By Tomi Simmons
Author Simcha Fisher once said, “When a woman says, ‘This man raped me a long time ago,’ we say, ‘But that was in the past. He can’t change the past.’ When a girl says, ‘This boy raped me last night,’ we say, ‘But his future! We can’t wreck his future.’ And there she stands, suspended between his past and his future.” Fisher’s quote relates to the coined word himpathy; the definition is disproportionate empathy towards powerful men.
On September 27th, 2018, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh testified in a hearing regarding a sexual assault incident that Ford claimed had happened. Christine Ford recalled the moments that had happened almost thirty years ago, stating, “I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.” Dr. Ford made it clear that it was not her place to tell the committee if Kavanaugh was fit to be a supreme court justice or not, it was her duty to relay information that could affect their decision. Kavanaugh made it known that every sexual assault accusation should be taken seriously, however, he denied sexually assaulting Christine Ford.
Surrounding the historic hearing was chatter in the public about how Dr. Ford’s accusation could be detrimental to Kavanaugh’s nomination. The worries did not seem to come about how Dr. Ford went through a tragic event; empathy was engulfed in Brett Kavanaugh and how the hearing would affect him.
Survivors of sexual assault are constantly trying to navigate the areas of when it is time to tell their story and when it is “inappropriate.” This mindset stems from the idea that the victim holds another person’s future in their hands. If women who are sexually assaulted by men are the ones who hold man’s future, then who are the ones who can hold the women’s? Dr. Ford’s “worst fears were realized,” when she came out to the public and received death threats surrounding her and her family. At the time of the hearings and well before that, she needed security and safe houses. Because Dr.Ford told her story, she received extreme backlash. While Brett Kavanaugh received backlash as well, this has been drowned out by the voices of his numerous supporters, who it could be said for, are putting politics before morality, which in today’s world perhaps seems to be more common than it should be. Regardless of these allegations, Congress still believed that a person who was accused of sexual assault was fit to be a supreme court justice.
This moment in history reflects the patriarchal values that are embedded in the American government. Considering the current President of the United States has been heard on camera claiming he can grab women by the genitals, and past presidents have been accused of sexually assaulting women as well (I.E. Presidents Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy, Thomas Jefferson, and many more.) There is no accountability when it comes to power, government, and men within that realm presently. While the American voters have held some politicians accountable; the Roy Moore Alabama 2017 Senate election being one of these examples, it still is not enough. We are expected as citizens to believe a biased controlled courtroom and to trust the votes of Congress; how can we when partisan competition is the most important thing when it comes down to the foundation of our leaders’ decisions? Himpathy is the key word today in politics when it comes to holding men in power “accountable.”.
It speaks volumes that these events have been normalized as we begin to almost expect new allegations to arise daily. With the skeptical satire of “who will be accused this week?” being grossly overused, we should take a step back and actually analyze the question. “Who will be accused this week?” does not mean that women are revolting or are suddenly against men. It means that they are beginning to become brave and to seek justice no matter the consequence. The streams of allegations challenge not only issues of gender, but also class and power. In order to have a society in which it is built on a fair foundation; empathy must replace himpathy. It has to become unacceptable for women to prioritize a man’s life over their own.