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Where Does #MeToo Go from Here? Women Are “On Fire” with Rage as Kavanaugh Joins Supreme Court

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Thousands of women protested outside the U.S. Capitol and across the country on Saturday as Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, just hours after the Senate voted to confirm him. “I hope that it is deep enough that it is forming a strong, cohesive movement among people that will resonate through this country and change the culture,” says Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CodePink, who joined the protests. We also speak with longtime feminist activist and writer Soraya Chemaly, author of the new book, “Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger.” She says conservatives’ biggest fear since the “Me Too” movement is that women are telling the truth. “And if women are telling the truth,” Chemaly notes, “then it’s not just an indictment of a few bad apples, but an indictment of the entire system.”

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StorySep 25, 2018#MeToo Founder Tarana Burke on Sexual Assault Allegations Against Kavanaugh: “We Believe Survivors”
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, I’m Amy Goodman. Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in Saturday as the ninth associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, just hours after the Senate voted to confirm him amidst massive protest outside the Capitol that had been going on for weeks, inside and outside. As we continue with our guests, we are joined by Soraya Chemaly, who is author of a brand-new book called Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger, and Medea Benjamin, who was out on Saturday outside the U.S. Supreme Court, the Capitol. People were protesting inside and out. Describe the scene for us, Medea.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, it was an extraordinary outpouring of rage, and people were just flooding the Supreme Court steps, the Capitol, people getting arrested in civil disobedience—an extremely diverse crowd, majority women, but men, as well, young people with their babies in strollers, older people, diverse in racial composition. It was quite extraordinary.

And I think—well, we knew that Donald Trump was going to put somebody into the Supreme Court who was anti-choice, pro-corporate, pro-executive power. At least with this nomination, we’ve raised the #MeToo movement to another level. We have thousands and thousands of new activists, and hopefully millions of people who will be fired up to go to the polls in November.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response to the confirmation of Justice-now Kavanaugh, who will begin tomorrow, the day after this national holiday?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: It’s an outrage. It’s an outrage because of the people who voted for him not listening to Dr. Ford. It’s an outrage because of the way that he reacted during the hearing, would totally—should have totally disqualified him—the sarcasm, the nastiness, the disrespect.

And I just hope that we really do have a movement, that people don’t forget this moment, because he’s 53 years old. He’s going to be on this court for decades to come, doing rulings that are against the interests of us, whether it’s on voting rights issues, immigrant rights, women’s issues, corporate issues—all of these issues. So, we need a movement that goes to the polls but organizes outside the electoral sphere, as well. And that’s the only way we’re going to counter this appointment.

AMY GOODMAN: Soraya Chemaly, you’ve been traveling the country with your new book, Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger. I don’t know if it could have been timed any better. But talk about the response around the country and what has happened at this time.

SORAYA CHEMALY: I think it’s clear that women on the left are galvanized by what’s happening—men, as well, but the momentum is really coming from women, as we’ve seen over and over again during these protests. On the right, actually, there is a similar anger. I would say it’s the anger of resentment. It’s really looking backwards as opposed to looking forward, so it’s a different sensibility. But clearly, women who were maybe complacent before, who were willing to let things slide a little bit, are no longer doing that. I think they’re fed up. I think they’re scared. I think they’re worried. And they’re interested in holding people accountable in a way that maybe wasn’t true even several years ago.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, speaking Saturday about the impact of Kavanaugh’s confirmation on the upcoming midterm elections.

SEN. MITCH McCONNELL: The tactics that have been employed both by Judiciary Committee Democratic senators and by the—you know, the virtual mob that’s assaulted all of us in the course of this process has turned our base on fire. … They managed to deliver the only thing we had not been able to figure out how to do, which was to get our folks fired up. The other side is obviously fired up; they have been all year.

AMY GOODMAN: He talked about “the mob.” Medea Benjamin, describe what you saw outside.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, it’s not just what I saw outside, Amy. It’s what’s been happening the last several weeks, particularly inside the offices of the senators. It’s been extraordinary, having people come, hundreds of them, from around the country—just alone in Murkowski’s office, the people who came from Alaska, the people who came from Maine—pouring their hearts out. I’ve never seen so much emotion, the tears, the love, for the people who have been telling their stories, sometimes for the first times in their lives opening up like this. So, to call us a mob is such a level of disrespect.

There is a new movement in this country that the #MeToo movement has gone further and deeper and now giving voice to people who just feel that they need to be heard. And the fact that they demanded that their senators listen to them, whether it was in the elevators, in the hallways, in the halls or the kind of speakouts that were happening outdoors, as well, this is unprecedented. And I hope that it is deep enough that it is forming a strong, cohesive movement among people that will resonate through this country and change the culture of our country, the way that young people are brought up, the way that parents teach their children to respect—and respect for women and men. So, hopefully, this will have a real cultural shift.

AMY GOODMAN: This is #MeToo founder Tarana Burke speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday.

TARANA BURKE: We have set a precedent in this country of not believing—of thinking that women, in particular, are lying when they come forward with these allegations, when people come forward with these allegations. So, the mantra “Believe Survivors” is about: Can we start with the premise that people do not often lie about the pain and the trauma of sexual violence? If we start with that premise, that if you believe that it’s true, then you can have an investigation, you can have an interrogation of the facts and that kind of thing. This is not to say believe people blanket and don’t investigate and don’t do anything else besides believe them.

AMY GOODMAN: Soraya Chemaly, can you respond to Tarana Burke, who in 2006 coined that term “Me Too,” that Alyssa Milano, the actress, then picked up on that day that the Harvey Weinstein article was first written about him attacking so many women, and went to sleep, and the response to her saying, “If something has happened to you, please respond with #MeToo,” and she was just inundated?

SORAYA CHEMALY: Yes. I mean, I think that it’s very clear that while people are talking about the presumption of innocence, they’re not talking about the presumption of innocence for survivors and people who have been assaulted. And, you know, you can’t say that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was confused or lying, unless you presume that she is guilty of lying or not knowing what she’s talking about.

And the whole sham of the investigation and the course of this confirmation, I think, attests to the real fear with #MeToo, which is not as the president said, that women will lie and destroy the lives of men, but that women are telling the truth. And if women are telling the truth, then it’s not just an indictment of a few bad apples, but an indictment of the entire system, an indictment of the treatment of survivors and of women by men with power, particularly on the right.

And so, this idea that people are lying, which is absurd on the face of it, because no one has anything to gain, ultimately, by coming forward with these stories—I mean, look at the outcome of this. Dr. Ford is hiding because of violent threats, and Brett Kavanaugh is about to become a Supreme Court justice.


SORAYA CHEMALY: So, you know, I mean, never again should anybody hear that this is ruining a man’s life, that boys are in danger. And in this case, obviously, it’s young white boys, because that’s really the only way you could interpret what the president said.

AMY GOODMAN: You write in your book, Soraya, that rage is hard for women to express. And I was wondering if you can talk about that, and also Senator McConnell’s characterization of the mobs?

SORAYA CHEMALY: Well, you know, I think that it’s useful for McConnell to talk about a mob. These are citizens. They’re articulating their needs, and they’re defending their rights. They happen mainly to be women, which means that they’re associated with unhinged emotion, and you can see that in multiple forms of commentary coming from his party.

But I think that we all understand, certainly as women, that anger and the expression of anger comes with penalties for women. We’re socialized to put others first, to restrain our expressions of negative emotions because it causes discomfort, and, even as little girls, are rewarded for being nice and pleasing, not for being assertive or aggressive, neither of which implies that we’re angry, by the way. It’s just that the assertiveness and aggression and anger are not separated in the behavior and responses to girls and women.

So, I think that what we’re seeing now in this explosion of women’s feeling is clearly a pent-up need to be listened to and believed. It’s a demand that this stop, that the gaslighting stop, that the doubting stop, and that the disregard for our rights as citizens come to an end.

AMY GOODMAN: You wrote about Kavanaugh’s rage versus Blasey Ford in the testimony.

SORAYA CHEMALY: Yes. Well, she was so composed and demure, and actually she was deferential, right? She went out of her way to try and put others at ease, which I think is fairly common for women in her situation, certainly, knowing that—and she not only was a witness, but an expert witness. She was testifying, but she also has studied this her entire life. She knows what these dynamics look like.

I would say that the saddest part, actually, of her whole testimony, to me, was when she used the word “collegiality,” because it showed that she really considered that these people that she was appealing to—and on the right, of course, it was all men, three of whom had been participants in the Anita Hill-Judge Clarence Thomas hearings—that they considered her a peer, that they would treat her with mutual respect, that they would acknowledge her professional expertise. And that is simply not true. She could not make that assumption. And that comes as a rude shock to girls and women all the time, that we believe that we are functioning as equals with equal dignity and with the knowledge that we have accrued some expertise, and then we’re sort of slapped in the face with the information that our male peers do not feel that way at all.

Kavanaugh, on the other hand, came in roaring and indignant and petulant, and his emotionality overwhelmed everything else in the room. And he could do that, because in our culture there is an essential core of rationality that is associated with being a man. It actually didn’t degrade the idea that he could think clearly, whereas if you’re a woman, you don’t have that assumption. People don’t presume that about you. You are all emotionality, and if, by chance, you think clearly, that’s sort of layered on top of this feelings orientation that we’re supposed to naturally have as women, which is of course nonsense. Men are no more rational or logical than women are, and women are no more unhinged and emotional than men. That was very clear from the confirmation hearings.

AMY GOODMAN: So, a lot of the discussion has been about the midterm elections, and this has galvanized the right, many Republicans are saying. Interestingly, shortly after Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, Republican Congressman Steve King tweeted a photo of a sleeping infant and said, quote, “Soon, babies like this little angel will be protected in the womb by law,” of course referring to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. As we wrap up, since you’ve just come from this book tour around the country, how people are continuing to organize, or do you think this stops women in their tracks?

SORAYA CHEMALY: Oh, gosh, no. I mean, very clearly, I think that maybe one of the most formidable confrontations of what we have been living with is about to come. I think that this is not stopping anything in its tracks. If we’re looking at a 12-hour clock, we’re probably at second three or four, I would say. I mean, the truth is that a lot of people would like #MeToo and any suggestions that #MeToo has failed or come to an end to go away. And it’s really not an end, it’s a beginning. This is not a movement that is about to come to a close or that’s looking back. It really is an incredibly sustained and committed challenge to these systemic abuses.

AMY GOODMAN: Soraya Chemaly, we want to thank you for being with us. Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger is Soraya’s new book. Medea Benjamin, we’re asking you to stay with us as we turn to a very different story right now: What has happened to Jamal Khashoggi? He walks into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey—he’s a columnist for The Washington Post—and he never comes out, as far as anyone knows. He’s believed to be dead. What happened? Stay with us.

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