I did not know before this week how exhausted I could feel without anything really happening directly to me.
I did not go to Washington, D.C. and confront senators; I don’t personally know anyone who did. I wrote words; I tried to make them coherent.
They weren’t even about me, not directly. No one was calling me a liar. A man I met years ago and fooled around with didn’t write a humiliating, horrible letter about me; my government didn’t post that letter on a government website and then tweet it out, openly gleeful at their ability to destroy me. The government didn’t publish an anonymous letter from someone claiming to have dated me, saying that I was a liar and a fraud and a sneak and a cheat. The president hadn’t made fun of me at great length at a massive rally, enjoining a crowd of my fellow citizens to roar with laughter, just days after I told the nation the most powerful memory from the sexual assault that was done to me was the laughter of the assailants. A senator didn’t demand my therapy notes. The FBI didn’t half-ass an investigation to which I was personally connected. The White House didn’t completely lie about their intervention in that investigation, the way they lie about seemingly everything. Tucker Carlson and some other red, sweaty white men didn’t go on TV and liken me to a crying child. I wasn’t one of the sexual assault survivors Orrin Hatch laughed at and told to “go away,” then had his security threaten to arrest.
I’m not a working mother; I didn’t have to think about all the hurdles and hoops I’ve had to jump over and through while reading Brett Kavanaugh’s Wall Street Journal opinion column ruling himself fair and balanced while blaming his out-of-control or, as he put it, “emotional at times” behavior before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the fact that he is “a husband, father and son.”
I didn’t share deeply personal information about myself with millions of strangers. Christine Blasey Ford did. Debbie Ramirez, Julie Swetnick, Ana Maria Archila, Maria Gallagher did. My amazing friend Mara Gay did.
So why do I feel so bad? Why am I so exhausted? Why did each and every one of those things, even though they happened to other people, make me feel as though blood was being drained from my body by misogynistic vampires?
It undoubtedly goes back further, but the thing I keep coming back to is watching Brett Kavanaugh shout and cry and fume and be completely out of control while asserting his absolute right to a job where the fundamental requirement is the ability to be judicious. When he first began to cry, I felt guilty about my lack of concern for him. Something must be wrong with me; how could I not feel at least a little bit of sympathy? But when a young man I respect argued with me, saying that it wasn’t fair to think his tears were disingenuous, I felt myself split in two. This happens, sometimes, when I am confronted with something that reminds me of something that happened before, when I was younger. Some part of me is still that younger person; another part is the older me, who knows better. The most benign example I can share with the wider public: the younger me, after a breakup, feels despair, is certain that I will never love again, desperately needs to contact the ex; the older one tells her it’s okay, it does hurt very much, that’s all totally normal, but she’s not going to have phone privileges until she can chill a little bit.
I split in two, and the younger me felt terrible. She felt guilty, she felt bad, she felt like she shouldn’t have made a man feel so upset. She wished she hadn’t said anything about wanting him to be a little kinder, because look how angry he’d become, and that was her fault. Now he was so sad and desperate and crying and yelling and all she wanted to do was take it all back and make him feel better.
The older me felt furious. The older me has listened to women describe being raped, and how after the rape, the rapist—usually the woman’s boyfriend—cried, and the woman comforted him. The older me knows that abusive people lash out when they sense the jig might be up, that maybe you’re getting wise to the fact that they’re kind of a fucking asshole. They lash out and they scream and they cry and they’re the victim, but they’re not, and it’s bullshit.
I remembered taking responsibility for the out-of-control behavior of men. Other women I know were remembering that, too. And we are angry. Because it’s bullshit. Because you can’t do this anymore. We can’t take it anymore.
All of that is the emotional argument, I guess. It’s like how, when Sen. Amy Klobuchar asked the nominee if he ever drank to the point where he couldn’t remember what happened while he was drunk, he snarled at her. “You’re asking about a blackout,” the judge responded. “I don’t know, have you?”
Pundits tut-tutted that Kavanaugh had been insensitive, since she’d disclosed that her father is a recovering alcoholic—as if she is a delicate flower rather than a stateswoman. He apologized later, probably after someone told him to do that, like they told him to write the oped apologizing for saying things that he shouldn’t have said but not saying what, exactly those things were and assuring us that he wouldn’t say them again.
But just like he didn’t write what it was that his emotions had made him do that he was sorry for, he didn’t ever answer Klobuchar’s question. And that was the point. She was doing her job. He failed to do his. She wasn’t at an Al-Anon meeting. She didn’t need him to express sympathy for her difficult childhood or family. She needed him to have enough respect for her as an adult and a goddamn United States Senator to remember that his literal job in that moment was to answer her question.
And yes, it’s bullshit that Kavanaugh can write about his high opinion of himself, deploying an argument that no woman could get away with. But it’s insane that he is supposed to get a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court after he seethed in his written opening remarks that the Clinton family was to blame for the sexual assault accusations he faces.
So he judges himself a fair judge in a Wall Street Journal opinion column where he said sorry but not what exactly he was sorry for, while also promising that he won’t behave that way be again, you can be sure, and he wouldn’t have this time if people hadn’t treated him so damn poorly and forced him to lash out as “a son and husband and dad.”
Kavanaugh says he’s calm again, having got all that emotion out of his system. I am fucking exhausted.