Senator Lindsey Graham called Christine Blasey Ford a “nice lady.” A nice lady is not a “nasty woman.” A nice lady gets up in the morning and curls her hair. A nice lady talks in a sweet voice. A nice lady sips from her bottle of Coke. A nice lady can’t find the best place to put her glasses. A nice lady makes sure her documents are laminated in case she cries. A nice lady studies her documents and makes corrections. A nice lady offers to “host” Senator Grassley in her house in California. A nice lady “quibbles” with her husband. A nice lady sits in her car in a Walgreens parking lot so her parents don’t have to hear that she is interviewing lawyers. A nice lady retreats so far into her own house that one front door is not enough to keep her safe. A nice lady takes a polygraph test the day after her grandmother’s funeral. A nice lady gets on a plane even though she is terrified of being trapped, even when the feeling of being trapped is a ghost that has haunted her for 36 years. A nice lady explains the science of her own terror. A nice lady lets us examine every part of her, even her own hippocampus, dissecting herself for an entire country to peer inside. A nice lady lives with her terror, studies it, and then, and with grace, overcomes it. A nice lady is nice because she has learned that being nice is a way to get men to listen. A nice lady is nice because being nice is a way to survive.
For four hours on Thursday, 11 male Republican senators sat in silence and were forced to listen to two women, a lawyer and a scientist, speak. Rachel Mitchell was proof that something had changed in the years since Anita Hill’s hearing, because at least now these men cared about “optics.” Fear of “optics” is progress. Rachel Mitchell is progress. This is America in 2018. And so we watched 11 senators hide behind a wooden desk from a movement they didn’t understand, from a world with changing demographics and changing rules, from all the hysterical witches brandishing hashtags. We watched as 11 white Republican men were silenced because the collective hands of American women had covered their mouths. For a few hours, they were forced, probably for the first time in their lives, to let a woman speak for them.
They couldn’t make it much longer than that. After Mitchell started asking questions of Judge Brett Kavanaugh about the night he wrote in his calendar that he drank “ ’skis” with his boys, Lindsey Graham unleashed his fury, the fury of a man who has never been told that his voice isn’t wanted. We scarcely heard from Mitchell again, and the relief every Republican senator felt was palpable. Mitchell sat in silence behind her small wooden desk.
My daughter crawled for the first time the day of the hearings. She had been moving backward for days, and then she took her first step forward. Later, sitting in my car after a meeting where I had smiled and made jokes and been the nice lady I have learned to be, I started crying. I kept thinking about my daughter’s body moving forward then falling down. I kept thinking about her eyes looking at the spot on the ground where she wanted to be and her body straining to get there. I thought about Dr. Blasey Ford putting on her wet suit, grabbing her surfboard, and heading out into the ocean. I thought about the waves knocking her down, her head surfacing, her lungs filling with air, and her arms paddling out again. I don’t know if I can move forward from this, but maybe my daughter or Dr. Blasey Ford can teach me how.