Brett Kavanaugh. Angry. Defiant. Defensive. How, after seeing Dr. Ford’s testimony this morning and the media spin that couldn’t imagine how Kavanaugh might hope to gain ground, how does his angry, defiant, defensive performance leave people finding him believable? He began the hearing pursed lips, eyes fierce, forehead creased, deeply offended for being attacked. Within minutes he was hailing his mother, a lawyer, herself, as inspiration to him in his career, then, behind tears, he recollects the impact on his children and his wise daughter who said “we should pray for the woman.” An indignant, noble, family man. It is all too painfully familiar…
I grew up with this deception. I’m aware of the hatred rising in me about it. I am not ashamed of it. Hatred happens where anger gives up. It is the natural response to one who forgets or loses their power. I know the sense of powerlessness I felt when an angry yet controlled and composed father, defensive and brilliant, questioned what I deeply knew to be true about his abusive behavior. His proud defiance called the story my heart knew — without a shadow of a doubt — into question. This taught me an indelible and tragic, near life-long habit: self-doubt.
My father (now deceased) was what is now described in diagnostic manuals as a malignant narcissist. Charming, charismatic and, when no one was looking, wickedly cruel. Standing up to him was terrifying. How could I defy what he saw to be right and true? Who did I think I was to do so? That perspective was etched into my consciousness by the age of 10.
And so, when I encountered his indignant response after each time I tried to stand up, I recoiled in shame. I betrayed my truth. I folded. To keep going would be to un-love him, to threaten him, to be a “bad daughter”- worse than I already felt I was for even standing up in the first place. I truly believe he didn’t know what he was doing to me and that, were he alive today, he would deny it all. While a full-grown and accomplished, ‘respected’ man, his self image was so brittle that he lacked the capacity to acknowledge that he might have failed in any way.
The shocking thing is how believable he became to me. How much empathy I developed for him. I collapsed as a young girl, then teenager, into that special (co-dependent) role I had as his empathic daughter. It was my job to be sensitive to his needs. I learned to care for him … at my own expense…in spades. I loved him.
*How many women do that?*
And yet, that was how scary he was, how admirable, how accomplished, and how much he needed to be seen as exceptional. (And did we hear Kavanaugh recount his exceptional credentials today? Again and again.) The courage of my tender, teenage heart standing up to my father was met — as was Dr. Blasey Ford’s — with flat denials, sometimes mocking humor, pointed judgements, sometimes even just criticizing my grammar. In his words I was misguided, my comments absurd, their significance no more important than a gnat on the wall. I came to know humiliation this way.
All told… my father stopped at nothing to destroy the truth I knew about him — a truth he could not see in himself.
It has taken me all of my 51 years to begin to see how insecure my father was. How it was his sense of humiliation that led him to humiliate me. The way any question of his superiority and impeccability broke his fragile and elevated self image. In fact, one of the joys of being a woman and being 51, is that it has earned me my life back. I am that many years away from this childhood and I have perspective from here on how vulnerable my father was. I have had this many years to mine down to the truth that it was NOT me — I was not to blame — for being hurt, terribly, for being the target of his disowned self-hatred, I was not to blame for trying to say “no”.
Through all these years I have excavated the gold in my heart and found it to be pure. And I have seen in him, the little boy who, prized by his perfectionistic mother and pressured by his at-times-violent, alcoholic father felt his very life depended on being impeccable. Impeccable. Beyond reproach. For as little as I got from my father in the way of love and understanding, he must have received far less.
There is a truth that women who have faced these demons know, deep in their hearts. They know it in their arms, their legs, their genitals, their feet, their bellies, their throat, and in the depth of their deep seeing eyes. They know. It is a truth no one can take away from them, whether Judge Kavanaugh gets nominated to the highest court in the U.S. or not. And this truth has a voice.
Fellow abuse survivors — we must remember this, remember in order to be strong for the girls who will need all their strength and more to continue the charge for Truth into the future. We need it now more than ever.
Judge Kavanaugh, you say you “will not give up”. You have my word, neither will I. I will not give up on the Truth that lays both of us bare. The Truth of human frailty, of failure, of hurt, of tenderness, of being and doing wrong to one another, the truth of reconciliation, the truth of weakness, humiliation, vulnerability and of shame. These truths unite us. They are the truths of being human. They are the truths that bring us to our knees, in honesty, before God.
Barring safe-enough conditions in this cultural war-zone to acknowledge all this * together*, I will not abandon all that is pure, powerful and vulnerable in me about being a human woman. I will not abandon what my body knows in order to show deference and reverence to you and your tragically, fragile grasp on human manhood. I will not be used, like your daughter, to uphold your self-deceit. I will not shrink so that that your elevated self-image and impressive resume can take the fore. Brett. I see it in your eyes. The fear.
I am a woman who knows. I am also a woman with a voice. For me, for the daughters, for their daughters daughters, I choose to use it.