The Atlantic

The Subtext of Kavanaugh’s Nomination Bursts Into the Open

A sexual-assault allegation against President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee brings the fight over gender and power to the fore.
Source: Alex Wroblewski / Reuters

The last scene of the horror story that is President Trump’s Supreme Court nomination is what any screenwriter would have predicted: a cast of panicky strangers trapped in a haunted house, trying desperately not to say the words that will loose a monster hiding in the walls.

That monster is sex—gender, women’s rights—as lived in America in 2018. From the beginning, gender, and nothing else, is what this confirmation struggle has been about. The nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981, the first female justice, was a milestone for many women; in 1993, that of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a feminist trailblazer, electrified equal-rights advocates. But neither of those, to me at least, conveyed the ominous gendered subtext of the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.

Because that is true, there was no way, in the logic of the nightmare that is American life in 2018, that the

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