Given the status of the participants, the nature of the scandal, the potential political ramifications, and the melee accompanying the recently-released Independent Counsel's report, the unrelenting media coverage of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair is unsurprising. Wallowing in the libidinous transgressions of this country's most powerful leader would prove almost irresistible to a citizenry practically obsessed with sex. Of course, this coverage has provided the President's critics with an unending platform from which to call, depending upon their point of view, for his (a) apology, (b) resignation, or (c) impeachment. Many of the President's detractors, however, have not limited their criticism to his actions. Rather, they have included within their castigation women who still support the President-apparently on the theory that such women are hopelessly stupid or naive (women in general) or outrageously hypocritical (feminists in particular).'
As a woman and a feminist, I am tired of it. The notion that women cannot support the President without somehow leaving their principles or intellect behind is simply absurd. Such an idea is also dangerous. At its core, much of this criticism is rooted in and reinforces outmoded notions regarding the role of women in the public and political realm. If successful-and there is reason to fear that it will be, given the public's already ambivalent attitude toward feminism and the women's movement 2-the denunciation of women's reactions to President Clinton may damage women more than any other recent anti-woman movement.3
This essay defends against the wholesale castigation of women who support the President. It reveals that such criticism is wrong and unfair. Specifically, it demonstrates that the critics have unreasonably characterized women's responses to Clinton as hypocritical or extremely naive, rather than as examples of astute political decision-making. The essay further exposes the sexism underlying the critics' arguments, revealing that stereotypes regarding (1) women's role as the keeper of morals and (2) women as non-political or non-rational beings are at the heart of much of the criticism. By reinforcing these stereotypes, the critics pose a greater danger to women than the original scandal itself.