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Will Monica Lewinsky matter?

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, May 8, 2014 12:33 EDT

Digby has a post castigating people who think that the return of Monica Lewinsky isn’t going to matter, and I find her reasoning quite persuasive.

The Lewinsky scandal was seen at the time through the lens of the unprecedented partisan attacks of the previous five years and the total abdication of all sanity by the press. And frankly, the country just wasn’t as evolved on these issues at the time. Now this is a major battleground in our ongoing culture war, with liberals leading the charge for a change — and that makes them vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy. That wouldn’t matter to the Republicans as they simply do not acknowledge that such a thing exists for them. But they are smart enough to deploy some very good actors to declare with over-the-top lugubrious sanctimony that the Clintons will be bringing rape culture to the White House even as it’s clearly nothing they would ever care about outside this context.

Perhaps I’m wrong and the right won’t press this angle. But I see the scandal machinery is up and running and it appears to me that they think it’s going to once again be a useful wedge for them with Clinton. I don’t know that the American people will be any more impressed by it than they were the last time, but I do think it’s obvious that the culture has made a shift on these issues and it’s not a shift that favors traditional conservatism. If they see a way to rip a hole in the liberal matrix by calling them “Bill Clinton hypocrites” I think they’re going to try.

To be exquisitely clear, the right wing attack machine’s line on Clinton and Lewinsky is full-blown bullshit. Joe Scarborough is one of the best in the business at taking right wing bullshit and selling it in ways where it starts to sound persuasive to people outside of the bubble, and even he can’t make this sound anything like ripe bullshit.

I still can’t believe the way he was treated in the 1990s. And it was always the women. The victims. And these people come out, and have the nerve to come out after defending him, after defending him, claim to come out wanting to support women and protect women. Women’s rights unless we’re protecting a really, really powerful man who’s on our side politically. Swear to God, I’m going to pass out.

Women’s rights? What women’s right are we talking about here?  The right to have your husband not cheat on you and humiliate you? I don’t know any feminists who think that’s an actual right. How would that be enforced by the government anyway? By banning adultery and putting people in jail for it? If so, how is having the “right” to throw your cheating spouse in jail a women’s right? Women cheat on men, too. Women cheat on women. Men cheat on men. The mainstream media would like to pretend it’s all just sleazy husbands and suffering wives, but adultery is a pretty gender-neutral offense. More to the point, it’s not the government’s goddamn business, which is why you will basically never see a feminist actually arguing for policing adultery.

Maybe he means, uh, a woman’s right to not have a consensual affair? Because feigned “concern” for Monica Lewinsky is a line I see a lot of conservatives pushing. It is wholly empty, of course. While Bill Clinton treated Lewinsky atrociously, it’s just the usual “bad boyfriend” stuff: Leading her on while using her for sex, mostly. What really ruined her life was unwittingly stepping into a right wing conspiracy to take down the President, by being tricked into thinking she had a friend who was actually a spy recruited by this conspiracy to dig up dirt on Clinton. She was further abused by Matt Drudge, who single-handedly hammered at this story until it became a national scandal. And Maureen Dowd, whose obsession with the whole thing helped craft this unfair public image of Lewinsky as a bimbo and a slut. (Yes, Dowd is technically a liberal, but her reactionary tendencies get her sucked into this right wing bullshit all the time, and this might be the most classic example.) Ninety-nine percent of smart young women who get sucked into ill-advised affairs with charming cads when they are young recover quite nicely, thank you very much. The reason that Lewinsky’s life was permanently altered by this was because of the right wing noise machine. So, if you’re concerned about the well-being of young women who naively make stupid sexual choices, start by not making a public spectacle of them for it.

And that’s the issue here. Feminists, most of them anyway, have no love for cads. Don’t get me wrong. But we also know that consensually entering relationships with cads is one of those things women are going to do, and that the conservative advice on how to fix the problem—subject women to sexual and social control that strips them of their basic human rights—will just make women’s lives worse while not doing much to stop caddish behavior. The best way to reduce the incidence of exploitative, caddish behavior is to do what we’re already doing: Empower women to feel entitled to self-respect. Fight against a culture of sexual harassment and “pick-up artists” that teaches men that it’s cool to use women’s sexuality to degrade and shame them. Support women’s reproductive and sexual rights, so that poor sexual choices—which we are all capable of making, male and female—don’t haunt them for life. Fight against slut-shaming, so that women’s sexual choices, whether smart or not, are not used to discredit their entire character.

Anyway, Digby’s right that a whole bunch of voters don’t really understand this issue, and fall into the trap of thinking that feminism is simply about what women “want”, not distinguishing appropriately between legitimate human rights issues and cultural changes we want and the generic desire never to be hurt by someone  you were in love with. So this might have legs, but only if the idiotic “Village” media picks it up and runs with it, disingenuously pretending that they don’t understand these distinctions, either. Let’s hope they remember how terrible and embarrassing it was the first time around and choose, instead, to let it go.

For more on this, I was on HuffPost Live talking about this:

Is Shape magazine misleading readers about what dramatic weight loss looks like?

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, May 7, 2014 16:08 EDT

Losing a bunch of weight does not necessarily make your stomach flat.  Brooke Birmingham’s website Brooke: Not On A Diet is crashing, and it’s no wonder. She must be getting slammed by traffic after this amazing expose she published on her website regarding her refusal to work with Shape magazine after they asked her to replace a bikini picture she sent them with one of her in a shirt.  See, Birmingham has lost 170 pounds…


Atheists need to put the Christian right on the spot, ask them if they really think we’re less American

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, May 6, 2014 11:27 EDT

One of the reasons it’s important for atheists to organize and make themselves more visible is that it’s probably one of the best weapons against bullshit like the Supreme Court coughed up yesterday, allowing explicitly Christian prayer to open legislative sessions. Ian Millhiser explains why it’s so dangerous: Town of…


The Orange Couch does Mad Men: S7E4, “The Monolith”

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, May 5, 2014 10:28 EDT

It’s easy to make knowing jokes about how much of a tribute to Stanley Kubrick this episode was, but I’ve never been one to think that the ease of catching a reference somehow diminishes its emotional impact. On the contrary, it was nice to reminded that Kubrick was really on…


South Dakota Republican Thinks About Gay Men Having Anal Sex A Whole Lot

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, May 2, 2014 14:59 EDT

Most homophobes have been really getting smarter lately about cleaning up their language, trying to make it seem like they have more going on than just a knee-jerk disgust at difference that leads them to be hateful and cruel. But thankfully not all! South Dakota state representative Steve Hickey is proud…


The “Apolitical” Science Segments On Fox News Are All Too Political

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, May 1, 2014 12:41 EDT

Have you guys been following this little tiff between the editor of Scientific American and Fox News? Few stories really encapsulate the growing politicization of science and how the right is, as with racism and sexism, involved in a project of denying that they’re anti-science while also promoting an anti-science…


Sorry, Clippers, I Don’t Pity Donald Sterling’s Wife

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, April 30, 2014 11:45 EDT

While I’m definitely glad to see Donald Sterling pay for his viciously racist views, I have to agree with many commentators that it’s yet another example of the troubling trend of how what people say tends to get elevated over what they do when it comes to racist or sexist…


“But Why Are Colleges Involved In Penalizing Sexual Assault” Answered By President’s Task Force

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, April 29, 2014 11:03 EDT

The White House rolled out their promised task force on sexual violence on campus late yesterday and, having read over the materials, I have to congratulate the administration on a job well done. The main portal for information is a website called Not Alone, and it has resources for everyone…


The Orange Couch Does Mad Men: S7E3, “Field Trip”

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, April 28, 2014 13:52 EDT

New Orange Couch! Marc and I often cover multiple themes and ideas in an episode, but this episode so strongly focused on the theme of “mattering” that we did one of our “single theme” episodes. Nice to see the use of allusions creeping back onto the show. One of Mad…


Atheists, go hunting where the ducks are

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, April 25, 2014 8:18 EDT

Greta Christina has an interesting post addressing the concerns that organized atheism, by picking up social justice issues (instead of just “safe” public outreach like highway clean-up and blood drives) , would be courting controversy and alienating people when you want to attract people. She makes the entirely reasonable point…