As the Joe Biden sexual assault allegation receives almost no mainstream media coverage in a contentious election year, and conservatives implore onlookers to reflect on the guilty-until-proven-innocent standard Democrats established during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, a New York Times opinion still manages to frame the scenario as a “right-wing trap.”
“Joe Biden has been accused of sexual assault, and conservatives are having a field day, exultant that they’ve caught feminists in a new hypocrisy trap,” laments author Susan Faludi.
As conservatives raise eyebrows and hearken back to the days of Christine Blasey Ford versus Judge Brett Kavanaugh, wondering why the #MeToo Biden supporters are so deafeningly silent in what appears to be a gross double standard, Faludi maintains that feminists are “stuck answering for a canard.” Her central claim? “#BelieveWomen” is the feminist’s standard. “#BelieveAllWomen” was created by detractors to mischaracterize the women’s movement.
“[T]he preferred hashtag of the #MeToo movement is #BelieveWomen. It’s different without the ‘all.’ Believing women is simply the rejoinder to the ancient practice of #DoubtWomen,” Faludi says.
For argument’s sake, though, let’s assume Faludi’s premise is true, that #BelieveAllWomen was never the left’s assertion and therefore cannot be used against them now. Even if feminists never said “believe all women” (which Faludi concedes some did), and their battle cry was instead simply “believe women,” Faludi’s case falls apart.
If ‘Believe Women’ Doesn’t Mean ‘All,’ It Means Nothing
What does “believe women” mean? According to Faludi, “believe women” is the antithesis to the propensity for people to doubt women. Biden said as much regarding the allegations Ford and the media hurled at Kavanaugh.
“For a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus, nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real — whether or not she forgets facts, whether or not it’s been made worse or better over time,” Biden said.
His words rang loud and clear: Women get the benefit of the doubt. Because Christine Blasey Ford had professed to be a survivor of sexual assault, she should be presumed honest. By direct consequence, the man who denies her accusations should be presumed dishonest.
It’s important to note that even though Ford could present no evidence of her claims — including not even being able to prove she had ever met Kavanaugh, much less that he attempted to rape her — doesn’t mean she should be doubted. But there’s a lot of ground between “doubt women” and “believe women,” ground conservatives sought to occupy through due process but that the left had no interest in — until Biden.
While some in the anti-Kavanaugh posse hid behind the pretense of the desire for an FBI investigation, even after he had undergone extensive FBI background checks, the #MeToo movement’s standard was clear: The allegation itself was damning.
“So let me be as clear as possible: I believe Christine Blasey Ford, and I demand that our senators vote to reject Brett Kavanaugh as the next justice on the Supreme Court,” said actress and activist Alyssa Milano, who spearheaded the #MeToo movement. “Every person who refuses to loudly and openly reject Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination is telling every generation of Americans that an alleged abuser’s career is more valuable than a survivor’s humanity. And the highest court in our land is no place for an alleged sexual offender to sit.” (emphasis mine)
According to Milano, Ford’s allegation alone disqualified the man.
Or consider this jarring admission from Teen Vogue columnist Emily Linden:
Here's an unpopular opinion: I'm actually not at all concerned about innocent men losing their jobs over false sexual assault/harassment allegations.
— Emily Lindin (@EmilyLindin) November 21, 2017
Sorry. If some innocent men's reputations have to take a hit in the process of undoing the patriarchy, that is a price I am absolutely willing to pay.
— Emily Lindin (@EmilyLindin) November 21, 2017
There was never a limiting principle, never an objective asterisk, despite Faludi’s delusions to the contrary. If feminism is in part a response to the dismissal of women at large, feminism’s refrain to believe women applies to all of womankind. Don’t doubt women; believe them, all of them — presuming “that at least the essence of what she’s talking about it real.”
Don’t be fooled into thinking the implications of “believe women” are limited to the executive and judiciary. The inclination always to give supposed survivors the benefit of the doubt created anti-due process monstrosities like the Title IX Dear Colleague letter, under which a preponderance of evidence is enough to confirm guilt of the accused. In other words, a Title IX officer must be only 51 percent confident in an alleged victim’s story in order to ruin another student’s reputation and future.
The Problem Is the Practice, Not the Hashtag
Frankly, conservatives don’t care which hashtag the #MeToo feminists actually used. This isn’t because the Right doesn’t value accuracy, but because despite Faludi’s attempt to squabble over Twitter language, conservatives are responding to a principle not a catchphrase. The left’s smear campaign implied the “all” even when they failed to say it outright, but the Right’s real beef is the Left’s partisan disregard for due process and their presumption of guilt, not a three-letter word.
Conservatives have long contended that each woman’s claim should be evaluated on its merits, considering available evidence and cross-examination — the same standard we now want to see applied to Biden.
Faludi would appear to agree on the surface, saying, “If feminists see distinctions between Anita Hill, Monica Lewinsky, Christine Blasey Ford and Tara Reade, I’d say they’re doing their jobs. That’s not hypocrisy, that’s integrity.”
But Faludi gives herself away. “[F]eminists have long held that ‘all women’ should be believed,” she says, “when the ‘all’ refers to all categories of women.” As an example of “categories,” she offers race, religion, and economic status. And this is where “believe women” crumbles.
If that were truly feminists’ standard, that women’s claims should be evaluated without regard for her race, religion, or affluence, conservatives wouldn’t have a problem with it. These categories, however, are a facade. After all, what category distinction could one make between Reade and Ford?
Feminists have proved time and again that the only category that matters when it comes to believing a woman is whether her testimony harms a conservative or a leftist. When the man on trial was a conservative, feminists cried “believe women.” Only when a Democrat stands to lose do they backtrack with “we never meant ‘all.’”
Consider that the Washington Post dramatically revealed Ford’s unsubstantiated allegation in an article wholly sympathetic to the accuser. In contrast, the media waited until three weeks after Reade’s allegation to run her story, publishing the boring headlines on Easter Sunday, and failed to question Biden about the claims until more than a month after Reade came forward.
Or contrast Democrats’ salivating over Julie Swetnick versus their dismissal of Leland Keyser. The left was ready to believe any woman who would participate in the Kavanaugh smear campaign, no matter how implausible her claims. Their embrace of Swetnick, who was represented by Michael Avenatti and accused Kavanaugh of gang rape, culminated in a criminal referral for conspiracy to lie to Congress. Swetnick’s allegation was that absurd, but she was believed. Meanwhile, Ford’s best friend, Keyser, cast doubt on Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh, and the left promptly disbelieved her.
This fact flies in the face of another of Faludi’s claims, that feminists have never been in lock step.
Feminism Has Long Been About Lock Step
“Since at least the late ’90s, gotcha conservativism’s specialty has been condemning feminists for failing to live up to their dogmatist label,” Faludi says. “First, caricature feminists as a bunch of groupthink totalitarians, then accuse them of hypocrisy every time they are not in lock step. But guess what? Feminism has never, for five minutes, been about lock step.”
This is patently false. Feminism has been about lock step since Phyllis Schlafly opposed the Equal Rights Amendment. Women who deviate from feminist messaging aren’t allowed to be feminists and are branded as anti-women, misogynists, and pro-patriarchal. This became clearest the moment Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, after he took more than 50 percent of the white female vote.
“Women who voted for Trump stabbed their sisters, mothers and daughters in the back and front when they cast that bitter ballot,” the article read. Nope, no lock step here. Even Madonna jumped on board, saying, “It feels like women betrayed us.”
Now Tara Reade is betraying women.
For to believe this female, this alleged survivor, is to derail the Left’s 2020 political ambitions. The Democrats’ “believe women” standard — “all” or not — demands that they presume Reade is telling the truth. It isn’t a “right-wing trap.”
“We set up a standard we can’t live by,” one Democratic strategist, who requested anonymity to speak frankly, told The Hill. “You can’t say you believe women and then take it all back because it doesn’t apply to you.”
Conservatives calling out hypocrisy aren’t rewriting history. We’re ignoring a semantic diversion to hold Democrats accountable to the standard they created.
Will they #BelieveWomen or not?