I was at a professional event in western Maine over the weekend. The obligatory coffee and pastries were laid out, and I had returned to my table with some java when I heard a woman at the next table ask the woman she was sitting with if she wanted a cinnamon roll. When she declined the offer, the first woman said, “That’s why you’re cranky,” implying some carbs might help.

The second woman replied, “No, I ate breakfast. I’m cranky because of those — those hearings.”

And aren’t we all.

The testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, and the rebuttal of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, riveted the nation last week. It was nine hours of what felt like pure, raw emotion.

I knew that it was something I needed to watch. That it was an important moment. Beforehand, I had said to my husband, Paul, “I remember listening to Anita Hill testify on the radio, on NPR. I can’t believe I remember that.”

But that was a moment, too. Paul remembered it as well. His parents were visiting from Massachusetts. We were taking them for a day trip to Kennebunkport. Hill’s testimony was shocking to me; it came out of the blue, from my perspective, not on the heels of a movement like #MeToo, which has already taken down numerous powerful men.

I believed Anita Hill, and didn’t think Clarence Thomas should be appointed to the Supreme Court. He was, of course, and the country moved on. Unfortunately — because here we are again.

The two cases shouldn’t be compared beyond two facts. Both demonstrate the need to fully vet nominees to the Supreme Court. And both show that women who tell their stories of sexual abuse or harassment deserve to be heard and believed.

Women understand this, because we know we all have our stories. As I have related in this column before, when I was 13, a man ground his genitals into my backside as I stood in a Manhattan bus. My parents were nearby, but I was unable to say anything. I tried to move away, but the bus was too crowded. I couldn’t tell you the names of all the junior high school teachers I had that year, but I have never forgotten that horrible incident.

Women know how hard it is to tell. President Donald Trump claimed that if Kavanaugh had attacked Ford, she would have told her parents. Really? Also as a young teen, I played spin the bottle with boys I didn’t know at a friend’s summer cottage. I did not return home after that weekend and announce that to my parents.

When women tell the world what has happened to them, they put themselves on trial. They are judged by their behavior, no matter how irrelevant.

One of my favorite recent novels is “Apple Tree Yard,” by Louise Doughty. Yvonne, an eminent British scientist, is brutally raped by a colleague. She meets with a friend of a friend, an off-duty police officer, to get advice on whether to report the attack. He tells her the fact that she was drunk at the time of the assault “would still count against you” in court because alcohol is “a gift” to the defense.

Yvonne is later accused of murder, and a lawyer-consultant who is coaching her says, “The big problem in prosecuting sexual assault cases is the women never seem to fight back.” With an air of bafflement he adds, “It does make our job rather difficult.” At the conclusion of the trial, her barrister reminds the jury to consider only whether she is a murderer, not the fact that she has had an extramarital affair.

Fiction, of course — but these pages are torn straight from reality.

Women can’t forget it when men assault them. Telling is so hard, who would make it up?

Watching Ford’s testimony was agonizing. When she said, “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two (Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge) and their having fun at my expense,” I nearly wept. She is a psychologist, and just naturally referred to the part of the brain that holds emotion and memory.

Kavanaugh, meanwhile, demonstrated his bully-boy side. When Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota asked him if he ever blacked out from drinking in his younger days, he retorted, “Have you?” This, after she had just said her elderly father is a recovering alcoholic.

It’s a hard time to be a woman in America right now. And yet I’ve never been prouder. I’m cranky as all get-out — and I vote.

Liz Soares welcomes e-mail at [email protected].


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