For the past year, feminists have taken a lot of heat for supporting President Clinton in Zippergate. What about that most basic of feminist insights: the personal is political? If people are politically accountable for their personal lives, why put up with a politician who does the “lip limbo,” as Don Imus put it, with an intern? How can you excuse that behavior while insisting that sexual harassment laws be broadly enforced? Isn’t it hypocritical to attack a conservative Supreme Court nominee for talking dirty to his staff but excuse a liberal president who actually had sex with his?
As a feminist, I flinch every time someone explains that because sex is personal, and therefore private, the president should not have to answer publicly for his sexual conduct. If we say that personal conduct has political implications, we can’t also argue that all personal conduct should be shielded from public comment. Stopping sexual harassment and domestic violence, for instance, depends on the notion that personal behavior sometimes warrants public intervention. Of course the president’s affair with Monica Lewinsky was personal; what we are trying to figure out is whether this personal conduct should be treated as entirely ...
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