They did it. The Republicans on the Judiciary Committee did what a
Democrat had called the "unthinkable" when they voted for articles of
impeachment. But what "unthinkable" means for some usually means
something else to others as it was in plain view during the Judiciary
Hearings. To the Democrats, the unthinkable appeared to be a situation
in which a president could be in dire straits because of shenanigans
perpetrated in a civil rights suit brought forth by a woman, of all
people, who had not even been physically reduced to a pulp, nor sent to a
mental institution because of acts committed by the person she accused.
Where was the damage they asked with disdain? Where was the violation of
the law? And what law in the first place? Was it not just about sex?
Is there a law against sex? Did the Right Wing pass a law against sex
while we were having sex?
For the Republicans, the unthinkable was clearly a situation when a
president could have engaged in shenanigans in a civil rights suit so
obvious that only the blindfolded could have failed to notice, regardless
of who brought the suit.
For me, an ordinary feminist, the fact that the hearings were taking
place at all was the unthinkable because they were about women and laws
specific to us. This was an unprecedented milestone.
That, in itself, made the Judiciary Committee hearings a majestic event.
The words of Abigail Adams came to mind. "Remember the Ladies," she had
written to her husband John in 1776, urging him not to forget to include
women in the Declaration he was carving and to be "more generous and
favorable to them [the Ladies] than your ancestors". The very busy Mr.
Adams took time to read the letter nevertheless and had a good laugh. He
replied promptly, admitted he had had a good laugh indeed and asked if
she thought he and the drafters were nuts. Actually, people did not
speak that way yet, therefore Mr. Adams expressed the same thought with
the verbal elegance of the time: "We know better than to repeal our
Masculine systems," adding that it was out of the question [that] he and
his friends be subjected to the "Despotism of the Petticoat".
While the cameras zoomed on the unisex antics of the Committee Democrats,
a few television commentators half-heartily reflected how future
generations would view the Hearings, but none reflected upon the long way
we have come since Mrs. Adams wrote her desperate and ineffective letter,
to the point when perceived violations of a woman's legal right to seek
redress, and their logical sequels, were taken so seriously that the most
powerful man in the country, arguably in the world, was on the verge of
ruin, his name forever tainted. For the proverbial elephant was in the
solemn room, asking: "As guardians of the law, are we ready to uphold
women's civil rights at the risk of Executive demise.?" One political
party said "heck no". The other said "yes," uneasily at first because it
had never been terribly fond of sexual harassment law, but said yes
notwithstanding. The equality under the law so many had worked for so
long to attain had finally arrived. One would think the feminist
sisterhood would have noticed.
For the new concept called sexual harassment had been legally recognized
by the Supreme Court in 1986 as one more form of discrimination against
women to add to the Civil Rights of 1964. In doing so, a government
recognized that its women had the legal right to work in an atmosphere
reasonably free of pornography and prostitution and ought to be rewarded
for their intelligence and accomplishments. In elevating women to such a
level, the High Court terminated centuries of male privilege, knowingly
shaking society to its foundations and the political class even more. In
American democracy, no one is above the law. But it was contempt for the
rule of law, for sexual harassment law and therefore for women themselves
that fueled the months of lying, ridiculing, trivializing, and
terrorizing those who exercised their constitutional rights. It was
fawned through a great portion of the media, applauded and assisted by
the feminists, a group hopelessly lost in the demented tantrums peddled
for too long as progressive policies.
In a final convulsion of sexist ire, contempt even turned trusting women
against their own interest and against the rule of law. But contempt
went too far. A group of men finally stepped forward to stop the deadly
attacks on our rights, since we could not do it ourselves. To be sure,
the Republicans sitting on the Committee may have been impelled to draw
the line in the sand because of an accumulation of unrelated frustrations
of a political nature, but the issue at hand was the rule of law pure and
simple, the most revolutionary tool men ever gave women to compete on
their own merit, sexual harassment legislation.
How could not one urge the stately Chairman Henry Hyde to "Remember the
Ladies" even if it was from across a television screen miles away. And
would you believe Mr. Hyde remembered? In an atmosphere poisoned by
propagandists, women have cynically been encouraged to mock the landmark
days in December instead of encouraged to feel the awe, respect and
pride, after 200 years of organized struggle. On December 19, 1998, the
House of Representatives voted for two articles of impeachment. The wild
run of contempt came to a crashing halt against the steely resolve of the
Republican Party and the five remaining honest men among the Democrats.
Their historic decision will affect generations to come, mostly women and
girls, for it ensures that never again such derision of us will ever take
place. Millions watched that unique day, including the millions of women
around the world who still have not a clue about the meaning of it all.
Abigail Adams would have loved the "unthinkable". Husband John? Well…