In the wake of renewed criticism over her 1998 Op-Ed defending Bill Clinton from accusations of sexual assault, feminist icon Gloria Steinem has refused to apologize or admit regret about the controversial essay — though she did note that she probably “wouldn’t write the same thing now.”
In an essay titled Feminists and the Clinton Question, Steinem had refused to condemn Clinton for his consensual affair with Lewinsky, and glossed over sexual harassment claims from former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones. Jones had sued the then-president for allegedly summoning her to his hotel room when he served as Arkansas governor. She said that Clinton had then touched her inappropriately, tried to kiss her, and demanded that she perform oral sex on him. But in Steinem’s Op-Ed, she wrote that “Clinton seems to have made a clumsy sexual pass, then accepted rejection,” adding that “there seems to be little evidence” that Jones was negatively impacted by the incident. A year after Steinem’s essay was published, former Clinton campaign volunteer Juanita Broaddrick accused him of rape — a claim he also denied.
With renewed focus on the way that women who report harassment or rape against power figures are silenced, writers such as Caitlin Flanagan have held up Steinem’s Op-Ed as a classic example of slut-shaming and victim-blaming. But at a benefit for the Ms Foundation for Women, which Steinem helped found, she said that she stands by the essay.
“We have to believe women,” said Steinem. “What you write in one decade you don’t necessarily write in the next. But I’m glad I wrote it in that decade … Because the danger then was we were about to lose sexual harassment law because it was being applied to extramarital sex, free will, extramarital sex, as with Monica Lewinsky.”
“Paula Jones,” she added, “in spite of all the pressures on her, said very clearly, ‘He said to me, I wouldn’t want you to do anything you don’t want to do.’ That was part of her testimony.”
Read the full story at The Guardian.