Why has #MeToo become fixated on questions of belief? Because in too many cases, belief is all we have. The worldwide outpouring of traumatic experiences has not led to the structural changes needed to arbitrate claims in anything close to an objective fashion. Instead, in the U.S. and elsewhere, cases are decided along partisan lines. It was painful to read the section of She Said, the book by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, which deals with the Blasey Ford allegations. Here was a woman who tried to do everything right. And then, faced with a Republican artillery barrage, she took refuge in the only place she could, relying on Democrats to champion her cause in the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. There was never a neutral forum in which her story could be heard.
This is the final failure of “Believe women,” and demonstrates why it was a mistake to let the slogan take hold. In its needless, provocative overstatement, it derails the #MeToo conversation, and prevents it from moving to the question of how to change structures. If belief is fairy dust, we can simply sprinkle that on women and not worry about the institutions that are letting them down. HR departments too commonly exist to protect companies, not their employees. Serial predators go uncaught because untested rape kits lie piled up in warehouses. Complainants are subjected to a “digital strip search,” and cases are dropped if they won’t allow police to rifle through their data. It is impossible for women to expect justice from a system such as this.