“They persecuted Jesus and look what happened,” Bill Cosby’s lawyer said after his client was sentenced to 3 to 10 years for one instance of sexual assault. It’s almost impossible to know what he meant by that — is Cosby’s sentencing going to result in a new religion? Most likely, it’s just another instance of men defensively uttering complete non sequiturs.
Consider the interview Brett Kavanaugh and his wife gave to Fox News this weekend, in which Kavanaugh informed the nation that he was a virgin for a very long time, even though not being a virgin is not among the accusations he is facing. One can commit attempted sexual assault without losing one’s virginity.
Cosby was, in large part, brought down by the hypocrisy of his public moralizing. He toured the country chiding black Americans for not performing the superficial morality that hid his pattern of drugging and raping women. “No longer is a person embarrassed because they’re pregnant without a husband,” Cosby lamented in one speech.
Kavanaugh’s past is similar to Cosby’s in critical ways. He’s suffering from problems of his own making just as Cosby did: A woman he had sign a letter praising him has since discovered she was the butt of a crude joke by Kavanaugh and his classmates back in the days when, the letter claimed, he was so honorable.
In his 30s, he worked for Kenneth Starr, pursuing a moralistic battle against then-President Bill Clinton. In an email to his colleagues, he wrote, “It is our job to make his pattern of revolting behavior clear — piece by painful piece.”
His supporters accuse his detractors of doing exactly this — using these accusations to tear down a man for political purposes. Kavanaugh was introduced at his hearings by a woman who urged Senate liberals to recall that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was confirmed in 1993 by a majority of senators though she was far more liberal than many of them were.
But 2018 is fundamentally different from 1993 in many ways, not the least of which is how markedly divided we are as a nation on partisan lines. And Kavanaugh has devoted most of his career to actions that brought us to this point, from the Starr investigation to Bush v. Gore. It’s a little late for him to decide he’d rather we all get along — and equally late for the Republicans who refused to even consider Merrick Garland to complain that Democrats aren’t playing nice.
it’s also a different time for women. When Cosby’s accusers first came forward in 2005, the public appeared unable to even hear the accusations against TV dad Cliff Huxtable. Nearly a decade later, in 2014, one accuser says she found a changed world receiving her story. While Cosby’s lawyer gave a similar retort to Kavanaugh’s defenders — deriding the accusations against his client as “unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40, or even 50 years ago” — the media was vying to tell her story, rather than rip it apart. And the public, at long last, wanted to hear it.
Our culture still does not make disclosure easy for women, or victims of sexual assault. There are still women who trip over themselves to uphold the patriarchy, to claim that sexual predation is a fact of life for young men and what was that girl wearing anyway? Why was she drinking? It’s still a culture that sees alcohol as an excuse when consumed by a boy and an indictment when consumed by a girl. Too many Americans still imply, or even flat out say, that just one victim isn’t enough, as though women individually are disposable objects rather than equal citizens.