September 29, 2018 1:17 pm

Kavanaugh hearing: Gender study, law experts react to what senators had to say

ABOVE: The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee votes to advance Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Senate.


The FBI has been ordered to investigate Brett Kavanaugh, U.S. President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, after Christine Blasey Ford accused the judge of sexual assault.

After hearing emotional testimony from both parties, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted on Friday to recommend Kavanaugh to the Senate — but not before making a final statement on the hotly contested subject.

READ MORE: What does Brett Kavanaugh’s angry testimony say about gender and emotion?

The senators’ comments ranged from messages of support for Ford, who testified that Kavanaugh held her down and tried to remove her clothes when they were teenagers, to larger comments on the state of the law.

Here’s what two experts — Isabel Grant, a law professor specializing in sexual assault, and Judith Taylor, a professor in gender studies — had to say about the comments.

WATCH: Anti-Kavanaugh protesters chant ‘lock him up’ at demonstration outside Supreme Court

What Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy said

WATCH: Leahy says Kavanaugh decision could impact rape victims in the future

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“For victims and for survivors of sexual violence struggling on whether to come forward, the consequences may be even worse. Every one of us who’s been a prosecutor has seen how hard it is sometimes for victims to come forward. Are we sending the signal that you stay there — don’t come forward?

How this committee handles this nomination can be viewed as a reflection of how seriously our society views credible claims of misconduct. If victims think they’ll never be believed, or simply will not be taken seriously if they believe, then why come forward at all?”


“(The statement) from Sen. Leahy was exactly my concern from all of this. I think we have to wait and see how it plays out now, but the fact remains that the judiciary committee voted 11 to 10 to advance this candidate to the Senate floor.”

READ MORE: Meet the women who cornered a U.S. senator before he called for a Brett Kavanaugh investigation


“I think Leahy is correct that testimony is pedagogical. If victims watch other victims speak painful truths and it’s ignored, it can certainly have a silencing effect.

On the other hand, if they believe their audience is other women, and that speaking their truth is more important than justice, they will become immune to the establishment. Court and similar adjudication processes become stages for activism and collectively trying to change public behaviour and sentiment, and the outcome of formal proceedings becomes secondary in importance. ”

What Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said

WATCH: Lindsey Graham says Ford’s testimony not enough to impugn Kavanaugh

“If the new standard of the committee is that there is no presumption of anything, if you have to prove why someone would accuse you, not just say ‘I didn’t do it and here’s why I didn’t do it’ but you have to prove the motives of your accuser, God help us all.

The Avenatti moment tells you what’s going to happen if you keep this farce going. Plenty of opportunities to get to the truth. This has never been about the truth. This has been about delay and destruction. And if we reward this, it is the end of good people wanting to be judges. It is the end of the concept of the rule of law. It’s the beginning of a process that will tear this country apart.”


“With respect to the due process — and due process applies in a criminal trial or in another context where the state is depriving someone of some right or liberty that they experience — to suggest that you are entitled to due process when your name is being considered for appointment to the highest court in the country can really distort what (they’re) doing. It’s a privilege to serve on the United States Supreme Court. It’s not something anyone is entitled to.

“There’s no presumption of innocence when you’re applying for a job. If the employer thinks you’re not fit for the job, the employer doesn’t hire you. It’s not about whether the employer has to prove that you’re fit for the job.”

READ MORE: How Jeff Flake came to decide to defy Trump and push an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh


“Graham’s comments are peculiar and based on the most ardent sexism, implying women always have ulterior motives and cannot be trusted. But his comments about Avenatti are even more peculiar because Avenatti’s client, Stormy Daniels, was telling the truth. She did have sexual interactions with Trump, and (Trump) did pay for her silence. This adds to Avenatti’s credibility.”

What Republican Sen. Ted Cruz said

WATCH: Cruz says allegations against Kavanaugh have hurt his family and future

“These are real people. Dr. Ford has been through hell … it’s clear she was hurting. Having her name made public against her wishes was a hurtful thing to do. A wrong thing to do. And Judge Kavanaugh — he, too, has been dragged through the mud this week in a way that has no precedent.

Judge Kavanaugh has talked about the smears — and the many that have levelled against him in the last two weeks — how, he put it, destroyed his family. To some, that may sound like hyperbole; I don’t think it is. He has been accused, among other things, of drugging and raping women, to take some of the more sensational, I think ludicrous claims that have been aired. These little girls (his daughters) will have classmates repeat these charges to them. “


“I don’t really have anything directly to say to Ted Cruz’s statement. But I think that we have to think that Kavanaugh’s reputation is not the only one that’s been on the line here. And what do we say when we vote for Kavanagh over someone who everyone believed yesterday?”


“Kavanaugh is a victim in the sense that in between his alleged actions against women and his nomination, feminism has had an impact, and men, even in his social position, are now being held to account. He is the victim of his own miscalculation: that the sexism he enjoyed might not always be viewed so favourably as it was in his youth.”

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