Both women are successful. One is a lawyer, a partner in a prosperous New York firm. The other is a show-business personality, famous but not street-stoppingly so. We met at an event in New York, and quickly the talk turned to Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh. This was days before last week’s testimony from him and Christine Blasey Ford, so there were no questions about how he did or about his anger, his crying or his startling partisanship. Nonetheless, both women declared themselves willing to march on Washington there and then, and I was certain they could have gotten at least to Delaware on anger alone. Gentlemen, a revolution is underway.
I’ve heard their sentiment echoed in conversations with other women across the nation over the past few weeks. I heard it in their anger, which is no longer an expression of mere disappointment, a low murmur of discontent, but a roar of sheer fury. “What can I do?” one of them asked, both angry and at a loss. She is a top executive, almost running a vast organization. But she reports to a man, as she has done most of her life. She thinks of herself and her female co-workers as the invisible structure upholding a male-dominated facade.
She is also at a loss as to what to do. She wants to do something huge, something that makes a difference, something that shakes society violently, whiplashing those who complacently believe that a bit more diversity, a bit more #MeToo, will alone make all the difference.
I opposed Kavanaugh’s nomination from the start for the way he had mistreated Monica Lewinsky when he worked for that peeping Tom, Kenneth W. Starr. If anything, Kavanaugh’s testimony last week offered further proof that the motive for the Starr investigation was not Bill Clinton’s misdemeanorish perjury but his sex life.
But the fury I have heard these past few weeks has nothing to do with Lewinsky and everything to with Kavanaugh. He is a man. He is a white man. He is an entitled man. Indeed, last Thursday, Kavanaugh repeatedly complained about how he had punched all the right tickets academically, athletically, scholastically and morally, and yet he was being questioned about something he had allegedly done in high school. Someone had changed the rules on him.
None of the women I talked with said, “You don’t get it.” But I didn’t — not entirely, and I certainly underappreciated their anger. My handicap is huge. I am a white man. I have seen the world through the constraining lens of my own identity. This obviously applies to women, too — but they have been nearly invisiblized for much of history, seen by themselves but not, except in the usual way, by men.
We should apply a higher standard to Supreme Court nominees. Nobody deserves to be on the bench, says editorial board member Stephen Stromberg.
So over the weekend, I delved into Rebecca Traister’s new book, “Good and Mad.” It was already a bestseller on Amazon before it was released. She extols female fury. The book is occasionally reckless, indiscriminate in its rolling criticism of the “Beltway press,” but Traister is right about so much, especially rage and how it’s not accepted in our society for women to show it. Imagine if Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) had vented the way Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) had. Imagine, further, if Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) had, like Graham, been a Trump critic one day and his dear friend the next. You know the dreadful labels. Harris: another angry black woman. Klobuchar: another dizzy dame.
For many women, the election of Donald Trump itself was enraging, a betrayal. He had belittled women, objectified them, cheated on them, traded juvenilia with Howard Stern and seemed, in general, to have fallen to earth from inside a 30-year-old Playboy magazine. A majority of white college-educated women voted for one of their own, while a majority of white non-college-educated women voted for him — a classic example of how those who have less expect less.
This moment is not likely to pass. Women’s anger will not subside. Many older white men will not wise up because they are trapped in their own skin and experiences. The very hard work of thinking this through — of rerouting ossified synapses — will not be done. It is more comforting for some of them to rely on bromides and use the appalling sexist formulas of yesteryear for explanations.
But like Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who was confronted last week by protesters in an elevator, there is no escape. The revolution, gentlemen, is here.