Reiff: Some white, wealthy men felt privilege extends to women

I attended prep school and Princeton with a lot of guys who were like Brett Kavanaugh. They often were extremely bright, well-rounded and almost intimidating in their extraordinary talents.

I was not at that level. I felt I was different from them. But I was also different in their sense of privilege.


They came from wealthy families, dressed like preppies, were white (as I am), usually quite conservative, and had an aura of entitlement and elitism. Belonging to the most prestigious fraternity (or “eating club” at Princeton) was a significant component of their social capital.

Their sense of privilege extended to women, which was fascinating and a little disconcerting in the era of emerging feminism of the early 1970s. Although Princeton had recently become co-ed, the misogynistic culture of an all-men’s college had not disappeared.

Only a few years before, “spooning” was a humiliating ritual where Princeton men would bang spoons on the table if a fellow student brought a date who was deemed unattractive into the dining hall. There were legendary stories about drunken parties where the goal was to get a female so drunk she would not be able to resist forcible sex. It was horseplay then. It was also rape.

I do not know Judge Kavanaugh, and I do not presume his guilt or innocence. But I do know that many women at Princeton and other institutions were sexually assaulted and did not report it at the time. It was an embarrassment to go public, especially when the outcome was often shaming and being admonished for putting themselves in that situation.

Most revealing was that their account was not necessarily doubted. It simply was the young woman’s fault.

The reaction of white, wealthy and privileged Republican senators as well as the president, who is the product of extraordinary wealth and privilege, is repugnant. Their rush to judgment alone is alarming. Blaming the victim is their knee-jerk reaction when their privilege is questioned.

They should know as well as anyone that sexual violence is all too real and that victims do not come forward. More often than not, men do not expect them to. I suspect that many of these holier-than-thou politicians have skeletons in their closets and are lucky they have not been exposed (pardon the pun). The president knows better than anyone that such accusations are all too real. He apparently has no problem embarrassing his own family.

It does not matter that these accusations occurred so late in the game. It makes little sense that this is a conspiracy from the “deep state.” Are these women willing to put themselves in physical danger as well as take the risk of permanent public censure merely to do the bidding of the radical left?

Give them a fair shake. If they can offer no substantive evidence, the process should move on. But presenting substantive evidence takes time, which is really not a problem. Why is there such a rush to judgment? Appointing a new judge to the Supreme Court immediately has no legitimate basis and reeks of hypocrisy; these are the same politicians who had no problem delaying and derailing Merrick Garland’s appointment.

And if these women’s stories are credible? Even if we could give a pass to Mr. Kavanaugh because he was too young to know better — a rather spurious defense for such a well-educated individual — the crucial issue is that he lied about it. A liar is not fit to be a Supreme Court justice. It’s not complicated.