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Feminists Are Hypocrites in Scandal

Zareena Hussain

Despite the lackluster campaign performance by the Republican party, it was women: young college women, soccer moms, and feminists who overwhelmingly supported Clinton and ensured his victory in the last presidential election. And now, even after allegations of scandal in the Lewinsky case have surfaced and subsided (like so many other presidential scandals) it is still women who are his staunchest supporters.

It is refreshing that there has not been a rush by the public to judge the president based on second-hand and third-hand hearsay that infiltrated mainstream newspapers. But there is one disturbing aspect: the acceptance by many women of the vilification of Monica Lewinsky as scatter-brained and emotionally unstable. The New York Times reports that some women's groups see Lewinsky as a "predator" and quotes an unnamed congresswomen as saying, "We do not see Monica as some little naif here."

So all of a sudden it is the victim we blame. We hear reports that she was promiscuous in college and had an affair with her high school drama teacher. She is young and foolish. It is the victim we say is lying, embellishing truths, and telling tall-tales of relations that never were.

I quite frankly don't get it. When Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of seemingly innocuous comments about whether there was pubic hair on a Coke can, women and feminists were in an uproar. How could a nominee for the Supreme Court engage in such tasteless humor and abuse of power?

Whether, as Hilary Clinton asserted on the Today show, this whole Lewinsky scandal is some right-wing conspiracy, or whether a fitting gift for Clinton's next birthday would be Wag-the-Dog boxer shorts is yet to be judged. One thing is clear, however: while we have spared Clinton from the wrath of prejudging and the sting of insinuation, we have not accorded Monica Lewinsky the same laxity.

It is not the lack of outrage among women against the alleged indiscretions of the president that I bemoan. What angers me is the acceptance of Lewinsky's portrayal in the media, as stated by the White House, and pushed by such examples of upstanding journalism as the television news magazine Hard Copy. She has been tried without her day in court and the verdict is this: Lewinsky is the fat, insecure slut in high school from whom girls needed to keep their boyfriends far, far away.

Where is the support for one's fellow woman? Where is the solidarity that women espoused from the days of Susan B. Anthony to the height of the woman's rights movement in the 1970s? Where is the outrage that a woman's entire life and her credibility can be judged by her previous sexual activity?

Maybe it's because Monica Lewinsky does not fit the bill of what unfortunately has come to be the self-inflicted stereotype of what a woman or feminist must be. She does not satisfy the ideal well-educated, Ivy League, could-have-been-a-supermodel-but-decided-to-be-a-feminist portrait.

What is more disturbing is that the same women you think would support Monica Lewinsky in the face of such a character attack have instead supported the president who launched the attack.

That same unnamed Congresswoman said, "We are not falling on our swords for these types of women, Paula Jones or Gennifer Flowers."

So what types of women do we defend? And based on what criteria is a woman deemed worthy of defending? Does she have to be a feminist? Does she have to be trying to break the glass ceiling? Or will she only be heard when, as Anita Hill did, she charges a conservative political official with misconduct?

In supporting Clinton and disapproving of Monica Lewinsky, women walk a dangerous line. They are, perhaps unknowingly, embracing the words and stereotypes that continue to oppress women.

Sex, as evidenced by the Lewinsky case, continues to be used as a tool to put down women. Charges of promiscuity will never sting men with the same vengeance as they do for women.

The liberation of years past is only imagined. What is disturbing, now more than ever, is that women have become the tools of their own oppression.