- Vaward-winning playwright and author of The Vagina Monologues. She is the founder of V-Day.
Opposition to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is growing across the country as the Senate prepares to vote on his nomination, just one day after senators were given their first chance to see the FBI’s new investigation into Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s claims that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when she was a teenager. More than 300 protesters were arrested Thursday during a massive sit-in on Capitol Hill against Kavanaugh, who has been accused of sexual assault and misconduct by multiple women. The Senate is planning to hold a key procedural vote on his confirmation Friday morning. A final vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation is expected on Saturday. The decision rests on four senators who have not yet announced how they will vote: Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, as well as Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia. We speak with Eve Ensler, award-winning playwright and author of “The Vagina Monologues.” She is also the founder of V-Day, a movement to end violence against women and girls. She recently published “A Letter to White Women Who Support Brett Kavanaugh” in Time magazine. She says to sexual assault survivors watching the Kavanaugh nomination unfold, “Your pain matters. Your experience matters. The trauma that you have faced matters. And there are many of us, many of us supporting you, loving you, holding you as you try to heal from this experience.”
AMY GOODMAN: More than 300 protesters, mostly women, were arrested on Thursday during a massive sit-in on Capitol Hill against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has been accused of sexual assault and misconduct by multiple women. The Senate is planning to hold a key procedural vote on his confirmation this morning at 10:30 a.m. Eastern. This comes just one day after senators were given their first chance to see the FBI’s new investigation into Kavanaugh. Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon blasted the FBI probe as a horrific cover-up Thursday. A final vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation is expected on Saturday. The decision rests on four senators who have not yet announced how they will vote: Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, as well as Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia. On Thursday, Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota announced she will vote against Kavanaugh.
Opposition to Kavanaugh is growing across the across the country. Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, a lifelong Republican, said Kavanaugh does not belong on the high court, following his partisan remarks during last week’s hearing. The editorial boards of The Washington Post and The New York Times also came out against Kavanaugh. This marks the first time The Washington Post has opposed a Supreme Court nominee in over 30 years; the last was Robert Bork in 1987.
Meanwhile, Judge Kavanaugh himself has published an unprecedented op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal defending himself. In the column, he vowed to be an independent, impartial judge, but admitted he said a few things last week he should not have said.
We’re joined now by Eve Ensler, award-winning playwright and author of The Vagina Monologues. She is also the founder of V-Day, a movement to end violence against women and girls. She just published “A Letter to White Women Who Support Brett Kavanaugh” in Time magazine.
So, before we go—just after we talk about this, we’re going to talk about today’s announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize. But, Eve, you have dedicated your life to fighting sexual violence. Thousands of mainly women went to protest on Capitol Hill, not just yesterday. There have been hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of arrests over the last few weeks, since the beginning, hearings at the beginning of September of Judge Kavanaugh. Your thoughts?
EVE ENSLER: Well, I think we’re in the middle of a gender war. I think Trump has essentially declared a war. And I think the fact that all of this—I was just listening to the speed at which this is all being done, the language that they’re talking about, plowing it through, ramming it through, getting it through. It all feels like this culture of rape, that we’re doing things so quickly that no one has time to think or breathe or see or feel.
And I think what’s happened—and I’m hearing from many, many activists and survivors throughout the country—women are outraged. Women are in trauma. Women feel like what has happened to them, their experiences, their bodies, their histories, their stories are not being taken seriously, that this is a decimating experience. But it’s also an experience that is bringing women to rage and to react. And I feel like if the Senate moves forward with Brett Kavanaugh and is not listening, in the same way that Orrin Hatch yesterday dismissed that group of women and told them to grow up—to grow up, to a group of survivors, who were asking him to look at them—
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to that clip. This was Thursday. And once again, as happened with Jeff Flake, women saw a senator going to an elevator. This one was Utah Senator Orrin Hatch. And they came up to him at the elevator.
PROTESTER 1: Why aren’t you—why aren’t you brave enough to talk to us and exchange with us? Don’t you wave your hand at me. I wave my hand at you.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH: When you grow up, I’ll be ready.
PROTESTER 2: We grow up?
PROTESTER 1: You grow up! How dare you talk to women that way! How dare you!
AMY GOODMAN: He says “grow up,” and then waves at them as the elevator door closes, as they say “How dare you.”
EVE ENSLER: The level of patronization, the level of absolute dismissal and indifference. I mean, we are seeing—and the way that the Republicans, in the true “crying rapist” trope, have reversed this and made themselves the victim is really quite astonishing.
AMY GOODMAN: Fascinatingly, North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, she and Joe Manchin were considered the Democrats that might vote for Judge Kavanaugh. She was interviewed on local television in North Dakota, and this is what she said.
SEN. HEIDI HEITKAMP: This isn’t a political decision. If this were a political decision for me, I certainly would be deciding this the other way. But, you know, there’s an old saying: History will judge you, but, most importantly, you’ll judge yourself. And that’s really what I’m saying. I can’t get up in the morning and look at the life experience that I’ve had and say yes to Judge Kavanaugh.
AMY GOODMAN: She actually came close to tears as she said this may not be politically expedient. She’s in a very tough race with a Republican. But she said she could not, given her own background, vote for Judge Kavanaugh.
EVE ENSLER: Well, thank God a woman listened to her deepest voice. I mean, we know that one out of three women in the world will be beaten or raped. We know that thousands, millions of survivors across this country are feeling that they are not being believed, that they are not being listened to, that their concerns are not being taken seriously. This, after years and years and years of work, it feels like something that is just totally unacceptable.
AMY GOODMAN: You have written so many books, the most recent, In the Body of the World_. You wrote a letter in Time magazine. Can you share it with us today?
EVE ENSLER: I’d be happy to.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about why you particularly address white women here.
EVE ENSLER: Well, one of the main reasons I’m addressing white women is the statistics. The statistics say that most white men support Kavanaugh, 45 percent of white women support him, 30 percent of Hispanic women and 11 percent of African-American women.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, the number in African-American is something like more than 80 percent of African Americans—
EVE ENSLER: Eighty percent believe. Believe. Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —are opposed to Judge Kavanaugh.
EVE ENSLER: Yeah, that’s right. And only 11 percent believe—are supporting him. So, I, again, was astonished by this. And I just went into my soul, and I felt like I wanted to reach out to those women to talk to them, so I wrote them this letter.
“Dear white women who support Brett Kavanaugh,
“Last night when I saw Donald Trump mock Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, I couldn’t help focusing on the women behind him who cheered and laughed. I felt like I was falling into a familiar nightmare. It compelled me to reach out to you.
“When I was a child my father sexually abused and beat me. My mother did not protect me. She sided with my father, just like these women sided with Donald Trump, and I understand why. She sided with him because he was the breadwinner. She sided with him because of her need to survive. She sided with him because the reality of what was happening in front of her was so terrible, it was easier not to see.
“She sided with him because she was brought up never to question a man. She was taught to serve men and make men happy. She was trained not to believe women. It was only much later, after my father died, that she was able to acknowledge the truth of my childhood and to ask for my forgiveness. It was only then, too late, that she was able to see how she had sacrificed her daughter for security and comfort. She used those words. I was her 'sacrifice.'
“Some people when they look at this video of women laughing at Dr. Ford, will see callousness. I see distancing. I see denial. I have worked on ending violence against women for 20 years. I have traveled this country many times. I have sat with women of all ages and political persuasions. I remember the first performances of my play The Vagina Monologues in Oklahoma City, when half the women in the audience came up after to tell me they had been raped or abused. Most of them whispered it to me, and often I was the first and only person they had told. Until that moment, they had found a way to normalize it. Expect it. Accept it. Deny it.
“I don’t believe you want to have to choose your sons and your husbands over your daughters. I don’t believe you want the pain that was inflicted on us inflicted on future generations.
“I know the risk many of you take in coming out to say you believe a woman over a man. It means you might then have to recognize and believe your own experience. If one out of three women in the world have been raped or beaten, it must mean some of you have had this experience. To believe another woman means having to touch into the pain and fear and sorrow and rage of your own experience and that feels unbearable sometimes. I know because it took me years to come out of my own denial and to break with my perpetrator, my father. To speak the truth that risked upending the comfort of my very carefully constructed life. But I can tell you that living a lie is living half a life. It was only after telling my story that I knew happiness and freedom.
“I know the risk others of you face who have witnessed those you love suffer the traumatic after-effects of violence and those who worry for both your sons and daughters that may someday face this violence
“I write to you because we need you, the way I once needed my mother. We need you to stand with women who are breaking the silence in spite of their terror and shame. I believe inside the bodies of some of those women who laughed at that rally were other impulses and feelings they weren’t expressing.
“Here is why I believe you should take this stand with me. Violence against women destroys our souls. It annihilates our sense of self. It numbs us. It separates us from our bodies. It is the tool used to keep us second-class citizens. And if we don’t address it, it can lead to depression, alcoholism, drug addiction, overeating and suicide. It makes us believe we are not worthy of a life of happiness.
“It took my mother 40 years to see what her denial had done and to apologize to me. I don’t think you want to apologize to your daughters forty years from now. Stop the ascension of a man who is angry, aggressive, vengeful and could very well be a sexual assaulter. Time is short. Call your senators. Stop laughing and start fighting.
“With all my love,
AMY GOODMAN: Eve Ensler, award-winning playwright and author of The Vagina Monologues and so much more, founder of V-Day. Eve, before we go to break and then talk to you about this remarkable day of the Nobel Peace Prize and what it means for everyone, I wanted to ask you about the significance, just as you said you started to perform The Vagina Monologues and so many women came out saying they’d been abused or raped, this week and these last weeks so many women have spoken out about their sexual assaults against them for the first time. It’s as if the whole country is suffering from PTSD.
EVE ENSLER: And I want to say to all those survivors, your pain matters. Your experience matters. What you’ve been through matters. The trauma that you have faced matters. And that there are many of us, many of us, supporting you, loving you, holding you, as you try to heal from this experience. That that mass of conglomerate, patriarchal, misogynist white men do not reflect so many people in this country.
AMY GOODMAN: The Senate Judiciary Committee—
EVE ENSLER: Yes, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —the Republicans on it are all white men, and there has never been one Republican woman on the Senate Judiciary Committee in all of U.S. history.
EVE ENSLER: And I think the fact that 55 percent of the GOP has said that a person being a sexual assaulter shouldn’t prevent them from being on the Supreme Court is an indication of how entrenched, how deeply entrenched, sexual violence and misogyny is in the Republican Party.
AMY GOODMAN: When we come back, the Nobel Peace Prize goes to two people, one man and one woman, who Eve Ensler has worked with, fighting sexual violence. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: “Break the Chain,” music by Tena Clark and Tim Heintz and produced by Eve Ensler and V-Day.