Why conservative women are still supporting Brett Kavanaugh

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·Wellness Editor
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Brett Kavanaugh
    Brett Kavanaugh
    Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
  • Kellyanne Conway
    Kellyanne Conway
    American strategist and pollster
  • Donald Trump
    Donald Trump
    45th President of the United States
  • Christine Blasey Ford
    American research psychologist
Supporters of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh gathered in Washington, D.C., last week. (Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
Supporters of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh gathered in Washington, D.C., last week. (Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Last week’s Brett Kavanaugh hearing — which focused on accusations of sexual assault and attempted rape leveraged against him by Christine Blasey Ford — polarized and enraged Americans, and (for an internet instant) seemingly froze time. More than 20 million people watched the hearing on television, which doesn’t account for the millions of others who streamed the hearing online.

As America watched, divergent opinions, already widely known, came into even sharper relief. On Fox New, stories lauded Kavanaugh for showing his daughters “what it means to fight for what’s right” and for withstanding “ambush tactics”; writers at the New York Times, meanwhile, called him “an angry man” who is “unfit for the Supreme Court.”

And on Tuesday, at a political rally in Mississippi, Donald Trump mocked Ford’s testimony, noting that now “a man’s life is in tatters.” Behind him, women in the stands laughed and applauded, some holding up hot-pink “Women for Trump” signs.

The Kavanaugh question has caused many to evaluate their own beliefs on sexual assault, drawing lines in the sand in the process. Since the hearing, many white conservative women, particularly those in the spotlight, have broadcast the opinion that blaming the man is often too simplistic — and that blaming Kavanaugh for anything at all is nothing more than misdirected anger.

“I’m a victim of sexual assault,” Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to President Trump, said to anchor Jake Tapper on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. She pointedly added, “I don’t expect Judge Kavanaugh, or Jake Tapper, or Jeff Flake, or anybody to be held responsible for that. You have to be responsible for your own conduct.”

Conway also expressed the widely held conservative opinion that the Kavanaugh proceedings should not become “partisan politics” with a goal of general #MeToo reform, but, rather, that women should hold their attackers directly accountable; she added that the two sexual assault survivors who went viral for approaching Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., in the elevator last week should “go blame the perpetrator.” On CBS News prior to the hearing, Conway said something similar and perhaps even more telling: “We cannot put decades of pent-up demand for women to feel whole on one man’s shoulders.”

Her belief is one that is shared by many in her party who think that Kavanaugh is being used as a substitute for assaulters in general. As Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce noted earlier this week on Tucker Carlson’s show, “You’ve got Brett Kavanaugh effectively being used as a stand-in for all perpetrators … so many women have not been believed or been heard, and that is unfair and we’ve got to fix it, but we’re not going to fix it by becoming fascists and by blaming every man and presuming every man is guilty.”

Bev Ehlen, the Missouri state director of the conservative organization Concerned Women for America, echoed that point in a piece for the Columbia Missourian, writing: “As advocates for women in American culture, we will never condone any male taking advantage of any female, sexually or otherwise. However, let me hasten to add that we will never condone any citizen being deprived of the opportunity for fair adjudication of any charge.”

White women across the conservative spectrum have expressed similar beliefs about Kavanaugh and similar opinions on the believability of assault survivors, straddling a tricky line of verbally supporting survivors while also hoping to protect men. “The notion that *every* woman must be believed is absurd,” tweeted Megyn Kelly of NBC News.

(It should be noted that, according to polls, black and Hispanic women believe Ford in larger numbers than white women do. But Kavanaugh’s support by conservative women is also not a given; prior to the hearings, the organization Republican Women for Progress came out in opposition to Kavanaugh.)

“We’re talking about a 15-year-old girl, which I respect — I’m a woman, I respect — and we’re talking about a 17-year-old boy in high school with testosterone running high,” Gina Sosa, a Republican voter, said on CNN about the Kavanaugh accusation. “Tell me what boy hasn’t done this in high school. Please, I would like to know.”

This tension is not new and has only been exacerbated during the #MeToo era and even further in the last few weeks. Last year, Republican Sarah Palin gave her opinion on sexual harassment in the workplace, saying “it really stinks,” but adding that she hasn’t been subject to it because “I think a whole lot of people know I’m probably packing so I don’t think there’s a whole lot of people who would necessarily mess with me.”

As for why many conservative white women seem to share this sentiment, there is arguably a correlation with traditional values — those backed by hundreds of years of American history. It wasn’t until 1979 that spousal rape was acknowledged as a crime in the U.S., after all. As writer Jennifer Wright penned in an article for Harper’s Bazaar on the subject of Kavanaugh, “A lot of women brought up with very traditional values have learned to tolerate a great deal of bad behavior from men. In part, that’s because they’re told to see themselves as existing in relation to men.”

In a statement made publicly and then sent to Yahoo Lifestyle, Jody Rushton, president of the National Federation of Republican Women, iterated her organization’s continued support for Kavanaugh: “Republican women recognize that Democrats do not want anything positive. They want to resist and delay the process. They are playing juvenile games like they are still 17 years old and writing in somebody’s yearbook. Women see through this. Women know this is a game. To the Democrats who are driving this destruction, I say to you today, we will not forget.”

As we look down the barrel of the next few weeks, conservative women’s opinions of Kavanaugh are imperative. Indeed, the opinions of two female Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — are critical to Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court fate.

Looking toward the top of the Republican hierarchy, it is, of course, less surprising to see men continuing to uphold their faith in Kavanaugh. “I think that it’s a very scary time for young men in America when you can be guilty of something that you may not be guilty of,” Trump said outside the White House on Tuesday. “This is a very difficult time.”

Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:


Follow us on
Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for nonstop inspiration delivered fresh to your feed, every day.