The Media Strike Again

 by Laura Flanders

Media pundits are on the anti-feminist warpath. Again. This time, feminists are under attack for their response to Monica Lewinsky. Casting all women's rights advocates as "Clintonites," Maureen Dowd invented a grisly pact that she suggested they had made with the President: "Ms. Lewinsky must die so that women of America can have better child care..."(New York Times, 1/28/98)

Laura Ingraham's colleagues at the Independent Women's Forum dubbed NOW the National Organization for Womanizers. On FOX News, Jennifer Grossman of the Cato Institute berated feminists for two contradictory things: on the one hand, for promoting, "victim feminism" and, on the other, for downplaying the president's abuse of an immature "girl." (1/30/98)

The fact is, feminists have been calling for years for bosses not to exploit the women they employ. NOW tried to meet with Paula Jones when her charges against President Clinton were made public -- and supported her right to a day in court on the matter, even though Jones shunned their offer to meet. And last week, NOW President Patricia Ireland released a categorical statement: "While we do not know the truth of the allegations made against President Clinton," said Ireland, "we want to state clearly our belief that it would be a misuse of power for any public official to have a sexual relationship with an employee or intern."

When it comes to abuse, there continues to be no evidence that the president harassed Monica Lewinsky. She has apparently made no complaint to that effect at any time. A victim of a boss/worker power imbalance she may have been. It would do us all good for newspaper columnists to use their platforms to launch a serious discussion about the complicated relationships between power and age, and sex.

But that's not what anti-affirmative action, anti-ERA feminists are howling for -- they're out for their own political gain. If pundits really cared about the abuse of young Lewinsky, they'd start by taking a close look at the media. Almost every day of this story has seen another shameless "investigation" of the former intern's private life and irrelevant innuendo:

It's hard to take the moral high ground about Lewinsky's treatment and still remain silent about coverage like this. Perhaps one reason the ubiquitous commentators prefer to pillory feminists - is that they don't want to pressure the media in which they themselves are so solidly entrenched.

Laura Flanders is the author of "Real Majority, Media Minority: the Cost of Sidelining Women in Reporting" (Common Courage Press, 1997) and executive producer and host of CounterSpin, the nationally syndicated radio report from the mediawatch group, FAIR.

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