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I was extremely disappointed to see SusannahTobin's column (Opinion, March 4) chastising the National Organization for Women (NOW). Tobin has joined the misguided cry by self-righteous conservatives and misguided liberals alike of "Where are the feminists?!" Some have lamented the fact that the presidential scandals have "divided the feminist movement" between those who have caved to political pressures, as Tobin describes, and those who have supposedly stuck to feminist ideals.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The presidential scandal has merely served to separate those who understand feminism from those who would turn it into a mindless and meaningless hysteria. Feminism has not, does not and will never claim that all women are automatically right. Feminism is, as the popular bumper sticker proclaims, "the radical notion that women are people." Feminism suggests that a woman's place in life is determined by each individual woman.
So why, then, did NOW not support Paula Jones? Simple: So far as anybody can tell, Jones' story was garbage. Her legal fees were funded by a conservative, and, hence, more than likely anti-feminist institute. Her case was ultimately thrown out of court. She used the money earned by the scandal for cosmetic surgery on her nose. This sounds less and less like a woman victimized by the president and more and more a pawn in a political game. Given this, NOW would have no reason to get involved. To do so would do nothing for women's rights and would, instead, be playing directly into conservative hands.
As for Tobin's "hint of sexual harassment," this too should be taken with a grain of salt. Creating a hostile environment with lewd or suggestive comments is one thing. Two consenting adults having a secret affair outside of the office is different. So long as Lewinsky did not feel compelled to have a relationship with the president and did not receive special privilege over other female workers in matters relating to the office because of the relationship, a claim of sexual harassment is ridiculous. It is a matter of internal politics, not a matter of discrimination and public concern. It is certainly no concern of NOW's.
My point is not to vindicate President Clinton. He may very well have done some of the despicable things he is charged with doing. I will be the first to suggest that conservatives and feminists alike would condemn him should this prove to be the case. In the meantime, however, anyone paying the slightest attention to the Jones fiasco cannot help but doubt the credibility of the claims, (even of the most fervent feminist). In light of these facts, I am more than willing to give NOW the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps NOW's actions can be explained as more than simple political maneuvering and do indeed reflect a commitment to feminist ideals.
Nicholas C. Murphy '02
March 5, 1999
Consider Charity for 40k
On Monday I was not surprised to read in The Crimson that the Undergraduate Council, after conducting a survey, had allocated the better part of its surplus $40,000 toward a new student center. The survey did not, however, consider putting any of the money into charity, where even a relatively small portion could make a difference in Cambridge and the Boston area. A small expenditure such as buying an inner-city school a computer or helping out a soup kitchen would count and might show a different side of Harvard kids to the community.
The council's action was symbolic--the University will co-fund the student center. If we can win University funding this way, why not pledge some of the money to a charitable cause in the same manner? I realize that the council tries to allocate money as Harvard students wish. But I believe that Harvard students are charitable.
John M. DeStefano '00
March 10, 1999
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