Morally speaking, we know that cheating on one’s spouse or significant other is wrong. We also know that having a sexual or romantic relationship with one who works for you is wrong. But that does not preclude us from doing either.
The latest news from Capitol Hill is that Representative Katie Hill (D-California) resigned because she was accused of sleeping with a congressional staffer and having a relationship with a congressional aide. If that was not enough to get the halls of power talking, nude pictures of her were released to the press.
A little more than twenty years ago, former President Bill Clinton (D-Arkansas) was at the height of his popularity. He was also dogged by accusations of sexual assault and whispers that he was cheating on his wife. Then he got involved with Monica Lewinsky, a young White House intern. Those of us who are above a certain age can easily recall the political hell that broke lose during that time.
The disgusting hypocrisy is that while the former Representative’s political career and reputation are in ruins, President Clinton is still held in high regard. This case also brings revenge porn once more into the spotlight, an issue that desperately needs local and state and national legislation to stop once and for all.
It’s time to make it clear that this conduct, regardless of who is accused of it, is wrong. Those who choose to act in this manner will be duly punished. But until that day comes when women are given their due and men get off scot-free, the hypocrisy will remain.
Ms. Hirshman starts her book in the 1970’s, when women began to talk to each other and organize against men who took advantage of their female subordinates. She then moves forward in time highlighting a number of accusations of rape and/or sexual harassment against prominent men and the women who were brave enough to go public with the accusations. The list includes the 1991 Clarence Thomas Hearings and the accusations by Anita Hill, the Monica Lewinsky/Bill Clinton Scandal, and the multiple women claimed that Harvey Weinstein took advantage of them sexually.
Reckoning is a perfect title for this book. While telling the story of these brave and bold women, Ms. Hirshman inspires the reader to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. She also pulls no punches, calling out politicians on both sides of the aisle, women who stay silent and men who continue to perpetuate this heinous act.
I believe that we have to take the following into consideration when passing judgement on President Clinton:
He was not the first and will not be the last public official who is caught having an extramarital affair.
An older male manager taking sexual advantage of a younger female employee is nothing new. Working women throughout history have dealt with this problem for an untold number of generations.
We didn’t have the language or the perspective in 1998 that we have today. The #Metoo movement has shined a necessarily uncomfortable spotlight on the issue of sexual harassment and assault, especially in the workplace.
Unlike other men accused of a similar crime (especially you know who), President Clinton appears from my perspective to be genuinely contrite about his actions.
However, his apologies cannot and will not absolve him of his actions. While his reputation has recovered, the reputations of the women linked to the scandal will forever be tainted. Monica Lewinsky will never lead a normal life. Hillary Clinton perhaps could have perhaps won the 2016 Presidential election, if not for her husband’s past misdeeds.
I don’t know if I will ever completely forgive President Clinton. But at the same time, I appreciate the apology and his support for the #Metoo movement. If there is any silver lining in this story, it is that the #Metoo movement is not going away. It is only getting stronger and will continue to grow until women are treated equal to men.