Should we ignore some women?

There is an obvious attraction in certain simple claims. ‘Believe all women’, for instance, is easy to utter, beneficial to the speaker and guaranteed to get applause from any live audience, terrified as they are into not clapping vigorously enough. It is also a deeply unwise piece of advice. As unwise as it would be to say ‘believe all men’ or ‘believe all humans.’ It suggests that the word of a woman is inevitably worth more than a man. Or that women do not lie, and could never be expected to. Or that while some women may lie it is worth accepting the consequences of this as collateral in order to make up for lost time.

Of course the downside of simplistic claims comes when the little lie you always suspected was embedded in the claim (but which you allowed to pass for convenience’s sake) comes up and bites you. During the Brett Kavanaugh hearings two years ago it was very easy for opponents of the Trump administration to say ‘believe all women’. Because they didn’t want president Trump’s nominee to be on the Supreme Court. And so they decided to always believe the accuser and believe the worst of the accused. What are these same people to do now that a woman – former Senate aide Tara Reade – has come out accusing the Democratic nominee for president, Joe Biden, of sexual assault?