These days, going after organized feminism for its hypocrisy seems a bit like hunting deer with assault weapons from a helicopter: The chase is so easy, the prey so vulnerable and the capture so assured that the whole exercise seems pretty unsportsmanlike.
Actually, far more interesting than dwelling on the sisterhood's double standard in defending President Clinton in spite of all the lurid sexual and other allegations against him is looking at the sisterhood's stance on its own terms.Organized feminists were silent regarding the claims of sexual harassment from Paula Jones against the president and were mute after Kathleen Willey maintained she was groped by the commander-in-chief in the Oval Office. In fact, some feminists even worked to denigrate these women, advancing the "nuts and sluts" strategy the White House employs to deal with such allegations. On the Lewinsky matter, of course, they've long kept quiet.
At a recent press conference, feminism's leading lights gathered to explain their strategy. First, they referred to the president's behavior with Monica Lewinsky as atrocious but ultimately unassailable because it was consensual. (Never mind standard feminist teaching that relationships between unequals in the workplace cannot be consensual because of the inherently coercive effect of power differentials.)
Next, they proudly explained, as feminists they back the president's policy agenda. From abortion rights to appointing women to high office, they claim they've never had a more woman-friendly president in the White House. The merits of advancing that agenda, they say, outweigh his personal flaws. And finally, they are afraid that this scandal will keep women away from the polls in November.
So they are going to stand by their man.
Looking at their agenda on their own terms the bottom line is that they are willing to sacrifice untold numbers of individual women for what is to them the greater good of so-called women's issues. The president has used and abused countless women, even apart from those with whom he's had any illicit sexual relationship. Most importantly he's utterly humiliated his wife and his daughter.
Then there are the women he's lied to, hiding behind their skirts and using them as flaks to lie to the press and the American people on his behalf. Women like Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, whose appointment by the president the feminists once claimed as an example of his high regard for women.
Countless other women may now find it's a different world out there when dealing with men on sexual matters in the workplace. For starters, the sisterhood has said in no uncertain terms that it is quite understandable, even expected, that men will lie in sexual harassment cases. That, of course, is exactly what the president did in the Paula Jones case, and feminists defended it by arguing that he was lying about a private matter. So now look for most sexual harassment law, which the feminists themselves virtually wrote, to in effect be thrown out the window.
When it comes to everyday affairs of the heart, well, the sisterhood has set quite a standard for the rest of us when they've defended the leader of the free world in his use of women for his own sexual gratification, in his viewing them as sexual objects, as he did Monica Lewinsky and is alleged to have done with others.
In so defending such a man the sisters have shown they are willing to sacrifice any notion that women should be treated by men with honor, respect and honesty, much less as their equals.