The controversy around the teenage behavior of U.S. Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh is stirring up a muck in American society. Without a doubt, quality of character matters, especially when considering a lifetime appointment to the highest court of the land.
In the mind of any ordinary, unassuming person, a Supreme Court justice, at the very least, should be known for consistency in behavior toward others, one that is remarkable in fairness and, well, justice. Kavanaugh’s recently outed track record during his high school and college years shows one that does not hold some of his female classmates in a respectful light, though his defense attorneys are quick to respond. In one instance, Renate Schroeder, now Renate Dolphin, a former classmate of Kavanaugh, was referenced in his 1983 yearbook 14 times, on individual pages as “Renate Alumnus” and once on a picture of the football team that included Kavanaugh as “Renate Alumni.” The notations allegedly refer to her as a conquest. Dolphin, who originally signed with 64 other women an affidavit countering allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh, had no idea at the time that her name was noted in his yearbook in such a way.
As reported on Sept. 24 in The New York Times, Alexandra Walsh, a lawyer for Kavanaugh, said in a statement: “Judge Kavanaugh was friends with Renate Dolphin in high school. He admired her very much then, and he admires her to this day.”
Dolphin’s response: “I don’t know what ‘Renate Alumnus’ actually means. I can’t begin to comprehend what goes through the minds of 17-year-old boys who write such things, but the insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue.”
At least two other women have since come forth attesting to their own experiences of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh.
Meanwhile this week, Bill Cosby, formerly known as America’s Dad from the 1980s, was sentenced to three to 10 years in state prison for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand 14 years ago. That sentence does not account for the other accusations made by multiple women of similar sexual assaults. It does stand to reason, though, that if Constand can see justice for the decade-plus-old crimes against her, then so too can others. That includes the recent arrest of famed boxer Victor Ortiz of Oxnard, who turned himself in and was charged with three counts of sexual assault that happened earlier this year.
Upon reflection, it’s important to note that it’s not a one-way street — women, also, have taken their own sexual pursuits too far while men seem to have an even weaker platform from which to seek fairness for such criminal acts. There is, however, a fine line to be reckoned with. This isn’t only an individual problem. This is a cultural problem.
In American society, conformity is of the utmost importance, not only to survive but to thrive. For young people, hooking up is normal and encouraged too many times by whatever means necessary. But it’s not just a norm among themselves; it is reiterated in blockbuster movies, TV shows, music and in social media memes. Sometimes it is subtle, such as young boys gawking at scantily clad girls in movies. Sometimes it’s overt. There are countless songs that emphasize sex as a tool for power and violence as a way to get it. As we become adults, the rules seem to change so that such behavior changes from overt to covert or disappears entirely. It remains to be seen as a society how we value sex — is it simply a primal act or something sacred? Past behavior, however, is always a reflection of how we treat others, even if we do move on to other things.
With Kavanaugh’s appointment hearing scheduled for Friday, Sept. 28, whatever happens, Americans seem to be beginning to realize how serious these things are, which we believe will be used to hold those seeking officer to a higher standard.