Magazine article Insight on the News

The Feminists: Don't They Get It?

Magazine article Insight on the News

The Feminists: Don't They Get It?

Article excerpt

Most feminists are standing by the president, even if it means redefining their positions on sexual harassment. This may be a good thing, say conservative legal scholars.

Remember "Men Just Don't Get It"? That was the catch-phrase that emerged during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and it became a rallying cry for feminists convinced that guys just don't understand what it means to be sexually harassed. Well, in the wake of the women's movement's less-than-supportive position toward Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky, it appears the feminists just don't get it either -- especially when "it" is the churlish behavior of a Democratic president.

Take Gloria Steinem, for instance. She thinks that at worst President Clinton might be a candidate for sex-addiction therapy. Feminist legal scholar Catherine MacKinnon, who literally wrote the book on sexual harassment, dismissed the president's Oval Office interludes, saying there is no legally defined sexual harassment in Clinton's behavior toward Lewinsky. Law professor Anita Hill shows no sympathy for Paula Jones, saying only that she thinks Jones' lawsuit against Clinton was bad because there was no evidence that her job was affected. Time magazine writer Nina Burleigh, moving far out in front of the rest of the feminist pack, claims she eagerly would have switched places with Monica Lewinsky in simple gratitude for Burleigh's perception that the "Big Creep" has kept abortion legal. Only the National Organization for Women, or NOW, President Patricia Ireland admits that Clinton could be guilty of sexual assault, if not sexual harassment. But, having admitted that, she says she doesn't want to see him impeached.

It appears that many of today's most esteemed feminists would rather shield themselves behind the letter of the law than take a moral stand on behavior that, dare we say it, would have had them calling for impeachment had the president been a Republican who opposes abortion.

Certainly none of the women who've emerged with allegations of sexual impropriety against the president received the kind of support given to Hill during her testimony against then Supreme Court nominee Thomas. Instead of bumper stickers emblazoned with "I believe you," feminists seem uneasy and confused.

Ireland may not care for Clinton's behavior, but like other liberal feminists she can't bring herself to let him have it with both barrels. Like Clinton himself, she'd rather point a finger elsewhere.

"Consensual sex with a White House intern is an abuse of power by the president; but consensual sex is not illegal harassment and it is not an impeachable offense. Nor is it in the best interest of our country for the president to resign," said Ireland in response to Clinton's admission of an "improper" relationship with Lewinsky. "Whatever Congress decides to do, in all fairness the only ones who should vote on this issue are members who themselves have never had sex outside of marriage and never lied about their sex lives -- either denying or exaggerating."

"I don't see how Patricia Ireland can show her face in public" says Danielle Crittenden, editor of the conservative Women's Quarterly. "[Radical feminists] have royally discredited themselves and shown themselves to be purely captive of their ideological policies."

Time was when many feminists would have talked about the inequality of that relationship, about how it is impossible for a powerful man like Clinton to have an equal relationship with a woman his daughter's age who was working for him as a volunteer. Today, however, most seem unwilling to hold the president to the standards they have espoused for years.

At a Yale symposium convened this spring to celebrate the 20th anniversary of her landmark tome Sexual Harassment of Working Women: A Case of Sex Discrimination, Catherine MacKinnon, while basking in the ongoing success of sexual-harassment laws, distanced herself from Lewinsky. …

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