I am a democrat and a feminist, and I am an undecided voter who is pretty jazzed about electing the first woman to the office of President of the United States. Even if I have some policy issue disagreements with Hillary Clinton, she’s certainly the most qualified candidate to run in my lifetime and will show everyone in the world just how capable women are. But I’ve got a problem. His name is Bill. The absolute last thing I would want to happen is for anything that Bill has done to compromise Hillary’s election chances. But this is gnawing at me, and I can’t let it go.
Now I have been a Bill Clinton fan since my first presidential election in 1992. But due to the shifting political climate that has brought much needed attention to the importance of consent and to the prevalence of sexual violence against women, I can no longer ignore Bill’s sexual indiscretions. And by indiscretions I don’t mean the blue dress. I don’t mean any of the however many consensual encounters he has had outside of the confines of marriage. What I mean is rape. The public evidence is sketchy if you are talking about convicting this man of a crime and sending him to jail, but that’s hardly surprising. Many less powerful men than he have been allowed to hide behind the prejudices women face every day: beliefs that they wanted it, that they deserved it, that they changed their minds after the fact, that they are crying wolf. That if they cannot present a black eye or a blue handprint or if they did not scream loud enough to wake the entire district, that it wasn’t rape.
In the absence of admissible physical evidence, we have enjoyed the luxury of believing our former president to be the decent if flawed man we want him to be. But I just can’t pretend anymore. The accusations of groping-and let’s call that what it is—sexual assault– and rape against Bill (I’m counting at least 5 in his wiki article) are simply too numerous to ignore. We know that many women who experience sexual violence say nothing to anyone. We know that the number of women falsely claiming to be victims of sexual abuse is very small. Hillary knows it too. This is why she has said that women who claim to have been raped should be believed.
But what if they claim to have been raped by her husband? Does her silence and her wedding ring make her complicit in his actions? It’s a tough question to ask. Nobody wants to believe that Bill Clinton is a sexual predator. Just as we did not enjoy watching Bill Cosby topple from his throne perched oh so far above our heads. But there is no reason to hold a former president to a lower standard than America’s Dad.
If it is true that she has chosen to stay married to a rapist, I think it’s fair to ask why. To protect him? For her own political gain? Because she does not truly believe that his actions are unforgivable? Are any of these reasons truly acceptable if you claim to be a supporter of women’s rights?
I expect-no-I demand that my president support and protect all women. I demand that men who exert physical force to control the bodies of women against their will be held accountable. This must apply to all men, no matter how politically powerful or personally connected they are. It must apply to all men. Even if their initials are BC.