Broaddrick Rape Allegations a Waste of Time to N.O.W.

By Stephanie Herman
Rightgrrl Co-Founder
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 awareness.

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 Anita Hill."

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 Broaddrick.

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 Packwood.

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.

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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.
I Believe Juanita