Celebrity and “family values moralist” Bill Cosby’s recent admissions to having drugged women in order to sexually assault them has caused some old issues to resurface as the 2016 elections draw near. One of those issues could actually negatively impact one candidate’s campaign in particular – namely, that of Hillary Clinton.
This is the reasoned opinion of prominent feminist author, scholar and social critic Camille Paglia. Today, there is an entire generation of women coming of age who have no memory of the scandal involving Hillary’s husband, President Bill Clinton and his White House aid Monica Lewinsky. To young women today, those events are nothing more than a footnote in history.
Ms. Paglia intends to remind them of that history. She is also addressing the issue of abuse of power; more specifically, powerful men who are sexual predators, targeting women who are, in one way or another, under their control. These men may be abusing their authority or taking advantage of some kind of vulnerability – or both.
In the case of Bill Clinton, it was the leader of the free world, using his position as the most powerful man on Earth in order to take advantage of a woman young enough to be his daughter, suffering from self-image issues and longing for a loving father-figure. But for Ms. Paglia, the worst part of it was how even Hillary and feminists such as Gloria Steinem attacked Lewinsky – while virtually giving Bill a free pass (“boys will be boys, nudge-nudge, wink-wink”). In the first installment of a three-part interview with David Daley of Salon.com, Paglia said:
The Clintons are responsible for the destruction of Monica Lewinsky…Hillary has a lot to answer for, because she took an antagonistic and demeaning position toward her husband’s accusers…it’s hard for me to understand how the generation of Lena Dunham would or could tolerate the actual facts of Hillary’s history.
Significantly, there is an irony here that Ms. Paglia is quick to point out: such abuse by “alpha males” such as Clinton and Cosby arises from their fear of feminine power. Such fears may be due to early experiences with over-protective mothers, or result from power struggles with a domineering spouse. For example, in Cosby’s case, Paglia says:
Cosby was involved in a symbiotic, push-pull thing with his wife, where he went out and did these awful things to assert his own independence. But for that, he required the women to be inert. He needed them to be dead!
Likewise, Clinton’s choice to seduce and abuse a low-level aid also reflects his fear of feminine power.
The problem, according to Paglia, is that women credit men with wielding far more power over the sexual world than they actually have. They fail to appreciate the tremendous power they themselves hold in that regard:
Women control the sexual world in ways that most feminists simply don’t understand….equality in the workplace is not going to solve the problems between men and women which are occurring in the private, emotional realm, where every man is subordinate to women, because he emerged as a tiny helpless thing from a woman’s body.
It is worth pointing out that historically there have been societies in which men play a dominant role in public, while women are in absolute control of domestic home life and family matters. The boundaries were clearly defined, enabling such societies to establish an equilibrium. Since the late 20th Century, however, those boundaries have been dissolving. Women have become increasingly prominent in public life and as authority figures. At the same time, there are men who find themselves subordinate to women, or, either through choice or necessity, become domestic caretakers. This has posed challenges for both genders.
It is important to understand that Paglia is not excusing the behavior of men such as Clinton and Cosby. She is simply trying to offer educated and reasoned explanations. Knowledge is power: in understanding the underlying motivations for such behavior, men and women can hopefully relate to one another in constructive, appropriate ways on an equal playing field – both in the outside world and in the home.