Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats swing together. Eighteen years ago, Senate Dems stood lockstep in support of keeping Bill Clinton in office. Yesterday they stood lockstep in support of forcing Al Franken from office - even though Franken's sins (unwanted tongues and touching) are of a considerably lower order than Clinton's (assault and rape). A shift is underway in the Democrat Party, even if - as Caitlin Flanagan notes in The Atlantic - it's not quite there yet:
Let's not fool ourselves. "I believe Juanita" doesn't just mean that you're generally in favor of believing women when they report sex crimes. It means you believe that for eight years our country was in the hands of a violent rapist.
It was - which was why some of us said we believed Juanita at the time.
Democrats are heavily invested in identity politics. Unfortunately, almost by definition, most of the available identities are minorities (blacks, gays) and some of them are barely statistically detectable (trans). The obvious exception is women. In 2016, a majority of white women voted for Donald Trump. In that sense, Hillary not only failed to shatter the soi-disant glass ceiling, but, remarkably, managed to lower it. That's what sticking with the Clintons did for the Dems.
So they've belatedly realized that their over-investment in the violent rapist and his enabler proved near-fatal last year. To win in 2020, the party has to get back some of those white females. Hence the decision to go full-scale war-on-women. Which means Franken and John Conyers are expendable. The Democrats are preparing to weaponize sex as they've weaponized race since the civil-rights era.
With hindsight, they were on their way to doing this a quarter-century back, before they got detoured into licensing Bill Clinton's pathologies. Here's what I wrote almost twenty years ago in the Speccie - April 1998 - when Gloria Steinem was arguing in The New York Times that dropping your pants and inviting a woman to "kiss it" was "not harassment" but an example of "the commonsense guideline to sexual behavior that came out of the women's movement" - and only uptight GOP squares felt otherwise. Tell it to Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, John Conyers and all the other Clinton karaoke acts of the last month.
This piece is anthologized in my book The [Un]documented Mark Steyn, personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available at the SteynOnline bookstore and make a lovely and thoughtful present this Christmas season. Where was I? Oh, yeah. The Audacity of Grope...
During the Gulf war, a United States pilot was captured by Iraqi troops. As luck would have it, she was a female pilot, so the Iraqis raped and sodomized her. Safely back home, the plucky gal declared that this was all just part of combat risk.
"Combat risk": there's a lot of it around at the moment. In the ongoing war between women and the phallocratic tyranny, Gloria Steinem recently clarified the rules of engagement. For months now, conservative women have been assailing feminist spokespersons for their inconsistency with regard to, on the one hand, Anita Hill and, on the other, Paula, Monica, Kathleen, a former Miss America, a former Miss Arkansas, a couple of stewardesses on the '92 Clinton campaign plane, etc. Those of us in the phallocratic tyranny have mostly had to twiddle our thumbs in the members-only cocktail lounge with a martini in one hand and a showgirl in the other while the little ladies slugged it out. But, in The New York Times, Ms Steinem has now issued a definitive ruling:
"It's not harassment and we're not hypocrites."
The founder of Ms magazine and the National Women's Political Caucus says "for the sake of argument" she's willing to believe all the President's female accusers. But, even so, what's the big deal? After considering both Kathleen Willey (a "reckless pass at a supporter during a low point in her life") and Paula Jones ("he asked her to perform oral sex and even dropped his trousers"), Ms Steinem comes to the same conclusion: "It never happened again. In other words, President Clinton took 'no' for an answer." He showed a fine understanding of "the commonsense guideline to sexual behavior that came out of the women's movement 30 years ago: no means no; yes means yes."
I confess I didn't notice the piece at first; I was too busy drooling over the Playboy Implants of the Month centerfold. But a pal pointed it out to me and my reaction was as immediate as his: as the eponymous swinger of Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery would say, "Shagadelic, baby! Let's shag!!" It turns out we'd both completely misread "the commonsense guideline to sexual behavior that came out of the women's movement". For years, the more straightforward feminists have stomped around in fierce T-shirts demanding, "What Part of NO Don't You Understand?" Quite a big part, it seems. I didn't realize "No" includes one complimentary grope with optional pants-drop and positioning of feminist hand on aroused male genital area. If she doesn't go for it, well, no hard feelings (except on your part): just extricate your fingers from her underwiring and move on to the next broad. Your feminist credentials are impeccable: you didn't rape her, so give yourself a pat on the back and the next one a pat on the butt.
Frankly, I was skeptical. "It's too easy," I said to the guys after reading Ms Steinem's column. "There must be a catch."
But we went through it again, and there isn't. If this is feminism, hey, let's have more of it!
At this point, I ought to declare an interest: I've met Ms Steinem just once, on the eve of the 1993 presidential inauguration. She told me an interminable anecdote about coming across a turtle in the middle of the road, moving it to the shoulder, only to see the turtle waddle back onto the asphalt again - I think the turtle was meant to represent the American people, or the Democratic Party, or maybe Jimmy Carter. Anyway, my mind wandered and, like most predatory males, I found myself undressing her with my eyes, Ms Steinem being one helluva looker, as many of these feminist babes are. If only I'd been au courant with feminist orthodoxy, I'd just have lunged straight for her bazongas.
Nor is it just Ms Steinem. Anita Hill, the distinguished former University of Oklahoma law professor, enthusiastically endorsed the new feminist line on the President's behavior: "We aren't talking about sexual harassment," she declared.
But, in that case, what does constitute sexual harassment? In her recent book, Speaking Truth To Power, Professor Hill offers some specific examples, like the revealing uniforms waitresses at the Hooters restaurant chain are forced to wear. Shocking.
This is, as legal scholars say, an "evolving" area. According to a survey in Working Woman magazine, over 60 per cent of respondents claimed to have been sexually harassed. Presumably the remaining 40 per cent are just women who've been at the receiving end of one of the President's "consoling hugs". But, in theory, there are 70 million women out there waiting to bring sexual harassment lawsuits. They can't all be Hooters waitresses. One who did sue was the woman who objected to a colleague displaying a photo of his wife in a bathing suit on his desk. Others include the college students in Houston who are suing their drama professor because, by teaching Shakespeare, MoliÃ¨re and other sexist oppressors, he's creating a "hostile work environment". He, in turn, is suing the university for sexual harassment because, by supporting the students' suit, they've created a hostile work environment for him. At the University of Pennsylvania, a woman in a short skirt complained of a "mini-rape" because some fellow strolling past observed, "Nice legs." If only he'd thought to drop his pants and invite her to "kiss it".
In such a world, many of us potential rapists have found it easier to stay indoors and finish that novel or concerto we've always meant to write - although even then our sins will find us out. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, according to feminist musicologist Susan McClary, reveals "the throttling murderous rage of a rapist incapable of attaining release". As they say at the Vienna Conservatory, "What part of Nein don't you understand?"
Happily, in this minefield of confusion, Ms Steinem has now simplified the rules. In the dark ages, senior executives would simply sidle up to the new girl in the typing pool and utter boorish, chauvinist, intimidating cracks like, "Why, Miss Jones, you're beautiful without your glasses." Today, under Ms Steinem's "commonsense guideline", the sensitive Clintonian New Man can instead say, "Why, Ms Jones, you're beautiful without my pants on." I think I speak for most unreconstructed old sexists when I say that we'll gladly tear up the offensive snaps of the missus, willingly forswear insulting remarks about nice legs, lay off allusions to that misogynist Shakespeare and swap that rapist stuff by Beethoven for something more enlightened ("Yo, Bitch, Sit On This") if in return we can solicit fellatio from every well-stacked chick in the accounts department.
There's just one thing that bothers me. As I arrived at the office with my boxers round my ankles, I couldn't help thinking: this new revised feminism is great for guys, but what's in it for women?
I mean, I know Monica Lewinsky was the only White House intern to land a full-time job with the federal government, but, for most other women, Ms Steinem's license to grope could mean a lot of unwanted traffic across their brassieres and a lot of executive penises being waved in their faces. What does the sisterhood get in return?
Well, as Gloria sees it, it's an acceptable "combat risk". "For one thing," she writes, "if the President had behaved with comparable insensitivity toward environmentalists, and at the same time remained their most crucial champion and bulwark against an anti-environmental Congress, would they be expected to desert him?"
Indeed. If, say, he'd signed the Kyoto treaty, would they overlook his own excessive emissions? Absolutely. "If President Clinton were as vital to preserving freedom of speech as he is to preserving reproductive freedom, would journalists be condemned as 'inconsistent' for refusing to suggest he resign? Forget it."
By "reproductive freedom" Ms Steinem means abortion. Indeed, the most sensible interpretation of her strategy is that it's an excellent way of drumming up business for her favorite industry: if every man is to be allowed one free pass at every female subordinate or job interviewee, the law of averages suggests a lot more women will find themselves exercising their right to "reproductive freedom". This is what the leadership of the women's movement has been reduced to: defending a man's right to trouser-drop in order to protect a woman's "right to choose". Of America's 1.6 million annual abortions, only 15,000 are for any kind of fetal abnormality; less than one per cent of all pregnancies are due to rape. That leaves over one in four healthy fetuses voluntarily terminated as a cumbersome form of belated contraception. Leaving aside the individual consequences - variously traumatizing, dehumanizing or physically harmful, the real "women's health issues" that feminists never talk about - what is it exactly that women are choosing?
Some women have been embarrassed at the apparent contradictions of Ms Steinem's thumbs-up to unwanted breast-fondling and fellatio-demanding. But in fact it's a logical harmonic convergence between the first move - the initial lunge - and the last resort - the abortion: Ms Steinem has constructed defenses of both sexual harassment and "reproductive freedom" that boil down to ...party time for guys! There's a bumper sticker popular with feminists: "I'm Pro-Choice And I Vote!" Now we men can get one of our own: "I'm Pro-Choice And I Grope!"
As always, any pro-grope members of The Mark Steyn Club should feel free to disagree in the comments section.
Speaking of The Mark Steyn Club, Mark will be back later today, Friday, with the first part of a brand new (and highly seasonal) radio serialization in our series Tales for Our Time. If you're not yet a member, there's still time to join and hear his latest crackerjack audio entertainment from Part One all the way to the end.