Susan Faludi explains in the New York Times that when feminists said we should “believe women,” they never meant that we should believe all women. Her op-ed goes wrong from its opening sentences:
Joe Biden has been accused of sexual assault, and conservatives are having a field day, exultant that they’ve caught feminists in a new hypocrisy trap. A woman, with no corroboration beyond contemporaneous accounts, charges a powerful man with a decades-old crime? Hmm, doesn’t that sound mighty close to Christine Blasey Ford’s complaint against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh?
Well no, it doesn’t, because the complaint against Kavanaugh didn’t have contemporaneous accounts to back it up. It was an aspect of the allegation that was pretty hard to miss for anyone giving it even cursory attention. Faludi’s attempt to get us to pretend not to know anything about the fairly recent past in this passage is a nice preview for what she attempts to accomplish in the rest of the op-ed.
To the extent she succeeds at all, it is in defending the ludicrously narrow contentions that feminists used the words “believe women” rather than “believe all women” and that some conservatives have erred about the precise wording. But by the op-ed’s end, she doesn’t get us an inch closer to the conclusion that there was an implied “some” in that slogan. Of course the point of it was to flip the presumption of innocence.
The flipped presumption was omnipresent in the Kavanaugh debate. Take Senator Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.), who said, in the midst of the confirmation fight, “We need to believe survivors.” If that didn’t mean that accusations should be presumed true, it didn’t mean anything. Feminists didn’t patiently explain to him that he had bungled the meaning of the slogan when he said that. He hadn’t. He just, like them, didn’t mean it.