Ladies, would you throw yourself on the sacrificial altar if you thought you could impact society? Not save it. You don’t have that much power. But maybe you could alter it. Change it in some small way, or hasten steps on the road to change. Perhaps you could be the pivot or the lever or the perfectly cast die with which to change an important narrative forever.
Would you do such a thing if you knew it would destroy your life? If you knew that it would change the way you live, the way you earn, the way you are treated forever after. Could you do it if you were unsure of the outcome? If you didn’t know for certain that your sacrifice would bear immediate fruit? But it is certain that you will have to suffer.
These are the kinds of questions many women have had to ask themselves when faced with a momentous decision: Should I reveal the truth, or should I stay silent? It’s a question Dr. Christine Blasey Ford must have wrestled with before she came forward to accuse Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault some three decades ago.
Before she became notorious, before she found herself on the wrong end of death threats and an attack – albeit on social media – by the President himself, Ford was, rather is, a research psychologist, a professor at Palo Alto University. I can’t think of a quieter profession. An academic far from controversy and headlines and certainly far from the notoriety that will now dog her footsteps into the history books.
I don’t know if I would do what she’s done. I’d like to think I would. But of course, it’s a subjective, situational question. Some people wouldn’t take a chance and blog every week about controversial topics. But this. This isn’t a blog post. This is a criminal accusation against a public figure endorsed by the President.
I understand why she did it. Well, I can speculate on why she did it. It’s likely she feels some sense of responsibility to keep that kind of man off the bench. How horrible and ironic would it be if he is confirmed? Someone who willfully, knowingly broke the law to represent it in this undeniable fashion? It’s a disgusting idea, no?
Ford likely thought it was her duty, one perhaps no one else could perform. That her sacrifice, of personal safety, privacy, reputation, perhaps even livelihood and freedom, is worth it to women like her, survivors, those whose crimes should be judged by someone of reasonable character, not someone who gets away with committing crimes themselves. It’s a tough situation any way you look at it. If faced with anything even remotely similar, I think a woman would have to ask herself a few very important questions:
Is it worth it? The hubbub Ford is currently suffering is nothing if she appears in a hearing next week, as is currently being discussed. There will be due process, or the appearance of it. There will be a fair hearing, or the appearance of one. But ultimately, she’s going to find herself on the wrong side of almost a dozen likely pissed white Republican men of a certain age. They’re going to try to make an example of her, to discredit her, and her potential destruction at their hands could impact how women who are sexually assaulted behave and are treated when and if they step forward to name their assailants.
Then, you have to consider that this moment right here will become her legacy. It’s doubtful that anything else she could do in her lifetime will carry the same weight as this one thing.
How will I survive? Ford’s employment prospects became limited the moment the media revealed her identity and she stepped forward to confirm it. Whether an organization is prepared to support her freedom and her rights or not, to have her on staff at a university or at a company comes with safety risks and scrutiny that many would not care to take on. That’s premature at this point, but we all know what may happen in the not so distant future, even in liberal California where Ford teaches.
Of course, there are other careers. There are TV appearances, books, speaking engagements and such, but a woman faced with a tough decision about anything approaching this caliber will have to carefully weigh the pros and cons of public exposure of any depth. And then there’s the potential heartbreak of having to abandon what you love and what you want to do for what you must do. Survival comes in many forms, not all of them financial.
What allies can I count on for support? No man or woman is an island. It’s very difficult to make it out here alone. It can be done. But the cost may be extremely high economically, socially, personally, emotionally, physically. Even those who are allies in the beginning may not stay the course. The kind of public situation that Ford now finds herself in sticks like mud. It’s dirty, and it transfers. People get tired. They fall away from exhaustion or from a need for self-preservation. Colleagues who speak of honesty and rigor now could be corrupted later.
A woman would have to ask herself, do I want to expose my family, loved ones – a husband, two sons – and friends to potential harm? Because this isn’t just her life now. Everyone who has an exploitable connection to her is now in the public eye and potentially a target for scrutiny, fair and foul. Ford’s sister-in-law Deborah Ford Peters has already stepped forward to share her support on Good Morning America, but the game has only started. This thing likely will simmer and bubble for quite awhile before it boils over.
At the end of the day, none of the answers to these three questions or the dozen others that come to mind is easy. None of the answers is simple.
But what would you do?
What would you do if your soul, your spirit, your conscience called you to make the ultimate sacrifice for your people, your gender, your country, could you step forward? Could you put yourself in the line of fire for the greater good?
It’s an interesting question. I guess now all we can do is watch as the world passes judgement and provides its own charged and almost certainly cruel answers.