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“Who will believe thee, Isabel?” Women Senators Reverse Decades of Progress

In addition to the character assassination of a sitting federal judge and Supreme Court nominee, and the terrible, chilling effect this will have on the willingness of any sane conservative to accept a nomination to the High Court, the greatest damage done by the Kavanaugh debacle is to the credibility of women.

We have been fighting for centuries, actually since Eve left the garden, to be taken seriously, to advance our equal standing before the law, in the home or the working world. We have insisted that men treat us fairly and with respect. Our best weapon has been to treat others fairly and with respect, and to be of high character. But not even those virtues will protect us.

In Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure”, Isabella goes to the powerful Lord Angelo to beg for her brother Claudio’s life. He denies her plea, saying he might help but only if she submits her body to him. When Isabella, who is known for her great faith and virtue, refuses and warns Angelo that she will tell the world of his “pernicious purpose,” he mocks her, asking, “Who will believe thee, Isabel?”

Throughout history, women have been faced with similar demands and dilemmas. Recently, American women had made great strides in the “he-said-she-said” arena in law enforcement and in the workplace. Still, when there are no witnesses, the law is little help absent conclusive evidence. The trier of fact and the victim are at a terrible disadvantage. If a woman delays her case, for whatever reason, evidence grows stale. Memories fade. That is why we have rules of evidence, statutes of limitations and presume that the accused is innocent until proven otherwise.

But the Kavanaugh debacle is not playing out in a courtroom with those protections, and neither has the take-down of powerful men this last two years.

The #metoo movement has delivered some rough justice mostly in the court of public opinion. Who has not cheered Harvey Weinstein’s downfall? Who does not hope he rots in prison? Though the lack of due-process guardrails in some cases has been very concerning, politicians and titans have been put on notice that they are not too big to fail. Rowan Farrow, the journalist at the New Yorker who has broken many of the big stories, had done careful work as a journalist, gaining deep respect for his reporting on powerful men like Weinstein who abused women, abused their power. And then last week Farrow threw it all away.

He threw it all away with the help of powerful women in the Senate, led by the once-respected Diane Feinstein, and aided and abetted by Senators Amy Klobuchar and Kamala Harris, and a complicit media happy to repeat unsubstantiated claims as if they were credible.  These women, acting now like the cruel and corrupt Lord Angelo, have weaponized the #metoo movement and their positions on the Judiciary Committee. They have abused their Constitutional duty to advise and consent. All in an attempt to slow-walk or end the Kavanaugh appointment before the mid-terms. I can just imagine their laughter behind closed doors as they congratulate one another, reveling in their female power, thinking they have done something noble, saying “Who will believe Judge Kavanaugh now?”

The left is in a rage over Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016. Apparently, anything goes to stop the duly-elected president from appointing judges to the Supreme Court even though many people voted for Trump because he promised to appoint conservatives judges. Power politics have defeated respect for electoral outcomes, and decency. This is all-out war.

And the accusers, these women combatants. Leave aside for now how they are being used by the powerful women of the Senate. Their accusations do not merit the seriousness with which they have been treated given the passage of time and total lack of evidence, and the manner in which they have been leveled is out of bounds. The accusers are not acting fairly or respectfully. They are every innocent man’s worst nightmare.

After the flimsy accusations of these women against Kavanaugh, accusations against which he cannot defend himself, and the demands by Senator Mazie Hirono that all men “shut up” and that the accusers be believed just because they are women? Ladies, our cause has been set back decades, perhaps a century or more. Who will believe us now?

These are the same women by the way who defended Bill Clinton, and now mock Vice President Pence for preferring to keep his wife and closest advisor, Karen, near. And to avoid being alone with women when someone else is not present. It protects him. Plus, you can tell by the way they dance that they really like each other.

I think the Pences have set a trend.

But the damage is done. If they are sane, men will be less likely to believe us, to trust women as colleagues, to network at lunch (or certainly dinner), to mentor, to travel together, invite us to golf, or hire women in the first place. They will rightly warn their sons and male colleagues to use caution, that some women are not to be trusted and that it is hard to know which ones are and are not worth the risk. And they will be right.

In “Measure for Measure,” the Bard meets out justice and delivers a happy ending. Let’s hope the Senate does its job and confirms Kavanaugh to the Court promptly. It is the only just and happy ending to this national melodrama.

(Act 2, Scene 4)

ISABELLA

Ha! little honour to be much believed,
And most pernicious purpose! Seeming, seeming!
I will proclaim thee, Angelo; look for’t:
Sign me a present pardon for my brother,
Or with an outstretch’d throat I’ll tell the world aloud
What man thou art.

ANGELO

Who will believe thee, Isabel?
My unsoil’d name, the austereness of my life,
My vouch against you, and my place i’ the state,
Will so your accusation overweigh,
That you shall stifle in your own report
And smell of calumny. I have begun,
And now I give my sensual race the rein:
Fit thy consent to my sharp appetite;
Lay by all nicety and prolixious blushes,
That banish what they sue for; redeem thy brother
By yielding up thy body to my will;
Or else he must not only die the death,
But thy unkindness shall his death draw out
To lingering sufferance. Answer me to-morrow,
Or, by the affection that now guides me most,
I’ll prove a tyrant to him. As for you,
Say what you can, my false o’erweighs your true.

Exit

ISABELLA

To whom should I complain? Did I tell this,
Who would believe me? O perilous mouths,
That bear in them one and the self-same tongue,
Either of condemnation or approof;
Bidding the law make court’sy to their will:
Hooking both right and wrong to the appetite,
To follow as it draws! I’ll to my brother:
Though he hath fallen by prompture of the blood,
Yet hath he in him such a mind of honour.
That, had he twenty heads to tender down
On twenty bloody blocks, he’ld yield them up,
Before his sister should her body stoop
To such abhorr’d pollution.
Then, Isabel, live chaste, and, brother, die:
More than our brother is our chastity.
I’ll tell him yet of Angelo’s request,
And fit his mind to death, for his soul’s rest.

Exit

 

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