Brett Kavanaugh has a well-evidenced history of misogyny. For this reason alone, US Senators should have disconfirmed him from the US Supreme Court.
One in three women worldwide have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. This is, in large part, a consequence of cultural norms, tacit and explicit, that sanction the objectification of women. It is thus our moral obligation to do all we can to eradicate norms which constrain this recognition of humanity.
On September 27th, Dr. Christine Ford testified before the US Senate alleging that Kavanaugh, along with his friend Mark Judge, sexually assaulted her at a house party in 1982. After she did so, two others came forward: Julie Swetnick and Deborah Ramirez, the former of whom alleges that Kavanaugh and Judge attended a high school party where she was drugged and gangraped, the latter of whom was a peer of Kavanaugh’s at Yale who asserts that he displayed his penis in her face at the urging of friends.
With November’s elections set to remove the Republican majority in Congress, Donald Trump allowed a “limited” and “narrow” FBI investigation of these allegations lasting only one week: no evidence was found. On this basis, Senate Republicans claim that Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court is justified. This claim is made in ignorance or, more likely, disgusting disregard towards well-evidenced facts.
In Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook, aside from claims of membership in numerous drinking clubs, there are several troubling references. First, Kavanaugh claims the status of “Renate alumnus,” the meaning of which is contextualized in the following poem from another student’s yearbook: “You need a date / And it’s getting late / So don’t hesitate / To call Renate,” a reference to a student at a nearby school. Then, there is mention of a “devil’s triangle”, slang for a sexual position involving two men and one woman. Kavanaugh denied this as his intended meaning in the most recent Senate hearing. He did the same for the mention of the word “boofed,” slang for the anal ingestion of drugs.
All of this might be dismissed as the immature musings of an teenage boy which do not accurately reflect the esteemed judge he has later become. However, the narrative continues. As a Yale undergraduate, Kavanaugh was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE), a fraternity which was banned from campus in 2011 for chants of “No means yes, yes means anal.” Granted, Kavanaugh was a member twenty-six years earlier, in 1986. But, only a year before he joined, in 1985, members of DKE paraded a flag composed of stolen womens’ underwear around the Yale campus. Multiple reports from the time validate this narrative.
What can we conclude from this information, and why it is important? We can securely conclude that Kavanaugh, throughout his formative years at high school and university, was surrounded by and, at times, active in a culture of explicit misogyny. This is evidenced in his yearbook entries, as well as in his active membership in a fraternity with a public reputation for disrespecting women.
For the non-American reader, membership in an American fraternity is, almost by definition, active. Fraternities in the United States are closed organizations with selective membership, annual recruitment drives, and a set of social activities, such as house parties, which are limited to friends of members. Kavanaugh’s membership in DKE practically necessitates that he was an active participant in and contributor to its explicitly misogynistic culture.
There has been a common disregard displayed by members of both political parties towards these facts. We are, without any further investigation, able to conclude that a man up for nomination to interpret the United States constitution has been surrounded by and active in a culture which is in violation of one of its basic precepts: the basic equality of all people. Yet, the media, politicians, and the public are fixated on the veracity or lack thereof of accusations concerning the most extreme exemplification of his history.
Why isn’t a demonstrated respect for the basic equality of people accepted as a job requirement for interpreting the constitution? After all, Republicans and Democrats alike defend the document as one built on this premise. Liberals, and by that I mean classical liberals, of whom there are both Democrats and Republicans, defend it as the starting point for politics. Yet, both those defending Kavanaugh’s confirmation and those against it have failed to identify his history of misogyny as the basis for rejection from the Supreme Court. In doing so, they have failed us. We need to call them on it.