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Jewish World Review Dec. 1, 2000/ 5 Kislev, 5761

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Consumer Reports

Liberals' art of trashing of women -- IF YOU CAN'T say something nice about a woman, go and sit by a liberal. They specialize in the art of bashing females.

The feminist movement, in theory, sought to bring "looks don't matter" nirvana to a society addicted to curves, curls and cute. Our feminist friends in comfortable shoes, complicated clothing, and complex turquoise earrings wanted looks irrelevant, foundation passť and charm verboten. Al Gore's style guru and feminist author, Naomi "earth tones" Wolfe refers, in her agonizing tome on the vast male conspiracy to sell blush and alpha-hydroxy cleansers, The Beauty Myth, to "the injustices done by beauty - its presence as well as its absence."

There is, however, a footnote to the doctrine of appearance irrelevancy. When confronted with a powerful woman who lacks proper ideological bent, present claws, make ready, and fire insults. The wicked green eye of jealousy, albeit eyelinerless, emerges.

Linda Tripp today is today virtually non-recognizable from that tape-toting single mother who appeared outside her Virginia home in 1998. Plastic surgery altered her face, exercise and diet reformed her physique and Christophe tamed and highlighted her locks. Who can blame her? David Letterman, a man who protested mightily when the New York Times speculated that he was a "non-voting Republican," referred to her as "Michael Caine in drag." That was one of his more charitable jokes about her looks. Her appearance was the target for liberal sharpshooters who loathed the woman who dared challenge the boy president's integrity.

Mr. Letterman has found a new target in Karen Hughes, George W. Bush's communication director; her looks are now fair game.

Katherine Harris, Florida's secretary of state, who dared halt county election boards' Carnac routines to divine votes, has brought out the liberals' caustic best. She has not only seized late-night comics' insults, she has earned mainstream press bashing. The Boston Herald described her as "looking just ghastly." The Washington Post wrote Mrs. Harris, "seems to have applied her makeup with a trowel."

Not ones to stop at looks, liberals are hurling other insults. The renowned television lawyer and Harvard professor, Alan Dershowitz., told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who is surely a dead ringer for Ted Baxter of the old Mary Tyler Moore Show, "She's corrupt. She's a crook." Little things such as no criminal charges ever being brought against Mrs. Harris, let alone prosecuted, don't seem to bother these Harvard types, especially when it comes to conservative women.

There is the long list of appearance-slain Clinton women: Paula Jones (James Carville said of her, "Drag a $100 bill through a trailer park, you never know what you'll find."); Gennifer Flowers (for whom the term "bimbo eruption" was coined); Kathleen Willey (in oddly defending Mr. Clinton against her allegations of groping, supporters labeled them incredulous because her chest was too small). Elizabeth Ward Gracen, a former Clinton paramour, hid out of the country rather than face the insults, and she's a former Miss America. If this is equality, I'll take Jane Austen's era. Even the evil Fanny Dashwood was derided only as less "amiable." Harriet Smith was graciously described as "certainly not clever" but having "a sweet, docile, grateful disposition." I prefer these tame insults to the right to own property.

Today vilification and politics of personal destruction reign. But the politics of personal destruction is one-sided. Righteous indignation springs forth when personal attacks come to liberals. When the Saturday Night Live crew did a skit on Chelsea Clinton's teen awkwardness, they were forced to issue an apology and refrain forever. I once suggested in a column that Madeleine Albright, as secretary of state, not wear short skirts. She looked like a one-woman wrestling match each time she sat down with a world leader. Arafat averted his eyes using his purdah more than once. I was chastised mightily for offering just an age-specific wardrobe tip for a cabinet member.

The beauty coup of the women's movement doesn't apply uniformly. Democrats of the female persuasion, difficult as it is sometimes to tell, are off limits when it comes to insults. Not once has Mr. Letterman joked about Hillary Clinton's piano legs, Donna Brazile's weight, Carol Roberts' (the Palm Beach county balloteer and marionette for team Gore) gravely voice, or those Palm Beach voters who can't punch a chad and look like cross-dressers. Such attacks are cruel. But, John Goodman playing Linda Tripp on Saturday Night Live, now that's funny.

The piercing reality of the women's movement emerges once again. It was never about women and equality - it was about liberalism. Those who rise in opposition to liberals and liberalism are mocked publicly for being less than "amiable."

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


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04/11/00: The monsters we're raising with the ergo proposition
04/05/00: Endowing the Hooters Chair for Literature Appreciation
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06/17/99: True courage is more than just admitting troubles

© 2000, Marianne M. Jennings