The world is watching as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Sept. 27. By the afternoon, Ford had already endured hours of questioning regarding her allegations that she was sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh while the two were in high school, which Kavanaugh has denied. Elite Daily repeatedly reached out to the White House for comment on the allegations but did not hear back. But for all the drama, these photos of senators at the Kavanaugh-Ford hearing are drawing criticism over the makeup of the panel of senators hearing her testimony.
In photos being shared online of the hearings in progress, Ford can be seen testifying on Thursday, facing a committee of 21 people, 17 of whom were men. In fact, only four female senators, all Democrats, sit on the judiciary committee: Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, and Kamala Harris, also of California. That's only 19 percent of the 21 total members on the committee — less than the 20 percent overall female representation in Congress.
"You tell me how this looks: Sitting below the 11 white Republican men on the Senate Judiciary Committee is the female they hired to ask their questions to Blasey Ford," tweeted Chicago Sun-Times Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet, who appeared to be in the room. And as photos from the Sept. 27 hearings show, the optics were disputably not great.
Another photo showed the panel from a different angle, and the view wasn't much better.
"To every woman watching the #KavanaughHearings: We are the majority of America's voting population, yet 11 men sit in judgment of #ChristineBlaseyFord," tweeted activist Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. "We must vote as many women into office as possible in November. We don't have seats at the table, so we're clearly on the menu."
As many have pointed out, there are numerous parallels between the Kavanaugh hearing and the hearing to confirm then-nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991, when Anita Hill, a law professor, came before the same committee to testify that he'd sexually harassed her while she was working for him. Thomas denied the claims at the time, and representatives of the justice did not reply to Elite Daily's request for comment. Many people on Thursday criticized the hearing for much the same reason as they did the testimony of Hill some 27 years ago: That the panel was notably male-dominated. What's more, three of the senators who questioned Hill over two decades ago are still on the panel hearing Ford testify on Thursday: Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
Others continued to point out the glaring difference in representation for the committee.
Making things more tense, all of the 11 Republican senators on the committee (all of whom are white men) opted to turn their questioning over to Rachel Mitchell, the special victims prosecutor from Texas selected to carry out their questioning.
And in the opening statements, a tussle between Feinstein and Chairman Chuck Grassley laid the male-female tension on the panel bare for all to see.
"I'd like to point something out. When you hear a man's voice talking to Dr. Ford, it's a Democrat," tweeted activist and Blue Wave organizer Holly Figueroa O'Reilly. "The Republican men were such incredible cowards that they brought in Rachel Mitchell to ask their questions. Republicans: elect more women."
Ford, in her testimony, joked about needing caffeine to get her through the day and made comments that some read as an attempt to "accommodate" the senators on the committee, namely, a "bunch of white men" who might be uncomfortable.
As CNN points out, people around the country and world — even, yes, on airplanes and the subway — are tuning into the hearings Thursday.
As Feinstein said in her opening remarks Thursday: "The entire country is watching how we handle these allegations." And others, looking at the panel questioning Hill then and the one questioning Ford now, point out that this moment is a litmus test for how far the country has come since then.