Right On: Bill Clinton, Gloria Steinem and hypocritical feminist leaders

Stock image, St. George News

OPINION — By excusing Bill Clinton’s sexual predations, hypocritical feminist leaders gave cover to powerful men, facilitating their abuse of subordinate women for the last 25 years.

In 1991, Anita Hill’s claims that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her awakened the nation to the power imbalance between male managers and female employees. Hill’s claims were followed by an avalanche of women of all political and social backgrounds making similar claims.

Then Bubba Clinton came along.

Clinton’s nomination in 1992 put feminist leaders on the horns of a dilemma. Clinton supported a potpourri of feminist causes that Republican George Bush had vetoed. But Bubba came with sexual predator baggage.

Paula Jones, a state employee working for then Governor Clinton, was brought to his hotel room by state troopers and humiliated. Juanita Broaddrick, an Arkansas campaign worker, claimed she was lured to his hotel room in 1978, bloodied and raped. Gennifer Flowers claimed she’d had a 12-year relationship with Clinton. After his election as president, Kathleen Willey was abused in the Oval Office.

Then came Monica Lewinsky, the blue dress, and “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

These women had far more credible evidence than most of today’s accusers. But Clinton was rescued by an unlikely group: the feminist political machine.

By the 1990s, the feminist movement had devolved into an identity-politics wing of the Democratic Party. Women listened to rousing Democratic calls for their empowerment while leading feminists chose to throw Clinton’s victims under the bus.

Gloria Steinem, godmother of the feminist movement, wrote a now notorious editorial in the New York Times at the height of the Clinton scandal. Titled “Feminists and the Clinton Question,” the opinion piece epitomized hypocrisy. She wrote:

Even if the allegations are true, the President is not guilty of sexual harassment. He is accused of having made a gross, dumb, and reckless pass at a supporter during a low point in her life. She pushed him away, she said, and it never happened again. In other words, President Clinton took ‘no’ for an answer.

Last month, Caitlin Flanagan, an award-winning contributing editor of the liberal Atlantic Monthly, described the effect of Steinem’s op-ed: “(It) slut-shamed, victim-blamed, and age-shamed; it urged compassion for and gratitude to the man the women accused. Moreover, Steinem characterized contemporary feminism as a weaponized auxiliary of the Democratic Party.”

Flanagan goes on, “Feminists saved the 42nd president of the United States in the 1990s. They were on the wrong side of history; is it finally time to make things right?”

Belatedly, feminists are coming to recognize how defending Clinton empowered men who sexually harass women.

U.S News & World Report columnist John Leo captured the mood they had created. He wrote that rather than condemning Clinton, the scandal was “probably the decade’s high-water mark of euphoria around the water cooler … a chance to break free from the office sex police.”

Marjorie Williams deserves credit for her 1998 Vanity Fair article titled “Clinton and Women.” She points out that Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Carol Moseley-Braun along with Rep. Nancy Pelosi all hemmed and hawed about Bubba’s Lewinsky affair. None denounced a predator-president of their own party.

Williams lists a variety of feminist writers and advocates who equivocated at the time: feminist author Betty Friedan; Kathy Rodgers of the National Organization for Women Legal Defense and Education Fund; Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation; Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, chairwoman of the Women’s Campaign Fund; feminist author Erica Jong. Her list goes on.

Lewinsky’s age at the time, 22, presented another quandary for feminists who had argued for years against parental-consent laws for teenagers seeking abortions. They found themselves acknowledging that many women in their early 20s lack emotional maturity.

Now comes Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore, today’s poster child for sexual harassment. Moore is accused of cruising malls seeking underage girls 40 years ago. He denies it.

I’m with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who said of Moore, “I believe the women.”

Contrast McConnell with Nancy Pelosi, once again dancing around serious allegations against a member of her own party.

Democratic Congressman John Conyers paid $27,000 to settle a harassment suit in 2015. Now four former staffers have signed affidavits accusing him of being a serial sexual harasser, evidence far more concrete than exists against Moore.

Yet when interviewed on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Pelosi refused to say that she believes the women or whether Conyers should resign. Instead Pelosi pilloried President Trump and others for defending Moore in exactly the way she defended Clinton and now defends Conyers.

With the Clintons conveniently fading from the political scene, some feminist leaders are belatedly acknowledging that they facilitated sexual harassment and abuse for the last 25 years. Victims over these years, their lives permanently changed, are likely to take little comfort in any long-forgotten political victories won in 1993.

Feminist leaders likewise must take the blame for preventing sexual abuse from disqualifying a candidate for public office. The country elected both Clinton and Trump despite their well-known maltreatment of women.

I do not condone any form of sexual harassment by any man, Bill Clinton or Donald Trump, John Conyers, Al Franken or Roy Moore, Harvey Weinstein or Bill Cosby.

Sexual harassment should not be a partisan issue. All too many men from both parties are guilty and deserve their fall from grace if not prosecution. But blatant feminist hypocrisy during the Clinton era delayed justice 25 years for victims of sexual abuse.

Justice delayed is justice denied.

Howard Sierer is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: hsierer@stgeorgeutah.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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6 Comments

  • bikeandfish November 30, 2017 at 10:39 am

    Hold on, did you just whitewash the response to Anita Hill to demonize Bill Clinton? Bill Clinton and his apologist deserve criticism given the current wave of powerful men being accused of hideous acts of sexual predation. But fabricating a new history about the Anita Hill’s testimony is also hideous behavior.

    Howard, do you not recognize that all but 2 Republicans voted to confirm Thomas in the face of damning allegations of sexual harrassment? Ironically, your own quote a couple sentences before is just as valid against Republicans as is against Clinton apologist: “hypocritical … leaders gave cover to powerful men, facilitating their abuse of subordinate women for the last 25 years.”. Its partisan hacks like you that have also facilitated an environment in which harassment and assault isn’t treated as a universal issue but an opportunity to deflect accountability to the opposition party.

    The fact is we have a steady stream of politicians throughout history who have harassed and assaulted women. Bob Packwood managed to be re-elected in 1992 despite the accussations of 10 women (ballooned to 18 before he resigned in 1995). The actions of Bill Clinton are well documented as well as the accusations against Ted Kennedy before him. There is Foley who survived a year or more of Republican knowledge of his accused pedophilia before resigning in 2006 after multiple news stories broke. Ironically, it was Hastert, who could have more aggressively handled the Foley accusations, but he was clearly spending time and money of his own to cover up his serial child molestation behavior.

    There is plenty of blame to go around, including Steinem and other individual feminist and organizations, but it takes a certain intellectual dishonesty and poverty to so conclusively lay blame at only their feet. Its political deflection like Howard’s piece that leads me to believe men like him may mime concerned but ultimately lack the courage and willingness to engage the subject fully. Its easy to toss partisan grenades from your well-established fox hole but its difficult and needed work to investigate how your own have fostered this problem that so universally permeates our country. I have come to expect lazy, partisan rhetoric from Howard but this is a new low.

    • Redbud December 1, 2017 at 4:27 am

      Bikenandfish, you are SO right, how dare we speak evil of the Clintons! We all remember that Billy did NOT inhale, and he did not have sexual relations with THAT woman! Let’s just bow down and worship him already. Oh wait, you already do! Like all dems, you bent over and took one for the team. It’s ok though, us normal people already know that if the Clintons claimed cows could fly, and the Earth was flat, you people would believe it, and we get to laugh while you people continue to make a fool of yourselves.

      • bikeandfish December 1, 2017 at 8:33 am

        Please actually read comments before criticizing them. I clearly said “Bill Clinton and his apologist deserve criticism”. I am fundamentally support Bill Clinton being considered part and parcel with the sexual assault problem. I just think its intellectually lazy and dishonest to lay blame solely at “their” feet given the scale of the problem. Folks like you and Sierer are so imbedded in classic partisan politics that you only see how the “other” side participated in the problem.

        Each and every predator needs to deal with the consequences. And each and every organization that has harbored protected and justified their actions needs to truly change their ways. Instead we see articles like Howards from many sources which makes me believe we have a long road ahead.

  • jaybird November 30, 2017 at 8:18 pm

    Yeah, let’s get them all, including the orange combover in the white house and Roy Moore. Let’s get them all. Lock them up!

  • commonsense November 30, 2017 at 9:44 pm

    It has become very clear why liberals are so distraught over the loss of power last November.
    The power of coverup for the deviant swamp dwellers allowed a culture of abuse of women that is unprecedented. Not only elected officials but their close friends and codeviant Hollywood supporters,

    I fear that only the tip of the iceberg has been revealed. Calculated strategy to protect each other seems to cross party lines. Sexual deviance, wealth accumulation and unlawful behavior has been tolerated and encourage. Taxpayer money has been spent to buy protection for predatory sex criminals in elected office.

    If I was part of this self-indulgent cesspool I would resist Trump who promised to drain the swamp.
    This goes beyond politics and enters the realm of criminal conspiracy.

  • commonsense November 30, 2017 at 10:15 pm

    Let’s say allegations against Moore are true. They allegedly happened 38 years ago with no subsequent allegations. Contrast this with current, active sexual predators like Conyers, Clinton, Franken, Weinstein, Rose, Weiner, Spacey and whomever comes up tomorrow.
    And he was never protected by the swamp on the taxpayer tab. It doesn’t excuse his alleged behavior but he was never part of this massive Washington DC coverup conspiracy.

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