Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/9/2018 (481 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, in a university speech three years ago, recalled a rule of his Roman Catholic high school in Bethesda, Md.: "What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep," Judge Kavanaugh quoted.
That rule may have been repealed while Kavanaugh wasn’t watching. Drunken parties at Georgetown Preparatory School — and later at Yale Law School — are now being widely discussed and hotly debated in Washington and around the world.
The New Yorker magazine, which has developed a specialty in ferreting out sexual misconduct, has spoken to a vast array of sources and found some evidence of disgraceful conduct by Kavanaugh during his teenage and university years. Some other sources told the magazine no such thing ever happened.
Who exactly did what to whom is far from clear in these incidents from the 1980s. Many of the people present were in varying stages of drunkenness at the time. But enough people remember enough misbehaviour that Kavanaugh may be forced, despite the efforts of Republicans on the Senate judiciary committee to ram through his nomination, to drop out of the running for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. In that event, U.S. President Donald Trump may have to wait until after the November midterm elections to seek congressional approval for a Supreme Court nominee.
According to a promotional slogan that seems ever more out of touch in the #MeToo era, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." That principle reflects a time when women who had been sexually abused were so ashamed of what had happened that they would not denounce the perpetrators. The #MeToo movement has brought that era to an end. Hardly a week passes this year without a prominent woman disclosing sexual misconduct, sometimes involving prominent men who should definitely know better.
For people — mainly men — who grew up under the old rules and are now climbing the career ladder under the new rules, the change of rules is a delicate matter. For a few of them, it will be an unmitigated disaster. Those who went through early adulthood in a drunken haze cannot now be sure what they did. They may be genuinely astonished to learn what footprints they left in the sands of time, and in the memories of their friends and classmates.
For those who know perfectly well what they did and who are anxiously expecting denunciation, it may not be too late to renew old acquaintances and seek forgiveness. That sounds like a hard thing to do, but the spectacle of Brett Kavanaugh twisting in the wind this week should be instructive.
These events mark a large, long overdue shift in the power relations between men and women. For too long, victims of abuse could not count on society to deliver on its moral duty to deliver justice.
Women subjected to abuse have been justifiably reluctant to step forward, fearful of having their trauma compounded by being dismissed or shamed for speaking of what had been done to them.
That sense of shame is ebbing away, and men’s sense of impunity is eroding with it. The generation now in young adulthood can profit from the Kavanaugh story and mind their manners while there is still time.
Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.