Unleashing Our Rage: Women v. Kavanaugh

by Emmy H.

Three times over the course of an October week that felt like a year, an emergency coalition of grassroots radical feminists turned out hundreds of women and allies to speak out against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

We walked out of our jobs, homes, and schools to take to the streets. We marched on the Yale Club, Grand Central, and Times Square, carrying banners and signs emblazoned with “Believe Survivors, Smash Capitalism,” “No Feminism Under Capitalism,” and the coalition’s official slogan, “No Justice, No Seat.”

Cameras from major news networks showed up. Endless digital ink was spilled about the meaning of all this in the “tricky politics” of the #metoo era, and the new “reckoning” with sexual assault. Breathless op-eds in elite publications said the hearing had “torn the mask” off elite abusiveness.

Kavanaugh’s testimony itself was Orwellian, a head-spinning master class in gaslighting and the persecution complex of the powerful. A rich white prep-school graduate, groomed his whole life for the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh exuded a sense of entitlement so thick I could all but cut it with a knife through the grainy video on my laptop screen.

And yet, by the time we marched on Saturday in the last of the week's mobilizations, he was no longer a nominee; he was Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Name the Oppressors

This didn’t come as a surprise. We said it all along: we had no illusion that the FBI would save us. We had no illusion that the Senate nor any senator, and certainly not the likes of Joe Manchin or Jeff Flake, would save us. Our power lies where it always has been: in building a grassroots movement to confront undemocratic and oppressive systems, such as the Supreme Court, and people like Brett Kavanaugh and those who protected and promoted him. And, of course, in presenting alternatives.   

The radical feminist coalition came together in that spirit of collective power. It was led exclusively by female and nonbinary organizers from groups including the International Women’s Strike, International Socialist Organization, Socialist Alternative, Party for Socialism and Liberation, National Women’s Liberation, and NYC-DSA. (My own role in all three actions was primarily as a DSA Red Rabbit marshal.)

For participants new to the organized left, the week’s actions were radicalizing and energizing. Signs, chants, and speeches guided anger at Kavanaugh, the abusive individual, to anger at the institutionalized abusiveness of the Senate and the Court. We insisted that Ford’s own elite background and skin color not obscure the reality that women of color and women who are undocumented, poor or working class are most often abused. This is, after all, class war. It was heartening to see radical feminists from different organizational backgrounds and ideologies unite to confront it.

Yet the week was also excruciating for those of us forced by the news to relive past assaults and traumas. The pain of hearing friends tell their stories was sometimes worse; while there were stories we had heard before, others were unexpected and searing. In moments like these, Audre Lorde’s words ring true: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” In the midst of so much trauma, I watched the women in DSA’s Socialist Feminist working group and Red Rabbits push themselves up to and beyond their limits, organizing and marshaling not one but three major protests, and I also witnessed beautiful solidarity and care happen amongst those same women. Both are necessary for this fight.

Don’t Mourn, Rage

Looking back over those actions and forward to the fight ahead, I can say that our radical demands were the only demands that can reasonably be made. We make them without apology or equivocation:

We demand a world without rape.

We demand an end to the impunity of entitled, violent men in power, which means an end to white supremacist patriarchal capitalism.

We demand restorative but unflinching justice.

The system that we fight against is built on silent complicity and thrives on despair. The only thing it cannot withstand is our organized, united rage.