Why Women Don't Support Paula Jones

by Janis Cortese

What with Judge Webber Wright's decision on April 1st to throw out the sexual harassment case against Bill Clinton by Paula Jones, lots of people have been asking lots of questions, and getting alternately giddy or apoplectic depending on which side of the party fence they fall on.

And lots of people have been asking the same question:

Why did so many women rally around Anita Hill and so few around Paula Jones?

(And just to set the record straight, I don't even really like Clinton. He's tanked the first two amendments to the Constitution. I didn't even vote for the little turd in `96.)

But the question's been asked, and every woman who's ever been asked it has tiptoed around the question like it's a landmine. Patricia Ireland won't give a really committed answer. No one is touching this -- so let's take an honest look at why women are reacting to this mess the way we are.

We Don't Believe Her

People seem to think that because a lot of women rallied around Anita Hill that we've somehow signed on a dotted line someplace that we have to rally around and support every single woman who brings a charge of sexual harassment against a man.

Oddly enough, most of the people who are demanding that we behave this way are the same people (men, natch) who whine and bitch that anytime a sexual harassment suit against a man is brought into court that the man is automatically in the wrong. The man is always the black hat -- and it's those man-hating feminists and women who have brought things to this deplorable state where a guy is guilty of sexual harassment just by asking a pretty coworker on a lunch date.

Is this making anyone else's ears pop?

So -- when women defend a sexual harassment plaintiff, we're accused of automatically assuming that the guy's guilty.

When we don't defend a sexual harassment plaintiff, we're accused of playing favorites.

I'm sorry -- what?

The plain facts are that Anita Hill was more credible than Paula Jones. NOW, Ms. Magazine, and most every news commentator you can think of have all been dancing around this basic issue. Why don't women rally around Paula Jones? It's simple -- because we can't shake the basic feeling that this woman is lying through her teeth.

Her Story Kept Changing

I mean, does it strike anyone else as odd that her story never stayed the same twice? It's almost as if the right wing -- the shadow that stood behind her through this whole thing, after all -- was sitting there gauging as they went what they had to say to make Clinton's head explode.

First, she claims that he propositioned her. Then, that he propositioned her and asked for a blow job. Then, that he propositioned her, asked for a blow job, and exposed himself to her. Then, that he propositioned her, asked for a blow job, exposed himself, and grabbed her. I was wondering when they would get to 'propositioned her, asked for a blow job, exposed himself, grabbed her, and then danced naked around a fire while drinking baby's blood and playing Ozzie Osbourne at hurricane volumes.'

You can almost see them saying, 'He came on to her . . . did his head explode yet? No? Okay, let's move this up one more notch -- he came on to her and asked for oral sex. No, that didn't make him vaporize . . . how about he came onto her, asked for oral sex, and dropped his pants? Nope . . . ' And the whole thing just kept escalating.

All of this can be found on CNN's web site, direct quotes from her and her attorney, that demonstrate that her story kept on changing, time and again. They were cooking up their story as they went! Any four year old can tell you that when you're making a story up, sticking to it with uniformity can really help your credibility when your mom or dad caught you breaking the flowerpots or scribbling on the wall.

She also flat-out lied when she said that she went to NOW and that they didn't help her -- oh, those fickle feminist types, how cruel to leave this poor gurl out in the cold, where only the gallant and justice-motivated right wing could sail in like a white knight! Problem is, a former high-muckamuck in NOW, Irene Stuber, is on-line, and could talk about it directly through soc.feminism. Now, I happen to find Irene Stuber hugely egotistical and irritating, but what she says still stands -- that NOW found out about the whole thing when everyone else did, because Jones never approached NOW about it. Indeed, NOW approached her and offered help when they heard about it -- it wasn't accepted. (How else would they claim that 'them feminists' had turned the poor little waif away?)

Once again, Jones and her bevy of supporters changed their story -- they had actually contacted a chapter of NOW, yeah, that's it.

Except for one problem.

NOW doesn't have chapters.

Women ain't fools. We know when we're being lied to. Anita Hill, on the other hand, was quite credible, steady, and believable. And she didn't come out of the woodwork with book deals and offers to sell her story to the National Enquirer a la Kathleen Willey. It's that simple.

We Don't Trust Her Supporters

Besides, look at her supporters. Passing pro-woman legislation through a Republican-controlled Senate and House is like pulling f*cking teeth. And the same politicians who have gone out of their way to sink every single scrap of pro-woman legislation that has passed their desks are suddenly talking the lingo of women's issues: 'No woman should have to put up with that in the workplace! That's terrible! Women should not be subjected to that sort of behavior!'

Well, shewt howdy. With all of these yahoos so dedicated to women's issues and women's victimization, then why the hell did we have to fight so hard to get the goddamned Packwood hearings?! Why is it that the same knotheads who are backing poor little Paula Jones 100% and talking about women's issues are the same ones who haven't done one damned thing for women in the last 50 years?

Once again, women ain't stupid. We know when we're being jerked around, or when someone is trying to appeal to a knee-jerk reaction to workplace harassment to try to manipulate us. And that's exactly what the right wing is doing with this case.

Let's face it -- they don't give a good goddamn about workplace harassment. They couldn't care less, and if you eavesdrop on them, you'll hear it. They have no position on anything, except they want to bring down Clinton. Iraq? Childcare? Social Security? Whah dat? Just get Clinton!

And this is part of it. Like a bunch of goddamned vindictive gangsters, they want to get his ass. And if they can do it by flushing the entire country down the toilet, they'll do it. Ruining the lives of every American citizen, they'll do it. Nuking New York and putting bubonic plague in the wellwater, they'll do it. They'd bankrupt and ruin each and every one of us if only they can get him by doing it. The welfare of this nation means nothing to them.

Why? Simple -- they want to win in 2000. But they know that they're on the back end of the gender gap. Women don't like, trust, or want them. What better way, according to their faulty logic, to accomplish two things at once -- axe Clinton and get the gals' votes -- than by appealing to us as the Victorian guarantors of morality. Surely, they think, the most important part of any man, including the President, according to any woman, is his dick! If we can attack him there, we'll whip up them gals and get them all frizzy with emotion and then they'll vote for us!

Not quite.

Let's have that one again: Women are deeply distrustful when the same lawmakers who have stood in the way of every advance we've made suddenly act like they're on our side. You'll pardon my language, I hope, when I say that our bullshit detectors are ringing off the hook.

Clinton Is More Responsive With Legislation

This one is a little hard to say, but it's the truth. Part of the reason why women rallied around Anita Hill was that, for the entire decade preceding her charges, the government had backshelved women's issues completely. We're talking about accusations that happened on the heels of the most unresponsive and uncaring administrations that have ever existed -- Reagan/Bush. Women's issues were nothing to these people. Reagan made jokes about the 'gals' keeping them out of the caves (he could have stayed in the goddamned cave as far as I'm concerned), and instituted gag rules to prevent women's doctors from offering their patients all options.

Women's issues, put plainly, were a huge joke during the 1980's. And women, not to put too fine a point on it, were pissed. For the ten years prior to Anita Hill's accusations, we were ignored, patronized, screwed over, and trivialized. And yes, that ticked us off. And yes, that meant that when an issue arose that crystallized ALL of our frustration and anger, we leaped for it like a doberman for top round.

Now though -- the president speaks openly of child care and is a hell of a lot more responsive to women's issues as a president. So he sucks as a husband. Who cares? We didn't vote for a husband.

Does this mean that women's concerns about sexual harassment can be discounted as the ravings of a bunch of 'frustrated women?' Hardly. It means that, just like men have done for centuries -- we're playing the electoral game, now. It matters more to the 100,000,000 female Americans what the president does in his office than in his bedroom. Give us the laws we need, and we'll be more inclined to cut slack. Just like any other group of Americans.

Does anyone rant and rave when any other political group, like oh, the Republicans, play the quid pro quo game, being tolerant of things like murder in foreign governments that they claim to despise while simultaneously propping them up for economic reasons? It's lousy -- but in low doses, it's also part of the game.

Is this a good thing? I'm not saying it is -- I think it's sort of weaselly myself according to the precepts of 1960s feminism. But then, I'm not a 1960s feminist, and when the guy is instituting laws that make my life a little easier, that matters more to me. I'd like to change the game -- but change takes time, and in the meantime, I want some goddamned decent childcare. I don't see why, just because I have two X's, I have to be the fripping guardian of morality for the White House and the sexual pecadillos that go on in there.

Let's state this one again: Despite what most men like to believe about women, the single most important thing about a guy as far as we're concerned is not his dick. Presidents included.

Is The Tide Turning Against Sexual Harassment Victims?

Does this mean that women don't care about sexual harassment? Hardly. Does this mean that the tide is turning against victims of sexual harassment? Nope. Let's quote the experts:

Sexual harassment experts said they fear the public will have a knee-jerk reaction to Wednesday's dismissal of Jones' lawsuit against President Clinton and assume the legal tide is turning against victims.

Rather, they said, the case from the former Arkansas state worker represents what happens when a plaintiff doesn't have sufficient evidence of personal or professional harm.


Jones' case was missing all the key elements of a successful sexual harassment lawsuit, attorneys said -- no witnesses, no repeated incidents, no proof that she would have to see her alleged harasser again and no evidence her career or her spirit had been irreparably harmed.


'I'm not saying she shouldn't have felt uncomfortable, but whether it amounts to what legal liability is a different story,' said Dawn Bennett-Alexander, an assistant professor of law at the University of Georgia and a consultant to businesses on sexual harassment and affirmative action.

'This is the same kind of decision handed down in decision after decision,' she said.

(Taken from CNN at: http://allpolitics.com/1998/04/02/ap/jones.women/)

To wit: A guy can always ask. But she said no, and her no was respected. She laid down a boundary, and it wasn't crossed. That's a crude pass (if it even happened the way she said it did, which is by no means a foregone conclusion), but it's not a crime.

Some sexual harassment cases are crimes -- when a woman is subjected to it repeatedly. When a guy won't take no for an answer. When a man is subjected to it repeatedly, as was Joseph Oncale on that disgusting oil rig. When you say no and you stop getting raises, stop getting promotions, suddenly see your career hanging in limbo.

But when he asks and you merely say no?

That's not sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment has joined murder and burglary on the list of Things That Are Illegal To Engage In, and rightfully so. But what that means is that it's going to be judged just like them. Hey, I think that James Earl Ray is guilty, no matter how much he says he isn't. I also think that Sam Shepard, the Fugitive guy, probably isn't guilty, and he also claimed innocence.

But since the evidence is starting to back up Shepard's claim that he didn't kill his wife, where are all the doomsayers who should be railing about how this casts doubt on the validity of murder as a crime? Why aren't we talking about how his innocence and wrongful conviction casts doubt on the whole notion of trying someone for murder?

The plain facts are that sexual harassment is just like any other criminal allegation -- some people are guilty, some aren't. And just because I happen to think that Charles Manson should fry, that doesn't mean that I'm going to demand that everyone accused of murder be hanged. And if I think that Richard Hauptmann was executed unjustly, that doesn't mean that I think we should stop it with this Nonsense[tm] of trying people for murder.

And just because one creep someplace is guilty of the criminal offense of sexual harassment, that doesn't mean that someone somewhere isn't going to be wrongfully accused. Nor does it mean that every leering bozo is a criminal.

It's called taking it on a case-by-case basis, people. That's why we have juries.

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Copyright © 2000 by Janis Cortese

02/08/07 at 21:44