"Remember when feminists marched around Washington in 1992, the vaunted political 'Year of the Woman,' pledging to ruin the political careers of insensitive male officials who 'just don't get it'? Have all of those women now disappeared like Chandra Levy? " asks columnist Brent Bozell.
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The Year of the Woman, you may recall, came shortly after the Anita Hill debacle, a time in which feminists came to tell us that if men didn't stop acting like jackasses and start acting more like eunuchs, they were ready to ruin their lives. Not all feminists, of course, participated in witch-hunts like the Thomas-Hill inquisition. In fact, some of us were horrified by the spectacle, and have been writing against the charade of hostile environment
law ever since.
Any woman who goes off her rocker over lame jokes about Coke cans and calls the sex police over trivial wisecracks does not deserve to call herself a feminist. As Camille Paglia wrote in 1992, "If Anita Hill was thrown for a loop by sexual banter, that's her problem. If by the age of 26, as a graduate of Yale Law School, she could find no convincing way to signal her displeasure and disinterest, that's her deficiency."
Paglia continues: "The sexual revolution of my Sixties generation broke the ancient codes of decorum that protected respectable ladies from profanation by foul language. We demanded an end to the double standard. What troubles me about the 'hostile workplace' category of sexual harassment policy is that women are being returned to their old status of delicate flowers who must be protected from assault by male lechers. It is antifeminist to ask for special treatment for women."
Paglia is right, of course. Before it began its headlong march onto the victim tangent, feminism focused on making women strong and free, making more choices available in their jobs and sexual lives, and freeing everyone from overly rigid sex roles.
Today, a woman can be a real feminist – strong, accomplished, achievement-oriented, and self-empowered – or she can be a skunk at the garden party, a litigious princess, freshly taught in college that it's OK, expected even, to ruin the careers of the guys who don't get it. Immature young women with half-baked gender theories are sent forth wide-eyed from college into the workplace with loaded guns, but missing the basics – basics like the reality that cornered rats can be dangerous.
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As subsequent events have demonstrated, sexual harassment charges have become a choice weapon in political arsenals. In 1991, feminists should have confronted Clarence Thomas directly about his anti-choice position on abortion instead of magnifying sexual minutiae. Somewhere along the line, America lost its sense of humor and sense of privacy and proportion. In turn, social conservatives jumped on the bandwagon with vigor when the opportunity arose to torpedo Bill Clinton.
Sexual harassment law is the juncture where victim feminists and social conservatives have joined forces because both philosophies hinge on rigidly stark sexual stereotypes that portray powerful men as sexual predators, and young women as their bimbo prey. When Bozell writes that Chandra Levy was "a young woman who was used as a plaything by a married congressman twice her age," and that "feminists have no outrage for the manipulator who lied about the affair," he is merely repeating the predictable conservative parable, as old as "Little Red Riding Hood," the story that the world consists of babes in the woods and big bad wolves waiting to trick them.
The Gary Condit story is a perfect cautionary tale for social conservatives who see white bread family values as the only way women should live: stay home, practice abstinence, get married, have children and be protected from a big bad world that is too immoral and dangerous for women.
For feminists, the Gary Condit story is more complex and sobering. Chandra Levy's mother says she raised Chandra to be strong, confident, independent and free of the fears with which she herself had been raised. Armed with a mind of her own, Chandra had been taught to compete successfully with males in athletics and academics. In her daily life, she was no plaything or delicate flower, but an intelligent young woman who was nobody's victim until she, as the saying goes, went missing.
Ironically, the victim-wing of feminism has created a workplace environment more hostile than ever by conferring on all women the status of incipient sexual terrorists who, when some bozo "doesn't get it," can whip out the equivalent of a suitcase bomb. Like all forms of terrorism, sexual blackmail, real or perceived, is no small thing. In a world where nothing is personal and nothing is private, when you screw up with a woman at work or in love, your career can be toast. Perhaps Mr. Condit thought Chandra had a bomb and was willing to use it. I suspect that may be the real reason Chandra Levy is missing.