From "borking" to getting "Kavanaughed": language, reputation, and the importance of a (male) name

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This paper considers how conservative media reported on the sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh which emerged during his 2018 confirmation hearing to the Supreme Court. Whilst the focus on the potential reputational damage to Kavanaugh was perhaps unsurprising, this paper is concerned with how the Kavanaugh name was mobilised to allow Brett Kavanaugh to stand in for his family, American men, and the nation more broadly, and contrasts this with the relative erasure of Christine Blasey Ford's narrative, that worked to paint her (and feminists who supported her) as an aggressive force attempting to destroy the lives of men. This was operationalised through moralistic conservative discourses of crime (Karen Boyle 2019) and injury (Sarah Banet-Weiser 2018), that worked to privilege Kavanaugh's discursive victimisation, over Blasey Ford's material one. The himpathetic (Kate Manne 2018) message rang clear: tarnishing a man's "good" name is more perverse than sexual assault itself.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalFeminist Media Studies
Early online date1 Feb 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Feb 2023


  • Brett Kavanaugh
  • Christine Blasey Ford
  • naming
  • conservative media
  • sexual assault


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