Dr Christine Blasey Ford, the woman testifying that a US Supreme Court nominee sexually assaulted her, was faced by a sea of men in suits as she relived her ordeal at an historic hearing on Thursday.
Blasey Ford told the Senate Judiciary Committee that she feared Judge Brett Kavanaugh – President Donald Trump’s nominee for the highest court in the States – would rape her in an assault 36 years ago. He denies the allegations
As the “terrified” professor of psychology recounted the events which took place, which she said have been “seared into my memory and have haunted me episodically as an adult,” a panel of all-male Republicans looked back at her.
An image of the room soon went viral on social media, with a number of prominent writers and commentators voiced their weariness – with many making comparisons to Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale.
The book, recently adapted into a popular television series, centres on the patriarchal oppression of women after a US liberal government has been overthrown and and renamed the Republic of Gilead.
New Yorker writer Osita Nwanevu tweeted a picture of the scene, and wrote: “This is what Christine Blasey Ford is looking at as she describes her sexual assault.” The tweet quickly gathered speed with tens of thousands of retweets.
Blasey Ford’s allegations surfaced in a year where the #MeToo movement highlighted egregious abuses of power and sexual assaults carried by a number of prominent men in the political and celebrity world.
User Grumpy Kate replied: “We are living in A Handmaids Tale”, while another agreed: “Looks exactly like the Council in The Handmaids Tale. Gilead would be heaven to Pence and Trump.”
Guardian writer Suzanne Moore echoed the justified outrage, simply tweeting “Gilead”.
But that’s not the only eerie example of history – fictional or not – repeating itself.
One Twitter user drew comparisons with the story of Anita Hill 27 years ago, tweeting a picture of a male-dominated panel in 1991.
In a wildly similar case, the American layer and academic publicly testified that Judge Clarence Thomas – George Bush Senior’s supreme court nominee – had sexually assaulted her while he was her supervisor.
Hill was also faced by a panel of men – three of which are among the committee in Blasey Ford’s hearing: Republican senators Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch and Democrat senator Patrick Leahy.
Leahy praised Blasey Ford for testifying, telling the hearing: “Chairman, you and I were both here 27 years ago. At that time, the senate failed Anita Hill. I said I believed her. But I’m concerned that we’re doing a lot less for these three women today. That’s my personal view.
“Bravery is contagious. You sharing your story is going to have a lasting, positive impact on so many survivors in our country,” he said. “We owe you a debt of gratitude. Thank you.”
The homogeneity of the panel also did not go unnoticed, with one person tweeting “As white as the freshly fallen snow, and as cold too”.
Another used the image as a reminder to exercise one’s civic duty in the upcoming midterm elections.
A tweet by the New York Times, asking users to “vote” on Blasey Ford’s credibility, was swiftly deleted after it was immediately criticised.
The Democrat side of the aisle presented a much more diverse picture, with four out of 10 women members.
Last January, the US president was captured signing an anti-abortion executive order – while surrounded by men.
The near-parodical scene saw son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner stand among other suited male members (and now ex-members) of the administration to witness one of his first acts as President.
They watched with intent as Trump signed a “global gag rule” banning US funding going to international health organisations that offer abortion as a family planning option.