September 21, 2007

"It simply seemed depressing, oppressive and hopeless. It seemed like a relic from the past, a buried memory."

Judith Warner rewatches "Thelma and Louise," which was screened as part of film series chosen by various politicians.
Previous choices, by male lawmakers, have included “The Candidate,” “Dr. Strangelove” and “Dave.” But [Senator Susan Collins and Representative Jane Harmon], the cheery Maine Republican and tough-as-nails California Democrat, who have worked together on intelligence and homeland security legislation, broke the mold with their choice of the dystopic female buddy movie.

They wanted, they said, to showcase their against-the-odds, across-the-aisle friendship.
Bizarre. Had they seen the movie?
[I]n 1991 it was altogether understandable that a movie about sexual violence would be turned into a fable about women’s general social and political progress.
I remember that time so well.
It made perfect sense then to conflate sexual violence – in all its verbal, psychic, physical and political forms — with sexual politics. That year, the William Kennedy Smith rape case went to trial, belittling and publicly humiliating the victim; Anita Hill confronted Clarence Thomas and emerged besmirched while he reigned victorious; and Roe v. Wade seemed destined for extinction.

All the talk, nationally, was of sexual harassment, date rape and crimes against women generally...

The memory of that fear and anger and outrage – the sense of its momentous, transformative power – might have lasted longer had the “Thelma and Louise” moment not been followed, soon after, by a repudiation of “victim feminism” that was widespread and totalizing and highly welcome in the larger culture. It’s easy to forget now how vital and urgent the new focus on date rape and sexual harassment seemed, for a brief moment, back then. And yet it was, truly, transformative; the world of “Thelma and Louise,” I think it’s fair now to say, is not the one that we inhabit psychologically or physically today.

Date rape is no longer a contentious concept; it’s a known reality. Rape victims are no longer so thoughtlessly named and shamed by the media as was William Kennedy Smith’s accuser. Rape itself is down – its incidence having dropped 75 percent since the early 1990s, according to the Department of Justice.

These are profound and meaningful changes, and we should celebrate them — and revel in “Thelma and Louise”’s passage into history.
Oh, isn't that lovely! Well, Judith Warner's cheery recounting of history has a gigantic glaring omission! What happened was that the Democratic President Bill Clinton got into trouble for sexual harassment, and those who had worked so hard for so many years to bring the subject of sexual violence and sexual harassment to the front of the national consciousness did a turnaround to preserve partisan power. That's why the subject changed, not because the crime statistics improved. There are various problems with "victim feminism," but you've got to face up to the part of your repudiation of it that is about contempt for Paula Jones and interest in preserving the Clinton presidency.

54 comments:

George said...

What politicians chose "The Candidate" and "Dr. Strangelove" as their favorite movies?

Boy, are those revealing choices...

Fritz said...

I was always about abortion.

Adrian said...

there's this channel aimed at women in canada called showcase diva. anyway, they've been advertising thelma and louise as part of their film rotation, and the hook they use is not its supposed feminism, but that brad pitt is in it and he's a "hunk." that always amuses me.

SteveR said...

This is the center of the vortex and those who enter will reveal themselves.

Dr Strangelove? Hmmm

rhhardin said...

Everything is a crime against women. Feelings matter.

Simon said...

Off Topic:

"Anita Hill confronted Clarence Thomas and emerged besmirched while he reigned victorious; and Roe v. Wade seemed destined for extinction."

Funny how every time a Republican President nominates a Supreme Court justice the headlines blare that Roe seems destined for extinction - "Stop Souter or Women will Die!" - and although no such thing happens, the same script is repeated verbatim about the next candidate.

joe said...

Roe always seems to be on the verge of extinction, or so we are told.
PS - Anita Hill lied.

paul a'barge said...

Anita Hill confronted Clarence Thomas and emerged besmirched while he reigned victorious

Good lord. Talk about historical revisionism. These folks don't give up, do they? Say it often enough, they believe, and maybe they can get away with it.

Anita Hill is a liar.

Fritz said...

This is just one in a series of stories about the changes from a romantic era gone bye. Naomi looking for Kent State from obnoxious behavior. The Civil Rights crowd so so desperate for a cause, marched with communists in support of 6 thugs in Jena. The Harris Poll tells us that 94% of Americans are satisfied. Then why is it that only 19% of Americans see the country as a whole satisfied, because the media focuses on the unsatisfied 6%.

Gahrie said...

Dr. strangelove is a great movie, and very funny. (and I say that as someone who was a committed cold warrior)

I wouldn't ding anyone for choosing it, I'd just assume they have a sense of humor.

Zeb Quinn said...

Anita Hill confronted Clarence Thomas and emerged besmirched while he reigned victorious

I thought then that the facts supported a theory of the case that at its core what the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas kerfuffle was really all about was a quasi-stalker spurned getting her revenge. Sixteen years later there's been nothing that's changed that assessment.

Trooper York said...

The girls don't want to play like that,
They just want to talk to the boys.
The just want to do what is in their hearts,
And the girls want to be with the girls.

And the boys say, "What do you mean?"
And the boys say, "What do you mean?"
Well there is just no love,
When there's boys and girls.
And the girls want to be with the girls,
And the girls want to be with the girls.

Girls want things that make common sense,
The best for all concerned.
They don't want to have to go out of their way,
And the girls want to be with the girls.

And the boys say, "What do you mean?"
And the boys say, "What do you mean?"
Well there is just no love,
When there's boys and girls.
And the girls want to be with the girls,
And the girls want to be with the girls.

Girls are getting into abstract analysis,
They want to make intuitive leap.
They are making plans that have far reaching effects.
And the girls want to be with the girls.

And the boys say, "What do you mean?"
And the boys say, "What do you mean?"
Well there is just no love,
When there's boys and girls.
And the girls want to be with the girls.
And the girls want to be with the girls

(The Talking Heads)

LarsPorsena said...

AA:
"..Oh, isn't that lovely! Well, Judith Warner's cheery recounting of history has a gigantic glaring omission!"

As Charles Krauthammer has said. "The 90's were America's vacation from history" Warner was on that vacation.

Simon said...

Zeb - I don't think we'll ever know for sure, but I suspect the explanation is that Hill knew exactly what sort of Justice Clarence Thomas would be, and her subsequent career has made quite clear why she might have been motivated to do what she could to prevent his confirmation.

Ultimately, it hardly seems to matter; Thomas' performance on the bench has more than vindicated his nomination, and Hill has receded into irrelevance if not quite obscurity (alas, not joined by Biden).

Thomas has a book coming out shortly where he will apparently tell his side of the story, BTW, but personally, I'm far more interested in what he's done on the bench than going over he said/she said arguments about summer nights at the EEOC.

Simon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Simon said...

^ ¶1 isn't intended to express any view on whether Hill lied or not, BTW.

Kirk said...

Gahrie, you can't argue in here! This is a War Blog!!!

Richard Fagin said...

Prof. Althouse gets an "A" today for intellectual honesty. The whole NOW crowd went AWOL on the Paula Jones issue, and the Jennifer Flowers issue and the Kathleen Willy issue and the Juanita Broaddrick issue and the Monica Lewinsky issue....and........Sen. Kennedy, who actually managed to cause the death of a female employee.

I seem to recall a certain Sen. Packwood being shown the door (rightly) for behavior that was clearly boorish but hardly rose to the level of that of the foregoing two (and other Democrat) cretins.

vet66 said...

Presciently, Thelma and Louise drove into the ultimate orgasmic, blissful abyss (hole) and oblivion. The left-wing of the democratic party, with Moveon.org at the wheel, is heading for the same fate.

Maybe the feminists will find the "essence" they seek, as alluded to by General Buck TURGID(son) in Dr. Strangelove as they hurtle to their doom.

The feminists among us secretly wish to replace Major Kong as he rides the bomb to one last earth-shattering orgasmic explosion here-to-for denied them.

Or it could just be a movie!

Peg said...

I find that classic movies from the 30s and 40s wear a lot better than certainly the more recent ones. Possibly distance is required for appreciation. However, I believe in no time at all, most movies from the 00s will look silly, dated and just plain stupid. Nearly every one is infested with anti-Bush and anti-American dogma. That will not wear well (already isn't, in fact). Hollywood is fast rendering itself completely irrelevant.

Tim said...

"There are various problems with "victim feminism," but you've got to face up to the part of your repudiation of it that is about contempt for Paula Jones and interest in preserving the Clinton presidency."

True enough, but a year and a half ago "victim feminism" got some Lacrosse players at Duke in a heap of unearned trouble, although to be fair doses of "victim racism" and "victim anti-jockism," esp. amongst the anti-jocks populating the Duke faculty were contributing factors. They may be in retreat, but they haven't surrendered, let alone repudiated it - or least not for the rich white male, privileged and presumably Republican.

But repudiated for the obvious Democrat male? Yeah, most likely.

Simon said...

vet66 said...
"Thelma and Louise drove into the ultimate orgasmic, blissful abyss ... and oblivion."

Or, as Ann once put it, "they transcend[ed] the world of men and enter[ed] into the sublime."

Ralph said...

The OJ trial made domestic violence supplant sexual harrassment as the locus of evil in the world.

David53 said...

Dr Strangelove is a great movie and Peter Sellers’ best performance, he was a superb comedian

PatCA said...

Harman and Collins are jumping off the liberal cliff together? That's my take.

If you watch the film closely, it's about stupidity. There are a couple places where the characters are told they don't have to run, they're in the clear legally, etc., but they do it anyway. So I always understood it as a bitter overwrought activist leading a useful idiot into a fatal, ecstatic gesture.

Feels good, ends in oblivion. I blame Bush.

Simon said...

Pat - Ann has an article -- I quoted from it above, I should have put the cite, which is Thelma and Louise and the Law: Do Rape Shield Rules Matter?, 25 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 757 (1992) -- that I think you ought to read before being quite so categoric.

Bruce Hayden said...

I find it interesting that my thoughts seemed to match Ann's as I was reading the article where 1991 was seen as a turning point. What changed? Ann pointed out the obvious - Bill Clinton became president.

To this day, I marvel that it was such a short time between when the feminists were up in arms because Clarence Thomas may have said something that might possibly have had sexual overtones, and because of that, should have been denied a seat on the Supreme Court, to credible claims of rape and workplace sexual exploitation being discounted and excused by many of the same people, for any number of reasons, when Bill Clinton was involved.

Dan Collins said...

I think they should make a sequel. It would open with Iowahawk and the Sheriff surveying the scene.

Sheriff: It's a damn shame. What a waste.
Iowahawk: Perfectly good vintage car. Sucks.

Zeb Quinn said...

Simon:

I suspect the explanation is that Hill knew exactly what sort of Justice Clarence Thomas would be, and her subsequent career has made quite clear why she might have been motivated to do what she could to prevent his confirmation.

I considered that her opposition might be just ideology. But the problem with that is that she followed him from job to job, hitched her wagon to his star, after learning and knowing his views. His politics weren't bothering her then. He was, after all, a Reagan appointee when she met him, and continuing throughout two terms of the Reagan administration, and she not only chose to work for him there, but followed him around. So I don't think ideology is what motivated her, at least not to begin with. Oh, it became the ex post facto rationale, indeed practically her very raison d'ĂȘtre, but that was only after she got so much support and cover from the leftists, the feminists in particular. What she did was then hitch her wagon to that star (as it were) instead.

I believe that what motivated her to begin with was that she was desirous of having a personal relationship with him and it didn't happen. He apparently wasn't interested, and she came away from that feeling spurned, scorned, rejected, whatever. So she did what she could to hurt him, fueled mightily by those who did want to stop this nomination for ideological reasons, ala Robert Bork.

Starhawk said...

Rape victims are no longer so thoughtlessly named and shamed by the media

I guess there is an exemption to this if you are raped by a popular basketball player?

Ernst Blofeld said...

That would be General Jack D. Ripper talking about denying women his essensce, not Buck Turgidson.

Californio said...

RE: political turn-abouts. After Hitler and Stalin signed a non-aggression pact - For almost two years--from September 1939 to late June 1941--the Communist Party opposed American involvement in the war. As late as June 22, 1941, Communist youths picketed the White House to protest any American help for the Allies. But the next day, everything changed: Hitler invaded Russia. Overnight the signs changed.

What irks me beyond measure are politicos who pathologically cannot be frank with anyone. Read "Plunkitt of Tammany Hall" regarding an old school Tammany tiger political boss who laid out his musings on "honest graft" versus "dishonest graft". If the Democrats want to be taken seriously, perhaps they should try honesty instead of fawning treacle.

[The Republicans need a new approach too, but that can be discussed another time.]

vet66 said...

Ernst: Roger that! Good catch. It works better having "Ripper" deliver the eulogy for feminists!

OVER!

John said...

What is funny is how quiant Clearance Thomas'alleged harrassment was in light of Clinton's known behavior. Basically Thomas was accused of making really goofy and kind gross passes at Hill. Anyone remember the pubic hair on the coke can or was it Pepsi? Clinton on the other hand was accused of exposing himself to Paula Jones, outright raping Juanita Broderick and of course admitting to having oral sex with a early 20 something Whitehouse intern. Add to that Clinton chronies commited a felony by unlawfully leaking Linda Trip's FBI background investigation and until the apparent of the infamous stained dress planed to paint Monica Lewinski as a derranged stalker even though they knew she was telling the truth. Makes the pubic hair on the coke can seem a bit tame doesn't it? But, according to the same people who said Thomas should be drumed out public life for making passes at Anita Hill, all of Clinton's misdeads and misogyny were "a private matter".

exhelodrvr1 said...

"Rape victims are no longer so thoughtlessly named and shamed by the media as was William Kennedy Smith’s accuser"

Of course, the accused are still "thoughtlessly named and shamed", before the case comes to trial.

halojones-fan said...

The list is full of movies that are supposed to be "lofty, high-minded cinema" but are in fact freakin' BORING AS ALL HELL.

I'd have picked two movies: "Ghostbusters" and "October Sky".

John said...

Is October Sky a great movie or what? What a hidden gem of a movie. I remember it being in the theaters for about 10 minutes when it came out. I finally watched it a few months ago on cable and it is just a great Hollywood movie and story. What I can't figure out is why anyone would cast Toby Mcguire anymore when you can just get the decidedly less creepy Jake Gyllenhall to do the job better.

Trooper York said...

"You mean you haven't asked him yet? Thelma, for Christ's sake. Thelma, is he your husband, or your father. It's just two days for God's sake. Don't be a child. Tell him you're with me.”

(Louise Sawyer)

ricpic said...

Was Thelma and Louise about anything other than hatred of middle aged non-adonis males?

Galvanized said...

Abuse in every form has always existed and will always exist in literature/art. Different societies have different "fads" of abuses that ebb and flow over time. Unfortunately, misuse of power and all kinds of violations of rights will always be. And if we sweep away the stories when that particular trend of abuse seems overcome (even though it only lies dormant until the social tide brings it back), even fictional depictions, then we forget that they occur or come to believe that they never could again, and victims again feel shamed in sharing about it and stigmatized in reporting it.

Plus, you never outgrow a good movie.

(Still, Warner is a fine writer. I'm reading her book Perfect Madness now, and it's a real eye-opener on American motherhood.)

Cedarford said...

I think Althouse is right, though "victim feminism" apparantly flourishes in "woman's studies" academia still. Actually it is growing as more schools add whole departments of well-paid women with otherwise useless grad degrees that publish how they and others like them are perpetually victimized.

The truth was the feminists were on a roll, with the heads of CEOs, John Tower and Packwood and only the pulling of the "I'm a F*cking Kennedy, you crazy B*tches!" card and the "High Tech Lynch Mob" race card blocking their getting William Kennedy Smith's and Clarence Thomas's heads as well.

Workplaces quivered in fear of legions of angry attorney fembots in power suits and sensible boots descending on them for any dispute about a "woman's sense she had been abused..."
The hoary days of feminism, when women on campus actually called themselves feminists and employers made up stupid rule after rule about men shall not date, flirt, compromise their credibility with attempts at relationships with vulnerable, helpless female employees. When an accusation of harassment was judged by HR to be an instant firing offense. Because - who are we to say a woman is ever wrong???

Then Clinton happened. And all the hysterical feminists seemed to fall in line like the good little Stalinists they told one another they were.
Then they couldn't seem to stop enabling the guy, worshipping at the altar of the stupid faithful wife done wrong by her man....denying their past writings and firing demands were applicable...and falling on their swords No, I wouldn't call a single grope an unwanted sexual advance constituting harassment...no...it seems one breast or buttock squeeze might be understandable. Then the woman can express her acceptance or rejection of the man's advances more clearly... "Interns are different than an actual employee", "as a lawyer as well as a long-time feminist, I can assure you of that, and it's not like any of the so-called "bimbos" in Arkansas were direct reports to the Governor that he would he hiring or firing..."

No, speaking of movies, they might wish to make one - if Hollywood ownership ever changes - of the Great Feminist Implosion of the late 90s when they had to choose between being ideologically authentic members of a movement - or deny all they had said or spoken about earlier and be pimped out as good little Democrat Party auxiliaries under Stalinist-style leadership.

They chose the latter.
America was amused.
Feminists in other countries were appalled. "Is that all there was to that American feminist movement? Democrat recruitment of women to vote Democratic under the guise of ideology?"
Yep.

Verso said...

Ann Althouse said:

Wah! Wah! Wah! Clinton Clinton Clinton.

It's amazing, Ann, that you care so much about that, and so little about all the much bigger travesties that have occurred in the past 7 years.

Matteo said...

Before reading further in Ann's post, I took a look at the linked essay and posted the following comment. Ann is absolutely right, of course.

----

The main event which separates us from the world of 1991 was 8 years of the Clinton administration, in which political feminism blew all credibility, excusing the exploitation by the President of a 21 year old intern. The feminism that seemed so vital when the movie came out became nothing short of an absurd laughingstock.

Making leftist multicultural excuses for murderous, misogynistic jihadis during the next presidency hasn't helped much, either.

blake said...

I liked the part where the alien burst out of Micheal Madsen's chest, and it turned out that Harvey Keitel was a replicant. Also, Brad Pitt winning the gladiator contest at the end was cool.

Or am I confused?

Luckyoldson said...

Clinton, Anita...BAD.

Republicans...GOOD.

The Suckfest continues.

hughman said...

"Clinton got into trouble for sexual harassment".

uh, no he didn't. he got into trouble for lying and it wasn't "harassment".

Revenant said...

uh, no he didn't. he got into trouble for lying and it wasn't "harassment".

He got into trouble for lying during a sexual harassment case. So I guess you could say he got into trouble for lying because he'd gotten into trouble for harassment.

But in any case, the fact that the accusations of harassment and rape leveled against Clinton were at least as credible as Hill's accusations against Thomas, combine with the radically different reactions of the "feminist" establishment, really says it all.

The old myth that women don't lie about rape was tacitly amended to "women only lie about being raped by people we give money to".

Trooper York said...

Don't you wish there were a knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence? There's one marked 'Brightness,' but it doesn't work.
Gallagher

Seven Machos said...

Verso translated: Women's rights don't matter nearly so much as the fact that the left hates the war in Iraq.

Gahrie said...

"Clinton got into trouble for sexual harassment".

uh, no he didn't. he got into trouble for lying and it wasn't "harassment".


1) Re: Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey...it most certainly was harassment, de facto and de jure.

2) Re: Monica Lewisnsky....if it wasn't de facto harassment (she wanted it) it most certainly was de jure harassment, ironically enough, under a law signed by Clinton to great fanfare from feminists.

3) Re: Juanita Broddrick....that was rape pure and simple, and her story is much more credible than Anita Hill's allegations of sexual harassment.

Ralph said...

it most certainly was de jure harassment
This was something everyone I saw missed at the time:
Monica claimed the sucking began before she got a paid WH job, which made her testimony material to Paula Jones' suit. Clinton said it started after she got a paying job. It's possible he was getting so much West Wing action from others that he can't remember when it started, but he didn't admit that.

Trooper York said...

Pazuzu: Keep away. The sow is mine
(The Exorcist 1973)

former law student said...

I saw Thelma and Louise as a cautionary tale told by the patriarchy: If you stray from your god-ordained path in life you are doomed.

Monica can treasure her fling with a sitting President until she's an old, old woman, although Clinton likely victimized those other women. I believe feminists gave Clinton a pass because they thought he was hot.

Ann Althouse said...

"I believe feminists gave Clinton a pass because they thought he was hot."

Extrapolate what they thought about Clarence Thomas and you have to see racism.