Broaddrick Rape Allegations a Waste of Time to N.O.W.
By Stephanie Herman
March 01, 1999
"Awareness." It's a particularly feminist idiom, a focal tenet in the
art of "consciousness raising" feminism used to define itself in the
1960s and 70s. It's an invaluable concept to the National Organization
for Women and provides the foundation for their observation of Breast
Cancer Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month (both of
which occur in October). NOW even promotes such a thing as "PK"
Awareness (i.e., keeping tabs on the Promise Keepers) and "Global"
Awareness -- which is simply awareness about the NOW organization
world-wide (for recruitment & chapter-forming purposes).
NOW is usually just gung-ho on "awareness."
The organization even made a point back in 1995 to note the silver
lining of the O.J. Simpson trial in that it brought "important public
scrutiny" to violence against women. "If public awareness has been
heightened," said NOW Executive VP Kim Gandy at the time, "women may
have the courage and public and judicial support to stop their abusers."
Likewise, Anita Hill's charges against Clarence Thomas were deemed
worthy of the feverish pitch of NOW's support, mostly because Hill
placed "sexual harassment in the national spotlight," creating an
"unprecedented national dialogue" on the issue. It all boils down to
Yet in NOW's response to an allegation that president Bill Clinton
committed rape, its president, Patricia Ireland, feels
those choosing to dwell on Juanita Broaddrick's claims should "stop
wasting time on unprovable charges."
Apparently the awareness such a charge against the President of the
United States could bring to the issue of rape, assault and domestic
violence is a less-than-desirable awareness.
And so, according to Ms. Ireland, we should ignore charges that aren't
"provable." Realizing, though, that "proving" sexual harassment, assault
or rape usually boils down to a he-said/she-said stalemate, is any
violent sexual encounter not witnessed by others "provable" without a
semen stain? Were Anita Hill's charges "provable"? Of course not --
which is exactly why NOW was forced to adopt the slogan: "I Believe
The polls now show that a majority of Americans believe Juanita
Broaddrick. And because of this unfortunate and inconventient reality of
American public opinion, NOW has been forced to feign support for
What's missing from their tepid show of support is any demand upon Bill
Clinton to answer the charges or resign from office -- demands NOW was
quick to put upon accused conservatives like Clarence Thomas and Bob
Does NOW really expect us to believe that a man's violent
sexual behavior toward a woman 21 years earlier bears no relevance on
his ability to govern or his fitness for office? Thomas was challenged
and Packwood ousted for less!
But beyond all that; if we pardon, whether legally or morally, all
rapists who happen to perform well at their chosen profession, or who
happen to believe in the "right" to abortion, the crime of rape becomes
moot -- without legal significance. And regardless of the fact
that Clinton will never face legal retribution (since the statute of
limitations on this allegation has run out), to excuse his behavior on
such grounds sets an eery moral precedent.
So what about this tenuous notion that addressing a rape charge against
Clinton is a waste of time? Would an attempt to demand some answers, if
not Clinton's resignation, truly be a waste of time? Well, if rape
becomes a moot allegation in our society, we can only conclude that
NOW's efforts over the last 30 years to bring awareness to the issue of
rape have been an even greater waste of time.
This article copyright © 1999 by Stephanie Herman and may
not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of its
author. All rights reserved.