Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Back To The Nineties: Monica Lewinsky And "You Women's Rights Ladies."

It may shock some political pundits in the US, but eighteen years is a long time, when measured by human experience.  I  recall reading about the sex scandal involving Bill Clinton, then the president of the country, and Monica Lewinsky, then a White House intern.  I even remember thinking that Lewinsky was treated most unfairly and that the whole scandal was framed in archetypal terms as a triangle drama between the Frigid And Controlling Wife, the Impossible-To-Change-Hounddog and The Other Woman, A Slut.  Which leaves the hounddog free to sniff around and lift his leg wherever he wishes.

Now Lewinsky has written a book about her experiences during that time, and naturally all the pundits discuss the events again.  Joe Scarborough, a conservative pundit on US television, blew a gasket in this context.  To quote him:

The "Morning Joe" panelists were discussing a column by the New York Post's Andrea Peyser, titled "Self-pitying Lewinsky should go away," when Scarborough became incensed.
"This is not about Bill Clinton. This is about the women who were eviscerating Monica Lewinsky, who for 18 years was quiet and, by the way, lived a life of shame and her entire existence reduced to a punchline," Scarborough said. "And she stays quiet, shows a lot of dignity, a lot more dignity than people who preyed upon her and tried to turn her into a slut or a nut. A 22-year-old daughter, really? And now they're coming out kicking her in the face?"
"Please, you all are sick. You 'women's rights' ladies, you were sick in the '90s," he continued. "You all went around, you defended the wrong person time and time again. Whether it was Juanita Broaddrick, whether it was Monica Lewinsky, you defended [Clinton]. And you're doing it 18 years later. You're pathetic."

The writer of that column, by the way, is a conservative, anti-woman columnist.  She once compared the female Danish prime minister to a tart or a piece of Danish pastry.

What is interesting about Scarborough's reaction is the use of group guilt.  Every feminist is sick, because of Scarborough's opinions about how Lewinsky was treated.  It doesn't matter if I was doing anything feministy in the 1990s; the same accusations apply to me.  I'm sick.  Indeed, it doesn't matter if some feminist was then still in diapers/nappies, that person is every bit as sick as all the other "ladies" for "women's rights."  Men for women's rights would perhaps be a concept so sick that it doesn't even occur to Scarborough.

The use of group guilt is a topic which deserves a much more fine-tuned treatment than I'm giving it here.  This example differs from many others in important ways, but it brings home the point that large groups are seen by humans as having a life, as having a history and as being responsible for that history.  But large groups consist of mortal individuals and the actual identity of those in the groups change over time.  And it is the individuals now in that group we rant at.

That's how we get into the kind of situation where Echidne is responsible for what made Scarborough angry.  If she took all this seriously, of course, and ignored the political hay that was being made both then and now.