TIME Magazine announced last week that its 2017 Person of the Year was “The Silence Breakers,” beating out runners-up Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, Robert Mueller, Kim Jong Un, Colin Kaepernick and Patty Jenkins. “The Silence Breakers” are women who have “summoned extraordinary personal courage to speak out about sexual harassment at their jobs.”
No political party, industry, or ideological group is immune to problems of sexual harassment. Even with the significant advances made in civil rights and equal opportunities for women in the past half century, being a woman is still a disadvantage in many workplaces and situations where outright harassment or discrimination is excused or ignored. Across many industries and income levels, women remain afraid to report instances of abuse, harassment, or discrimination, for fear of losing their jobs or hindering their hard-won career advancement opportunities.
We live in a unique historical moment when brave women are coming forward with stories of sexual harassment they have experienced. Their courage emboldens other women to share their stories, and public sentiment is rapidly turning against the men who have harassed these women, in many cases for decades, without repercussions. This is an epochal – and overdue – cultural correction and change in thinking. It is tragic that, in a nation built on the idea that all people are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights, women were and are exploited with no recourse.
Why is this seismic shift in our culture happening now, in late 2017? According to TIME, the election of President Trump made women feel powerless, leading to the Women’s March, then to the individuals sharing their stories, culminating in the #MeToo social media movement. It turns out women were not so powerless after all. Indeed, the voices that were suppressed throughout the Clinton and Obama eras — and even while a woman, Hillary Clinton, ran a much-trumpeted historic campaign for President — now feel free, in 2017, to speak their minds, and to tell their stories. And the nation is listening, across the political spectrum.
President Trump’s election and first year in office may have motivated individual women to speak up, but not in the way TIME means. The Women’s March was primarily a political protest, in which conservative women were only welcome if they added to the protest attendance numbers without voicing their distasteful, non-progressive views – silent, complacent, required to subscribe to a version of “sisterhood” that did not reflect their individual and varied experiences. The exclusionary and didactic hypocrisy of mainstream feminism has been on full display this past year, shown for the hollow vessel that it is, promising much but delivering little.
And let’s not forget that the women who professed to feel so powerless after President Trump’s election have completely shunned — and instead mocked, belittled and attacked — the powerful senior women advisors to the President: counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway (who was the first woman to manage a successful presidential campaign), White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, White House Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp, Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and even President Trump’s own daughter Ivanka Trump (just to name a few).
I and other conservative women feel empowered by so many examples of talented, intelligent women who have been recognized and appointed to positions of leadership by President Trump. Sadly, these powerful women are disregarded and attacked by liberals daily – often on the basis of their gender – because they do not have the correct political views. Chelsea Handler freely smears White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders based on her appearance, in ways that would never for a moment be tolerated against a liberal, accomplished woman holding a responsible position in the Obama Administration. So much for sisterhood.
The transgressions of some of the prominent media celebrities recently exposed – household names such as Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer – have been known for years. Why do their accusers feel safe coming forward now, why has their support among the liberal elite evaporated, and why are corporations and media organizations willing to fire these headliners now after looking the other way for decades? President Trump’s election alone cannot explain this cataclysmic paradigm shift.
In this crossroads of sociological, political, and economic theories, one explanation rises above the rest: the growing disfavor of and backlash against the Clintons. What happened?
If President Hillary Clinton ran the country, and Bill Clinton were the First Gentlemen, would we be experiencing this cultural moment recognizing the problem of sexual harassment, and would the 2017 Person of the Year be those who spoke out about being harassed? Certainly not. More likely, Harvey Weinstein would be sipping Chardonnay in the Rose Garden and eating canapes while ogling his next victim, with Bill Clinton doing the same. President Hillary Clinton would be smugly presiding over a brittle edifice of equality, beneath which lurked decades of enabling, shaming, attacking, suppressing, and silencing.
Consider the lessons that the Clintons taught generations of young people growing up in the 1990s. Allegations against powerful men by powerless women must not be believed. Let us not forget Paula Jones who claimed that President Clinton harassed her in a hotel room only to try to skirt the civil lawsuit brought by Jones as an acting President, ending up in a settlement for damages years later. These women — voices which are heard and believed today — were then called bimbos, “trailer park trash,” and liars by the Clintons and their flunkies.
Back then it seemed, when powerful men were accused of sexual harassment (or worse), it was the duty of their wives, associates, supporters, and the media to defend the men, excuse the conduct, and attack the accusers. Lying under oath about workplace sexual encounters was justifiable. The dominant coping mechanism was not merely “stand by your man,” but rather scapegoat his victims, blame them, slut-shame them, and destroy them.
By protecting Bill Clinton, and his chief defender Hillary (a self-proclaimed champion of women), for the past 20 years, the Democrats and liberal elite have perpetuated the sexual harassment culture that kept victims silent for fear of repercussions. Consider how Hillary Clinton protected friend, supporter, and donor Harvey Weinstein despite direct warnings about his misconduct toward women, as reported last week by The New York Times.
In its lengthy article, TIME notes in passing: “In the 1990s, feminists stood up for accused abuser Bill Clinton instead of his accusers — a move many are belatedly regretting as the national conversation prompts a re-evaluation of the claims against the former President.” In other words, feminists of the 1990s turned against women to support their favored political outcomes, and now they are finally realizing how foolish that was.
It is only now that the Clintons are out of favor and inconvenient and are being shoved offstage by their ruthless cronies in the Democratic Party, that the left can actually take sexual harassment seriously. That is a good thing. But in their rush to champion the harassed women who have been silenced by the mainstream media and liberal elites for years, the left is yet again exploiting women for political gain – just as it exploited them for decades by ignoring their claims of harassment against those favored by liberal elites.
For the rule of law to mean something, men and women with power and influence should not dictate how laws are viewed or enforced. The powerlessness of the victim should not determine the outcome of the claim in an egalitarian society. When victims are afraid to come forward for decades, generally the statute of limitations has run and no, or very limited, legal recourse is now available. Not all sexual harassment conduct is outlawed, leaving civil litigation as the only remedy, which often devolves into a “he said-she said” battle where a victim’s claims are pitted against threats of libel or slander by powerful and mercenary lawyers lacking any moral compass.
I reject TIME’s facile explanation of the #MeToo moment’s timing. Hillary’s defeat, not Trump’s victory, prompted the #MeToo movement. Only when it was clear that this corrupt dynasty had finally fallen short of seizing the reins of power again, did their fellows on the left finally stop attacking victims to defend their chosen progressive leaders, because this corrosive and cynical act was no longer necessary to excuse the actions or rationalize the defense of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
One need look no further than Senator Kirstin Gillibrand for a weather vane of the changing conditions: happy to benefit from her symbiotic relationship with the Clintons, and avidly campaigning with Bill and Hillary just last year, Gillibrand was recently heard to say that Bill Clinton should have resigned after his sexual scandals erupted.
I do agree with TIME’s overall conclusion. While legal change can help, only true cultural change beyond the quotidian level of politics — a revolution in hearts and minds at the individual, family, and community levels — will engender a society where women are respected and able to enjoy the Declaration of Independence’s promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” and the Constitution’s guarantee of “equal protection of the laws” without fear of harassment, shaming, and retaliation, as so many suffered for so long.
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Harmeet K. Dhillon (@Pnjaban) is the Republican National Committeewoman from California and vice president of communications for the Republican National Lawyers Association. She is a partner at the Dhillon Law Group.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.