What the Kavanaugh Controversy Means for the #MeToo Movement

Samuel Du and Souvik Ghosh, Contributing Writer

Under the shining spotlight and surrounded by the most-celebrated actors in the country, Oprah Winfrey gave her acclaimed #MeToo speech to those in attendance at the inaugural Grammy ceremony on January 28th, 2018. One of the highlights of that evening was when she implored unilateral cooperation to create an atmosphere that no longer suffocates the unheard cries of tormented women.

“A new day is on the horizon,” Winfrey said. “And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again.”

2018 has been a year profoundly characterized by the introduction and proliferation of this #MeToo movement. Amid growing international economic concerns and domestic lawsuits, this unexpected development has found its way into the national spotlight and undoubtedly reshaped society. Victims of sexual assault can now confidently speak out to an encouraging audience that is finally willing to listen.

However, despite the high-profile acceptance this newfound encouragement has received, some still find issues with the undue ramifications a false accusation can entail. Whether or not this is true, there was a marked increase in the number of sexually-charged lawsuits as a result of the #MeToo movement, the most popular of which was the hearing of Brett Kavanaugh on September 4th, 2018. At the hearing, Dr. Christine Ford testified about a terrifying encounter she experienced as a 15-year old, in which she recounts Kavanaugh forcing himself upon her and assaulting her.

“I believed he was going to rape me,” Ford said. “It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was going to accidentally kill me.”

The lawsuit brought forth immense support from sympathizers and equally impassioned backlash from skeptics. Initially, the movement had gained strong traction,  even in Hollywood’s innermost elite circles, which is evident through the various executives hastily disposed of in recent months by top companies. This was epitomized through Harvey Weinstein’s forced departure from the very company that he helped found.

Particular groups, motivated by both politics and judiciary fairness, changed the trajectory of the movement by raising popular opposition to it. Modern critics have coined the term, ‘call-out culture.’ A term which, by definition, accosts the level of unchecked power given to the accusers, and especially the perceived devolution of the criminal justice system into a state of politically-enforced tribalism. A system in which claims are essentially drowned out by the political and social agendas advancing them

This was indeed demonstrated in Kavanaugh’s defense in the lawsuit, where he resents the corollary onslaught of social and political devastation that laces the tip of any accusation.

“If the mere allegation, the mere assertion of an allegation, a refuted allegation from 36 years ago, is enough to destroy a person’s life and career, we will have abandoned the basic principles of fairness and due process that define our legal system,” Kavanagh said. “I am innocent of this charge.”

The #MeToo movement indeed carries a far-reaching touch, as Fremd students were avid with opinion. When asked about the impact Kavanaugh’s lawsuit had for the #MeToo movement, sophomore William Zhong expressed the same skepticism as Kavanaugh and his supporters.

“Although the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh are serious and must be taken into account, the fact that America is predicated on a judiciary system that assumes innocence before guilt, I feel, is being overshadowed,” Zhong said.

Indelibly ingrained in the fine lines of social media is the growing presence of these sexual accusations, claims which, although often fundamentally unprovable, often impassion strong-willed formations of both supporters and opposers. This particular fire is stoked even further as Kavanaugh markedly holds public office, casting assumption of political agenda on both sides of the issue. This polarization and division within the emerging popular support for assaulted victims almost diminished the movement’s original intention.

English teacher Robin Quinn voiced her disappointment at the rising polarization within such a well-intentioned movement.

“I think, it’s a devastating blow to the MeToo movement, it was painful,” Quinn said. “Even separate from the movement, it’s just shocking, I guess, to hear so much hate on either side and so very little listening.”

The question of Kavanaugh’s innocence does not stand alone and is far from singular. Rather, the public trial of Brett Kavanaugh displays the political and social edges of the American judiciary system, by raising several questions about the assumption of innocence under lawsuits that inherently carry with them an air of uncertainty, especially considering that most of them emerge decades after the crime, and without substantial corroboration.