Yesterday, a chain letter made its way through the Facebook DM’s in a coordinated effort to draw attention to domestic abuse. It reads:
Tomorrow [note: today, Sunday, September 30th] female blackout from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Its a movement to show what the world might be like without women. Your profile photo should just be a black square so that men wonder where the women are. Pass it only to women ... It’s for a project against domestic abuse. It is no joke. Share it.
The same effort has been made at least once before, but this blackout happens to dovetail with a conversation about the link between blackout drinking and violence toward women, prompted by allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. Unsurprisingly, alcohol is also intrinsic to domestic violence; while estimates fluctuate widely, the general consensus is that perpetrators are believed to be intoxicated in well over half of domestic abusive cases in the US. In general, researchers estimate that about half of all sexual assaults in the US are committed by men who have been drinking.
On Tuesday, Donald Trump told reporters that Deborah Ramirez, who has accused Kavanaugh of exposing his penis in her face during a college drinking game, was “totally inebriated and all messed up,” implying that she misremembered the event. For Slate, William Saletan wrote about the “blackout theory,” maintaining that while it’s “reasonable” to examine the potential impact of alcohol on Ramirez’s and Christine Blasey Ford’s memories, it’s equally if not more important to look at the other side of the coin: that even if the allegations are true and accurately recalled, Kavanaugh could sincerely believe that none of them took place because he blacked out.
On Saturday, the New York Times ran a piece by Sarah Hepola, who wrote the memoir Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget. She addresses the uncomfortable idea that alcohol can make some men capable of violent acts which they otherwise would not commit. She writes:
But I have known men who drank too much, and I have loved them, and this is a fear that beats in their private hearts. I hope I didn’t hurt her. I interviewed a blackout expert for my book, and he told me something I’ve never forgotten: “When men are in a blackout, they do things to the world. When women are in a blackout, things are done to them.”
Not that she doesn’t hold Kavanaugh accountable for allegations. “[J]ust because we are done with the past doesn’t mean the past is done with us,” she writes. “You can ask Christine Blasey Ford about that. You can ask Mark Judge.” Judge, whom Ford has accused of helping Kavanaugh to corner her and pin her down, himself has written in his book Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk that as an adult, he woke up after a blackout “terrified of what I could have done.” “I could have done anything and not know it — I could have murdered somebody,” he wrote. That line takes on a chilly ring when held up to Ford’s statement that during the alleged drunken assault, “I thought [Kavanaugh] might inadvertently kill me.” The book reportedly includes descriptions of a drinking buddy named “Bart O’Kavanaugh,” which Kavanaugh was questioned about during the hearing and deflected (the book is now sold-out and out-of-print).
Even in the event that he did commit the acts Ford has alleged and genuinely does not remember doing so, Kavanaugh participated in a male-dominated culture which planned for heavy drinking, which at least a few Georgetown Prep-adjacent peers have insinuated was, at times, specifically orchestrated towards the goal of sexual misconduct. One friend of Christine Blasey Ford, who was in their social circle, had described the Georgetown Prep students’ behavior as “pretty brutal,” and recalled to the Washington Post that “They would do what they could to get you drunk, and do whatever they would try to do to you.” Another woman from a neighboring school attested to witnessing sexual misconduct by Georgetown Prep students at parties.
Blackout to imagine a world without women and victims of all genders; harder still, blackout to imagine a world without partner and sexual violence at all.