BY GUEST BLOGGER STACY FITZGERALD -- When the New York Times reported on Friday that Hillary Clinton “protected” a staffer accused of sexual harassment in 2008, I shouldn’t have been surprised that she was back in the negative news cycle again.
Actually, I was more than surprised. I was apoplectic, angry and exasperated that somehow, the villain in this news story is Clinton and not the man accused.
After all, Clinton lost the Presidency to Donald Trump, who admitted “grabbing women by the p*ssy” and has been accused by 19 women of sexual assault. Clinton has never been accused of sexual impropriety or assault, but is being criticized for her reasoned response to a sexual misconduct allegation leveled at a former staffer.
Why is she being disparaged again? Then it hit me: that’s how patriarchy works.
Patriarchy, a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it, in today’s world justifies the actions of an admitted sexual assaulter as “locker room talk.” It views such deeds as proof of manhood. Because of patriarchy, Clinton critics have the audacity to criticize her for reasoned and reasonable punishment leveled at an accused sexual harasser.
The staffer in question, Burns Strider, was accused of harassing a young female staff member a decade ago. Rather than fire him, as Clinton’s campaign manager recommended, Clinton reportedly recommended that the campaign dock his pay and ordered him to undergo counseling. The young woman in question was reassigned.
This is supposedly how Clinton “protected” the alleged perpetrator. I see it differently.
One young staffer accused Strider of touching her on the shoulders and sending suggestive messages. It was a serious allegation, but there was no proof. And while every allegation of sexual harassment should be taken seriously and investigated, a single, unproven allegation shouldn’t result in automatic termination without solid evidence. One should be innocent until proven guilty.
Clinton did not “protect” the staffer, but acted sensibly by taking punitive action against the accused while reassigning the alleged victim so she was no longer in contact with the alleged perpetrator. It was a reasonable punitive action to take to address a single unproven allegation and wholly unworthy of the harsh criticism leveled in media stories.
But, that’s how patriarchy works. It vilifies a woman for taking decisive and reasoned action to resolve a situation involving a man’s harassment of another woman, while seemingly excusing or ignoring the actual harassment of multiple women by a man.
Donald Trump had been accused of sexual harassment by 19 women prior to being elected president and still won the Oval Office without ever having to face his accusers in court to answer to any charges related to those allegations. Yes, he’s faced critics who are outraged at the accusations, but with nowhere near the vehemence Clinton has faced vigorously and persistently.
Moreover, much of the disdain for Clinton is from women who insist she should have left her philandering husband and moved on. Some of these same women may have ignored the accusations leveled at Trump or accepted them as “locker room behavior,” while judging Clinton not for her actions, but those of her husband or in this recent news story, those of her staffer. It’s typical response by Trump’s Republican supporters who couldn’t stand the idea of Hillary Clinton becoming America’s first female president.
How is that fair?
Well, it isn’t. But, that’s exactly how patriarchy works.
Let me add this: This is not simply liberal political commentary from a Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton. It is the commentary of someone who believes in fairness and equality in every way. And that fairness needs to be accorded to Hillary Clinton.
Stacy Fitzgerald is a Washington, DC area Gen Xer whose obsessions include politics, traveling and food and wine ventures.