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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The impact of words


What the Kavanaugh hearing taught me

To preface this article, I want to say that I will be focusing on a woman’s perspective. In particular, I will be highlighting the thoughts and feelings of women that I have observed in the past few weeks.

I am aware that being a victim of sexual assault is not exclusive to women, but my thoughts in this article focus on women, with Christine Blasey Ford at the center of this discussion, because our patriarchal society mainly places blame and shame on women who are victims of sexual assault.

So what has the Kavanaugh hearing and the media storm it left in its wake taught us?

The hearing has reminded me that many people lack empathy, especially in political conversations.

Following the Senate’s decision to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination for appointment to the Supreme Court, I have been continuously reminded of the relearning and reconditioning our society must endure in order to make actual change.

I have also been reminded of the power of framing—how framing affects our opinions and feelings around certain events within the context of how those events affect us versus the people around us.

The events of last week were trying for so many women, including myself and my friends.

My friends discussed how the hearing and investigation, or lack thereof, forced them to confront encounters they have had in the past and begin to process what happened to them.

My friends discussed their feelings of anxiety and anger, not only at how Ford was forced to share the most traumatic thing that has ever happened to her, but also that they were forced to listen to people who dismissed Ford. Dismissal of her testimony felt like a dismissal of their feelings and what happened to them.

I witnessed discussions that suggested our country wasn’t already divided; as if women aren’t consistently silenced and shamed just for being women. As if 53 percent of white women didn’t vote for a president accused of doing the same thing as Kavanaugh. As if Ford would falsely accuse Kavanaugh and choose to relive her trauma publically. As if the percentage of people falsely accused of sexual assault is a large number.

Worst of all are those who consistently claim that accusations like these have the same harmful effect on the accused as they do on the victim.

During conversations about sensitive subjects like sexual assault, it’s important to understand that opinions are not just opinions—they don’t exist inside a vacuum. They have meaning and they can positively or negatively affect another person.

Just because you feel like you have the right to express your opinion does not mean that you should. Use your words wisely.

Kavanaugh’s confirmation has reminded me of this country’s inability to discuss “controversial” topics without discrediting people’s hardships or commenting on issues without showing that you only care about things that affect you.

This country’s selective amnesia surrounding past events, those which may not have directly affected all Americans and framing of this decision as the only awful event to happen here, are harmful to those who have been immediately affected by past events.

On Oct. 4 actress Bette Midler tweeted, “Women, are the n-word of the world…. They are the most disrespected creatures on earth.” This glaringly ignorant comment she most likely believed was profound is the perfect example of the frustration I feel right now.

Midler’s tweet references the infamous Yoko Ono quote, but neglects to acknowledge black women. There are women, like me, who occupy both spaces at once and have always dealt with marginalization on two fronts.

But what have I ultimately learned after all of this? I have learned that change will not and cannot come quietly.

Ford refused to remain silent and for that we should all be thankful. Much of the backlash she received is because she made her voice and her story heard, not in spite of Kavanaugh’s reputation, but because of it.

She had the courage to knowingly withstand abuse and hate from strangers all over the country to protect us from putting a man like Kavanaugh in charge. But she shouldn’t have had to. Her testimony should have been enough, but it wasn’t.

Not because she isn’t credible, but because some people just don’t care. Until women’s experiences are enough and women are prioritized in our white male established patriarchal society, this incident will just become one of many. Ford used her words wisely and so should we.

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    anonOct 17, 2018 at 8:10 am

    If you were to report a crime, would you report it to politicians or police? Before writing this article, I would have researched what “Presumption of Innocence” is. You said it best, everyone has an opinion, but not every opinion is worth sharing.