Dr. Christine Blasey Ford vs. Tara Reade
The #MeToo movement, begun in 2007 by Tarana Burke, took off in 2016 with the Harvey Weinstein allegations of sex abuse in Hollywood and, when women all over the world stood up to say, “Me, too”, that was the moment I, as a lover of women, made a commitment to feminism.
There was the case of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who decided she had to stand up to tell the world about her attempted rape at the hands of Brett Kavanaugh, feeling that he ought not to become a US Supreme Court Justice.
When that happened, there was widespread condemnation of Kavanaugh across the press and the social media landscape, with “I Believe Dr. Ford” trending on Twitter and many people saying “Believe Women”. While Dr. Ford failed to stop Kavanaugh joining the Supreme Court, her example inspired many women, with her statement, “indelible in the hippocampus was the laughter” being written on the steps of Kavanaugh’s alma mater by the students who study there today.
Now, in this year of 2020, a Presidential election will take place between the incumbent, Donald J. Trump, and his Democratic challenger, Joseph R. Biden, Jr. A woman called Tara Reade has stepped forward to say that Joe Biden sexually assaulted her some thirty years ago when he was in the Senate. Previously she had sent she felt uncomfortable with the way he touched her in non-sexual ways, plus many other women have stated that Biden’s physical touches felt inappropriate at the time he touched them.
Disappointingly, the same voices who gave such vociferous support to Dr. Ford have been largely silent for Reade. Some have gone so far as to dismiss her claim and others even further, saying that women should not always be believed, prompting Rose McGowan, an actress and a defendant in the Weinstein case, to cry “SHAME” on Twitter. So it seems they now say, “ I don’t believe Tara Reade” and even seem to be advising, “Don’t believe women.” What happened?
The reason most people identify for this is that Kavanaugh is a right-winger allied to Trump and the Republican Party, while Biden is a left-winger and a Democrat. Since most in the media and pop culture hew left, it is easy to slam Kavanaugh but extremely inconvenient to criticise Biden, whom many hope will defeat Trump at the election. Scared that heavy criticism will lead to Biden’s defeat, the commentariat seem content to undermine Reade and sweep her claim under the carpet. This has led to allegations that #MeToo and #TimesUp are hopelessly politically motivated and therefore false.
I agree that the anti-Reade comments being made are unfair and totally wrong. However, I don’t believe #MeToo and #TimesUp are political, nor should they be, so they’re not false.
Having said that, Tara Reade’s case is problematic. When we look at Dr. Ford, the case against Kavanaugh was both more pressing and straightforward. Brett Kavanaugh was largely unknown to the public until Republicans recommended to Trump his appointment to the Supreme Court. A US Supreme Court Justice is a lifetime appointment that only ends with death or retirement, so Kavanaugh is likely to serve at least twenty or thirty years or more, affecting huge numbers of legal cases between now and then. Therefore, Ford’s testimony was of absolute, paramount importance to stop a decision being made that would have a permanent effect on the lives of millions of citizens for a very long time. Her case was simple — “He did this to me, so he shouldn’t be on the Supreme Court”.
Tara Reade’s situation is more difficult and delicate. She worked for Biden in his office when he was a Senator. While she has previously complained about his non-sexual touches, she first mentioned the sexual assault after he had defeated all the other 23 Democratic Presidential candidates to become the nominee. Further, there appears to be some police involvement but she’s well past the statute of limitations to press her case. It seems strange as to why she didn’t mention this assault before, when she mentioned the non-sexual touches, plus Biden being a Senator was already a major public role where his name would be well-known enough. Even if we are generous and say that there was little she could have done immediately back in those days against a powerful Senator, surely his being picked as Vice-President to Obama in 2008 ought to have been a big enough national platform to make her claim known, plus the Obama era was decidedly more friendly towards women than the Trump one has been. Perhaps if she had waited until #MeToo went big in 2016 to raise her voice, that would be understandable, yet her decision to reveal it right now when he’s the Presidential nominee seems particularly bad timing. Personally, if I had been her, I would either have already told the world in 2008 when he was running for Vice or, failing that, I would have raised it at the beginning of the Democratic primary season, when he was still one of 24 highly diverse candidates (including six women), when I could have done maximum damage to his campaign and knocked him off early (which would have meant Bernie Sanders would have been the winner, since he was the second-to-last one left). Leaving it until now means we can’t kick Biden off the ticket because everyone else has been beaten already, so who else is going to be the nominee? We’re stuck with him. While she might not want her assaulter to be President, are we to assume that his being Vice-President was OK? Such an attitude seems rather annoying. Finally, being President is not a lifetime appointment. It’s four years, eight years max — plus Biden, at 77 years of age (78 if and when he becomes President), is likely to step down early to let his own Vice-President take over if he gets sick, so his decision to choose a female Vice is good news, which Reade’s claim will mess up.
What to do? Well, first things first — while her sense of political timing is way off-beam and regrettable, I BELIEVE TARA READE. It’s important to emphasize that, in this world, it is very hard to prove an assault case, with most of it being a “he said, she said” situation that will never come to court. So high are the barriers to actually succeeding, there is practically no situation where a woman would tell a lie about assault worth telling. I consider all such claims, therefore, to be automatically true. If it’s important enough for her to make her stand up and be counted, then it almost definitely really happened.
Further, this politicisation of women’s abuse, where rightwing perps get heavily criticised but leftwing perps get let off, trivializes every woman’s story. Cease and desist!
Further, it says something about the political establishment that abuse happens among men who are Democrats just as much as those who are Republicans. Therefore, political ideology matters little to men who obviously must still hate women just as much, no matter what side they join. There’s therefore no reason for a feminist or any woman to show loyalty to either party. Both parties are obliged to care about the other 52% of the human race. If they don’t, them stuff them all! It is not the responsibility of feminism to be socialist; it is the responsibility of socialism to be feminist. WOMEN first — ideology second. Socialism, capitalism, democracy, communism — these are just IDEAS — not even physically existing objects. Women are PEOPLE — human beings. Love for our fellow beings must come first.
What I say, then, is that both parties, but especially the Democrats, who purport to be liberal and/or socialist and who believe in equality, should put in place nonpartisan procedures where female staff are IMMEDIATELY believed, accepted and promoted. I really like the #SheShouldRun movement to get more women to join the Democratic Party. If this is good, then there should be vigorous anti-harassment policies and a clear chain of command for reporting of all such cases, plus an attitude that we’re all in this together. There is no place for the Joe Bidens and Bill Clintons of this world to think that the Democratic Party is a safe place for abusers, assaulters, harassers and rapists and where women are overlooked, unsupported, their lives minimized in importance, their contributions ignored and thought little of. We can now see that when women lead, wars cease, peace is more solid, treaties are strengthened; education, healthcare and welfare are prioritized over war games, guns and bombs. I support women leaders and an all-female cabinet; I want feminist principles to become standard operating procedures; I want Black women centre-stage, making policy based on their lived experience.
As for Biden, owning up would be a good start. If his wife and family have known about this for thirty years, then he should offer an out-of-court financial settlement to Reade. If this is news to his family, then he’ll have to face the music with them first, then approach Reade with a monetary offer to make amends.
For his run for President, he should stand up and confess what he has done. Here’s an example speech I think he should use -
“Ladies and gentlemen, I have been accused of sexual assault by a woman who worked in my office thirty years ago when I was a Senator. Her accusation is true. I did the act of which she has spoken. I am deeply sorry for what I have done and the hurt I have caused to her and to her family and others who know her. My family have been made aware of my actions and I and them have agreed with Ms. Reade to pay her the sum of X as damages in a private settlement. Further, I do not deny that I have made many mistakes in my life. Around the same time, I played a major role in US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ hearing, where Anita Hill stood up to speak of her abuse. I consider my behaviour then to have been a mistake. I’m not proud of my decisions in that time of my career. However, since then, I have tried to make amends. I created the Violence Against Women Act and am a strong supporter of its continued funding. I supported Hillary Clinton’s run to become the first female President. I now intend to appoint a female running mate for Vice-President. I will follow her lead as President in listening to proposals to improve women’s lives and hope that, in choosing her, I will play my part in attempting to give our country its first female President. I’m asking you to still believe in me. Despite everything, I fully intend to be a worthy President and ask you to vote for me in November. In this way, you and I can work together to make this country a better place for women and for us all. God bless America.”
Let us hope he has the courage to make this statement and move forward with dignity towards Election Day.