4 Young Men Share their Thoughts, Feelings, and Anxieties About the Kavanaugh Confirmation
Answers collected and edited by Lauren Cameron
10 • 24 • 2018
Two weeks ago, I wrote an article revealing the devastation I felt amidst Kavanaugh’s confirmation, and throughout the past week I identified an unsettling pattern about the responses not only to my article, but also in response to my array of vocal and public outcry: they were all from women.
I’m inspired by the impassioned messages from women in response to the Kavanaugh case. Whether it be Jessica Valenti’s piece on male rage, Constance Grady and Anna North’s article on how much America is willing to listen to survivors, or Maya Salam’s editorial on the lasting damage of sexual assault on women, women have made damn sure that their voices are heard. And I’m not oblivious to some men’s vocal opposition to Kavanaugh, either. Articles such as Benjamin Wittes’ scathing op-ed in the Atlantic and Alvin Chang’s powerful article and graphic in Vox, in which he compared Ford’s composure with Kavanaugh’s belligerence, were important facets of the post-hearing discourse.
However, it has been painfully clear that the responsibility to speak out about Kavanaugh has disproportionately fallen on women, feeding into the problematic trend of “burdening the oppressed” that we see far too often.
And although it pains me to do so, I must admit I can somewhat understand men’s timidness towards being profoundly vocal about their opposition to Kavanaugh. I imagine that many men are facing the same question I asked myself the first time I chanted along to “Black Lives Matter” at a protest nearly three years ago: Is this my place?
My answer to all men is simple – yes, it is your place. In fact, I would go as far as to say that there has never been a place that your voice has been needed more.
So, curious what the other half of the population had to say about the matter, I asked a variety of college-aged men their thoughts, feelings, and anxieties in response to Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The importance of allowing marginalized communities to write their own narratives isn’t lost on me, but in asking for these men’s reactions I hope to shed light on how both women and men are navigating and resisting oppressive legislation.
20 YEARS OLD, CALIFORNIA
I’d say I heard about Kavanaugh’s confirmation about three weeks ago.
Honestly I had an inkling that this was gonna go through. There’s just been an array of Republican senators that will make this happen because they want this horrible Presidency to continue. But I wouldn’t say I was actively nervous or anxious, it wasn’t on my mind on a daily basis to be honest.
I come from a very liberal family and I actively surround myself with liberal people so most of the conversations were us just preaching to the choir saying fuck this.
I didn’t act upon my concerns, though. Calling my senators is an interesting idea, although I have trouble believing I could have an impact on their decisions. It’s an emotionally tolling experience to receive news nowadays, right? I’m just sitting here reading this stuff (the news) and I feel powerless and I am also just angry, and that is not how I want to live my life.
I wasn’t really encouraged to read more – I just don’t want to hear it. I had come to a very clear decision about this that this guy should not be on our Supreme Court. And seeing the headline I was like well I’m just going to get on with my day because I don’t want to think about it.
The entire thing was very much an emotional outcry, and I have tried to be as supportive as possible. It’s hard, to be frank.I don’t mean to sound like I’m throwing a pity party for the white male but being a liberal white male is difficult in the sense that I try and I want to support those around me who are being discriminated against, but I obviously can’t relate.
I mean, I just got lucky. I was born into an age in which society values me higher which is bullshit and it’s wrong and I want to argue against it but it’s also like, do I have the right? Do I have the right to say I know why this is a problem? I don’t. Because I am a guy. That being said, all I can do is support and be there for those who are being affected.
20 YEARS OLD, MARYLAND
I follow news and politics pretty heavily so I was tracking the nomination process before he was even nominated. So I remember the moment when he was nominated and I was kinda like, oh damn, this is gonna be a whole thing.
It’s one of those weird things where I’m young and so I am sorta hopeful for stuff like this. So when I see a guy has been accused of all this, and even before, way before he came forward, there was tons of disqualifying stuff that he had done. I was like, there’s no way this guy is getting confirmed.
The emotional outcry I’ve witnessed from women in my life is probably one of the most tragic parts. One of the big criticisms of Hillary Clinton when she ran for President was like her “temperament” and her voice and stuff and it was very easy to tell that it was about the fact that she was a woman as opposed to any previous president – that works against women all the time. So it was especially tragic to see people – like the people that confronted Orrin Hatch in the elevator – talking or protesting about their own experiences and see their stories immediately dismissed by him (and even his aids) as just annoying talk. I was receptive to their emotions and I know women who have been sexually assaulted and I know how awful that is and I understand if I was in their position. I can imagine that it would be a very emotional experience.
Another tragic aspect of the whole thing is that there are so many flaws with Kavanaugh, even way before Ford came forward. There were so many hidden things and so much random stuff that was going on that never got a chance to be investigated. And then Blasey Ford came forward and the other women too, but the Republican poll numbers increased basically because they turned the MeToo moment into their own “HimToo” moment. And it’s unbelievable to me that half the country feels that way.
I think men and women’s reactions to the hearings have definitely been different. My brother and his girlfriend, for example, have been talking about it a lot and her reactions have been like this is awful, I’m really angry about this. His reaction is more like I can’t really believe that people are really doing this. I think it’s a different reaction because a lot of this talk about Kavanaugh is about reproductive rights and stuff like violence against women. And that’s not gonna impact men on the same level that it’s gonna impact women in this country. So I think it hits a lot harder and it hits more at home with women than it does for men. Because women seem a lot more distressed about it, whereas guys I have talked to are more like, I don’t know, angry about it.
Being a guy in America in general, I think that the most interesting insight on that is about the fact that young men in America are learning that this is unacceptable or it should be unacceptable. They should be learning. Older men, on the other hand, who have maybe done something bad in their past, are just like… scared. It’s worth it. Because if old people have done something in their past that was awful to someone else than they should be held accountable for it.
I have re-examined in my mind like every sexual experience that I have had, and thought about how maybe it… I could’ve been maybe pressuring someone too much or I didn’t explicitly do this here or there. I’ve definitely gone through that. And it’s weird because like you don’t think about that in the moment, or I hadn’t until this movement came along and I think it’s important for me to start thinking about that and reminiscing. And I don’t think that I have done anything wrong to anyone after examining my past actions. But I think it’s good that I am even thinking about it, and I hope that everyone’s thinking about it. I have a ton of years ahead of me as a young man and if I’m reticent of this kind of behavior, it could just make the difference of me not taking another shot because I don’t want to be sloppy and be disrespectful.
20 YEARS OLD, COLORADO
I was extremely nervous about Kavanaugh’s confirmation just because of how significant it’s gonna be for such a long time.
I wasn’t really aware of what I could’ve done to stop his confirmation. I got some emails about taking action but that was mostly from random governors or senators that I usually get a bunch of spam mail from, unfortunately. So I tend to ignore it. Besides those, I had no idea what I could’ve done to help. I didn’t even know of any protests that were going on here in LA.
Two of the three people I talked to most often about this were men, and I think there is a level of us feeling as if we don’t totally have all the information that we could in talking and having conversations about (this) so I think that makes it a little tense once in a while. I definitely noticed that with my roommate.
I was extremely – I’m not going to say surprised, but – taken aback by the confirmation going through. Not necessarily because of the accusations but because of the way he handled himself with these accusations. I can understand that if these things were in fact not true, that he would be angry about it. But a Supreme Court justice shouldn’t be as angry as he was in such an official hearing.
After the confirmation, I have been surprised with how silent everyone has gone. And I think that’s really a sign of unfortunate defeat. I haven’t even seen a lot about it on the news after his confirmation, and I think it is something that should’ve been kept up with. On the other side of that, I think there are issues that were more important than this confirmation – not necessarily more important – but I think this was a publicity stunt for both sides, the Democrats and Republicans. And I think this took away from those other issues for a short period of time. The hurricane, most notably the one that hit North Carolina. There was a ton of destruction that was happening. I think the publicity stunt of how this took away from other issues, like we don’t talk about all the problems going on in the Middle East at all.
I think that especially in this climate that we have and the age that we are in right now, I think that there is a sharp divide that I don’t like to see between men and women’s experience in the social impact of our lives. It is really unfortunate that women have to be worried about their well-being so often so I think that’s where the difference in reactions stems from. Women are being so much more vocal and hurt by this confirmation because of that.
In general, the confirmation has definitely made me more cautious about how I conduct myself in social interactions. Both in thinking about the amount of alcohol I consume and the lines we might be crossing in interactions. These are important things for us to think about. I would like to think that this has been something that has always been in my mind despite the MeToo Movement happening. I think that’s something that both my parents raised me to think about often, but it has made me more timid in social interactions.
20 YEARS OLD, FLORIDA
I wasn’t surprised by Kavanaugh’s confirmation. People vote along party lines and Republicans are never going to listen to, what in their minds, are baseless allegations of sexual assault.
I was really hoping that it wasn’t going to go that way, but I have extreme pessimism about the direction of our country and pretty much everything the U.S. does so it’s very not surprising to me that someone who has possibly committed sexual assault and 100% is an awful person with awful ideas was confirmed to the Supreme Court. The biggest thing to me is that it is crazy that two people on the highest court in the nation have raped girls. Like that is super messed up.
Any time an extremely conservative judge is nominated that’s a big power dynamic shift in my opinion. I wasn’t nervous about the allegations at first. Obviously, I was eventually worried about the allegations because I think the signal that sends to everyone, especially young women, is horrible. But I’d say that I’m more concerned with him being conservative than the allegations.
I never got that emotionally invested. I am not a young woman, I don’t know a lot of people who have suffered from sexual assault. So I wouldn’t say the conversations were necessarily emotional, it was more of an interest, which sounds messed up, but it was an intriguing and saddening story to me. But it didn’t have a personal emotional impact attached.
I don’t know if I’ve necessarily experienced a ton of emotional outcry. I mean, I have definitely talked to people who were emotionally impacted by it. I would think that I would try my hardest to be sympathetic and comforting. And I also think that when you talk about issues like this, even if you hold an opposite opinion, if there are people who are emotionally impacted, you have to be so careful with the way you disagree. And I think that is not a bad thing, people watching what they say and the discourse on situations like this is a good thing. And I hope that’s something that is occuring more as people are more willing to display how situations like this emotionally impact them.
Men’s and women’s reactions have been really different in response to his hearings because people are self-interested. I try to look at situations objectively and evaluate them on that case. And obviously if I am not emotionally impacted by a situation it won’t be as important to me but I I think that people are definitely self-interested. Men are going to look at it from a lens – and I think to a degree it’s hard not to think about it like this – from the view of what if these are false accusations? And a man’s life is totally ruined? And for every guy, especially guys in college, that is a consideration. Like, wow. That’s crazy. And I think that fear of that possibility, which does happen even if it’s wildly exaggerated how much it happens, motivates men to think about issues like this very differently from women, because they look at it from a very self-interested perspective. Like wow, that could be me. And I also think that men just don’t know what it’s like to have a big fear of being sexual assaulted.
In general, I think you have to be incredibly careful as a man. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing, like the fact that I think I have to be way more careful in the way I interact with women is probably a good step going forward. I also think that it’s prompted me to think a lot more about what our culture says about sexual assault and about rape, and the discourse we have on it. And I think it’s led me to believe that it is very easy to understand that in an ideal society that if there is a man who has a 2% chance of having committed sexual assault, he shouldn’t be in a huge position of power. And it’s crazy, the message that we send to women in this country by putting people with way greater likelihoods than that of sexual assault in positions of power.
And it’s made me really evaluate the messages that we send to women across the country and why some of those can be so oppressive. It definitely makes you think about things… it’s just so hard. It is such a murky issue. Consent even is just such a murky issue. I definitely agree that (consent) should be so clear cut and you should follow the five pillars of consent, but the reality is there will be situations that are gray areas. And those situations are so tough to navigate. And I think looking back on sexual situations that fall in those gray areas is a good thing to do. And moving forward, I think it’s important to make sure those gray areas never exist.