford ruin his life like this!” I ask for recognition of the irony in that statement. I ask for contemplation of the impact an experience such as Ford’s has on one’s life.
I ask for acknowledgment of the frustration and shame felt by one speaking their truth and being met with doubt and disbelief. I ask you to consider what makes you so confident in Kavanaugh’s innocence.
Kavanaugh’s privilege and positionality will help him weather this storm. I have seen much of this country give him the benefit of the doubt while giving Ford constant disparagement — sometimes even death threats — since she came forth with her story.
As numbingly unsurprised as I was by Kavanaugh’s anger during last week’s hearing, and as predictably Trumpian his aggression and arrogance were, I will forever be astounded by the viciousness with which our country has reacted to survivors who share their story. How little has changed in the 27 years since Anita Hill stood in Ford’s position.
Lily Borak PZ ’21 is a neuroscience major from Newton, MA. She loves telling everyone Boston sports teams are the best despite never really watching Boston sports.