To the surprise of precisely no one, the Left has transitioned from ignoring the sexual assault allegations against Joe Biden to attempting to discredit his accuser, Tara Reade. A recent Politico piece portrays Reade as a “manipulative” and “deceitful” woman who “left a trail of aggrieved acquaintances.” And that’s just the headline. Many other articles have been written with this general theme.
This creates a a significant problem for people on the Left, especially feminists, who have spent the last several years insisting in no uncertain terms that we must believe all women. It would seem rather difficult to reconcile the Believe All Women mantra with the new slogan: Believe Some Women But Not The Deceitful Hussies Who Make Inconvenient Accusations Against Politicians We Support. How will they rectify this discrepancy? Well, apparently by denying that they ever said Believe All Women in the first place.
An op-ed in the New York Times, written by Susan Faludi, makes the incredible claim that Believe All Women is a “Right-Wing Trap.” Attempting to explain “how feminists got stuck answering” for the thing they’ve been saying for years, Faludi asserts that feminists actually have not been saying that thing at all. After doing some detective work on Twitter, she determined that dastardly conservatives inserted the word “all.” The real slogan is Believe Women, Faludi says, not Believe All Women.
This is, of course, a bald faced lie. Feminists most certainly did say “all women.” A simple Google search will turn up numerous examples. Here’s one from the Kavanaugh hearing. Notice the crowd of activists proudly unfurling a sign that says “We Believe All Survivors.” Perhaps Faludi will tell us that they were secret double agents for the Right Wing conspiracy. Fine, let’s pretend, for the sake of argument, that the feminist slogan was only ever supposed to be Believe Women, and that the word “all” was introduced as a nefarious scheme by anti-feminist forces on the Right. Even in this fantasy scenario, feminists are still guilty of a massive double standard.
First of all, “all” is implied in Believe Women. If they meant simply to say that they believe Christine Ford, or any other specific accuser who happened to be accusing a conservative, then they would have just said “I believe Christine Ford” or whoever. And they did say that. But they also said “I believe women.” Which means the statement was meant to be understood generally.
Moreover, if “all” was not implied, then the slogan served no discernible purpose. Everyone already believed some women. It’s not like there were people claiming that we should believe no women. The standard policy, prior to Me Too, was to believe some women and not others. If a woman seemed to be credible and honest and presented evidence to support her claim, we believed her. The Me Too movement, waving its Believe Women banner, was meant to be a response to and condemnation of this approach. Now they’re pretending that they were actually affirming the very approach that the movement was meant to condemn.
Faludi claims that no feminist “thinks we should believe everything all women say — even what they say about sexual assault.” Really? Then what does Believe Women mean? If believing women doesn’t entail believing them, what does it entail? Jill Filipovic, a prominent feminist writer, shared the Times article on Twitter and summarized its thesis this way: “Feminists never said “believe all women” – the right inserted the “all.” Feminists said “believe women”: that is, start with the assumption that women are telling the truth instead of reflexively doubting them.”
Okay, so believing women doesn’t mean believing them — it means assuming that what they’re saying is true. But isn’t that the definition of believing someone? Isn’t this like trying to draw a contrast between a square and a geometric shape with four equal straight sides? It’s a distinction without a difference. Phrase it however you want, the argument that critics of the Me Too movement have made for years is that we cannot immediately believe a sexual assault accusation, or assume that it’s true.
Indeed, we should reflexively doubt at least some sexual assault allegations, especially any that are made years after the fact and during a political campaign or Supreme Court confirmation hearing. The point is that a person who comes forward with an allegation under those circumstances better have a significant amount of very solid evidence to present. The burden of proof is on them. If they cannot meet the burden, or even come close to meeting it, then our reflex, or assumption, should be to doubt. This is the responsible and rational way to handle these cases. But it’s exactly the method that people like Susan Faludi and Jill Filipovic and Joe Biden himself have condemned. They say we should assume the truth of the accusation and put the burden of proof on the accused. Rather, that’s what they said. Past tense. Now they’ve suddenly discovered a passion for evidence and the presumption of innocence.
They can try to frame this any way they want, and play whatever word games they want, none of that will change or hide their shameless, vile hypocrisy.