When Grassley asked her, after over an hour of proceedings, if it was true she wanted a break, Blasey looked uncertain. “I — I — I’m used to being collegial, so …” she answered.

And that’s just the point. This reflex — to get along, to be the A student, to accommodate and ingratiate — is one with which many, if not most women, can relate. There was an unbearable poignancy to Blasey’s nervousness, an implicit apology in her performance, one that combined a deep wish to be taken seriously with a sincere desire to get things right. What seemed anathema to her was failing — getting the facts wrong, wasting everyone’s time.

It’s tiresome at this point to note that women in public life are held to more exacting standards than men are. Had Blasey seemed angry, there’s a chance she’d have seemed too angry; had she cried for too long, there’s a chance she’d have seemed too emotional, hysterical, her womb zooming freely through her body. What she did instead — instinctively — is what women have done forever in situations like these: make herself as helpful and conscientious as possible. It was adaptive. And in this case, effective — at least in that it established her as believable.