This week, Christine Blasey Ford will add her name to the short list of women who have testified before Congress about sexual assault. In doing so, she will confront questions about her legitimacy, authority and credibility. Like the women who have come before her, she will attempt to convince members of Congress that her experiences constitute evidence and deserve to be heard.
The problem: women’s efforts to speak to Congress about the power dynamics of sex have mostly fallen on deaf ears.
Whether women testify before Congress about sex they wanted to have or about sex they did not want to have, the process has led to a uniform result: an (almost always) all-white male panel decides the validity and importance of women’s words and women’s experiences.
Despite this, it is essential to continue these conversations, because women’s political rights are intricately bound to the right to control what happens to their own bodies.
Women’s political and physical rights have long been linked. Throughout the 19th century, women regularly testified before state and federal legislatures demanding changes to marriage and divorce laws and, later, reforms like temperance because many women needed a way out of abusive marriages and protection from drunken husbands. ...