All Women Deserve Solidarity
Issue   |   Tue, 02/06/2018 - 23:26

2017 ushered in an age of reckoning for sexual harassment across many industries, notably in entertainment, government and sports. We’ve seen the rapid denunciation of big names like Harvey Weinstein, Larry Nassar and Al Franken. We’ve seen powerful court testimonies by strong women like Aly Raisman, Taylor Swift and countless lesser-known survivors. We’ve seen unprecedented media coverage of a problem that has existed for far too long. Now, in 2018, we have much higher expectations for workplace conduct.

The latest subject of this media attention is Hillary Clinton, who has become a feminist icon over the years of her hard work and dedication to breaking the highest political glass ceiling. On Jan. 26, The New York Times broke the story of Clinton’s inadequate response to the sexual harassment claims made against her “faith advisor,” Burns Strider, during her 2008 presidential campaign. Strider was accused of engaging in inappropriate behavior towards a woman he shared an office with including sending her suggestive emails, rubbing her shoulders and kissing her on the forehead. The allegations were brought to Clinton along with the recommendation that he be fired, but she chose instead to dock his pay, move the accuser to a different job and require that Strider go through counseling.

Clinton claimed that she thought this response was harsh and clear enough to make a real difference in Strider’s life, and allegations against Strider reportedly stopped after this incident. In 2013, Strider was fired for sexual harassment from a Super PAC that supported Clinton, proving that Clinton’s actions did not have an adequate impact on him. Would Strider have continued his misconduct if Clinton had fired him instead of giving him a second chance? There is no way to know. However, Clinton’s actions should send a message to all women in power: if you have the opportunity to stand up against sexual assault and support victims, it is your responsibility to use this power to its fullest extent, even if that means firing a long-time employee.

Hillary Clinton is a member of the Democratic Party, a party that claims to value diversity and feminism. Because she has so often championed these ideas, her actions regarding Strider have garnered a large amount of media coverage, including may claims of hypocrisy calling her out as a hypocrite.

Unfortunately, Clinton is not the only powerful woman in politics to be in the news recently for issues related to sexual assault. In his incendiary new book “Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff insinuates a relationship between Donald Trump and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley (There is no evidence to back up these claims, and even if she did spend time alone with Trump, as a cabinet member her job requires discussing important policy issues with the president). Instead of taking up arms in solidarity with Haley, as was seen in the #MeToo movement, women in and outside politics highlighted the book as comedic and relevant, despite such offensive claims that should potentially harm Nikki Haley’s professional reputation. In fact, “Fire and Fury” was used as a punchline in a sketch during last weekend’s Grammy Awards, in which celebrities — including Hillary Clinton — read and laughed at passages from the book. Why are we focusing on the ridiculousness of Trump’s eating habits instead of Wolff’s subtle attempts to paint Haley as someone who would do anything for the job?

The public and the media care less about Republican women as compared to Republican men, like Trump, whose history with sexual assault leaves us with plenty to discuss. When the media spotlight shone brightly on Al Franken and John Conyers last year, somewhat proportional attention and support was given to the women who accused them.These two men and their victims were given plenty of outlets to discuss the situation, but when Nikki Haley was accused, she barely received any attention. She did not even have the support of an army of female politicians; out of 22 women who serve in the Senate, only five are Republican. Of 84 women in the House, only 22 are Republicans. Until our country does better about listening to and electing female politicians, it is unlikely that we will see enough improvement in sexual assault issues in politics. All women, regardless of party affiliation, deserve solidarity. All women, regardless of party affiliation, must stand up against sexual harassment.