I don't want to believe Dr. Ford. I desperately want to live in a world where what she describes just couldn't be possible. But almost every woman I know has suffered from sexual assault or harassment. I have spent too much time consoling my female friends and too much time stifling my own tears to be deceived into thinking that we somehow live in a post-sexist world.
Men, I know that for every survivor who has cried on my shoulder, there is a rape joke that you let pass. And for every "cunt" and "bitch" and "whore" that you heard — or let slip from your own mouth — there is a woman internalizing these labels until she concludes that they are all that she can be. You have done your part to uphold the patriarchy, whether you are a jock or nerd or feminist ally. But now's the time to move forward so that women's liberation can truly be the future.
First of all, stay far away from clichés.
"She was drinking."
"He was only 17."
"Every guy has done something like that."
"It was 35 years ago."
"Why is she coming forward now?"
"Why didn't she report to the police?"
"He's such a nice guy."
It is never the victim's fault. Kapeesh?
We have heard these all before. Somehow, people can justify to themselves that they can be against rape (because aren't we all?) and simultaneously think that the aforementioned issues are legitimate in deciphering the crime. Now's a good time to watch the famous tea video if you haven't before.
I don't care if a woman says these things. A woman using rape-apologist language is never an excuse to victim blame. Because of being raised in a patriarchal society, most women still struggle with some level of internal misogyny.
Some women use these as defense mechanisms to convince themselves that as long as they don't drink and they don't go to parties, maybe they can separate themselves from the kind of girl who is assaulted. Some women are even active participants in the abuse of other women, and this is tragic and must change.
Recognize that feminists are doing what they can to address this problem and continue on your own path of unlearning the misogyny you grew up with.
Also, check your bros.
It is exhausting for us to defend the effects of our trauma and to imagine the everlasting continuation of patriarchy. We don't "need you to fight our battles." But what is necessary as an ally is to have the conversations, especially when we're not there. In the locker rooms and the bars and wherever else sexism tends to slide, speak up. When we are with you, speaking up is great too — just not at the expense of talking over us if we are comfortable sharing our thoughts and experiences.
And don't derail the conversation.
In this distasteful meme that has been going around during the allegations against Kavanaugh, Emmett Till is framed solely as a victim of false accusations.
There is no mention of race, despite the fact that Till's murder is commonly referred to a key moment in civil rights history. White people are whitewashing an abhorrent hate crime in order to support Kavanaugh, and it's one of the many aspects of the last few weeks that makes me sick to my stomach.
Not to mention that Till was never accused of sexual assault; he was only accused of flirting with or whistling at Bryant. We cannot diminish the beating and murder of a black boy at the hands of white men (who got away with it!) to "what happens when women lie." To do so is an injustice to Emmett Till and his family, who fought so hard for this to be recognized for what it was — a loathsome display of white supremacy.
This is one of many ways that people — men in particular — have derailed the recent events. With how much calls to sexual assault hotlines have skyrocketed since the allegations came out, it is important to recognize that women are really struggling right now. Be cognizant of this when deciding if and how to discuss this subject matter.
Do your research.
If you are younger than 30, you don't remember Anita Hill. And if you weren't there to watch the hearings unfold for yourself, there's a good chance you grew up knowing nothing about it. It wasn't until last semester, when I took a Philosophy of Gender and Race class, that I discovered this gaping hole in the history that I'd been taught.
One of the most important aspects of studying history is that it helps us not to repeat our past mistakes. Perhaps one (of the many) reasons that some millennials struggle to grasp the enormity of the situation is because they don't realize that it has all happened before.
An educated, well-spoken woman spoke in front of a male-dominated Senate hearing to tell her story in an eloquent, calm manner. The accused man responded with irrelevant information, an air of entitlement, and uncontrolled anger. Sound familiar?
To educate yourself about the history of prioritizing powerful men over believing brave women, watch the documentary about Anita Hill, Speaking Truth to Power, or read the book by the same name. To further understand the future that women fear, read or watch The Handmaid's Tale. Check out this list for further reading.
Finally, believe us.
Believe us no matter what we were wearing, whether it was last night or 40 years ago, if it was a stranger or our husband, even if we were drinking. Believe us not because we are your sisters and mothers and girlfriends and daughters and wives, but because we are people.