Where would we be without the Sinisterhood?
This is a tough time to be a woman. I watched in fear as Romney was down by double digits with women. I wondered, would women be the reason for an Obama victory? Then, came the magnificent debate performance by Romney and an anxious wait for the new polling results.
Relief! The Pew Poll released after the shellacking received by the President showed a 15 percentage point swing in Romney’s favor among women, with 51 percent supporting Obama and 48 percent supporting Romney. Then came a more recent poll showing the candidates tied, 47 to 47, among women. It’s been fun to read the hysteria sweeping the punditocracy, such as this from Andrew Sullivan, “Seriously: has that kind of swing ever happened this late in a campaign? Has any candidate lost 18 points among women voters in one night ever?”
Er, yes, apparently. Thank God for women who actually watched the debates! Now we sit on the eve of another debate, a real manicured nail-biter. With Ryan up to bat next in the Veep debate, can we get four more percentage points, in order to avoid four more years?
As a conservative who happens to be a woman, I stand in amazement at inane statements such as that issued by 51 percenter Stephanie Cutter, Deputy Campaign Manager for Obama, saying women don’t care about what happened the last four years, we’re just conveniently fixated on more hope and change to come in the next four years. Hmmm… so the lowest workforce participation in decades, downgrading of our credit rating as a nation, upgrading of the terrorist threat with a dead Ambassador and the black flag of al Qaeda flying on U.S. embassy soils throughout the Maghreb is not supposed to worry our pretty little heads? She fervently hopes! Even with the unemployment rate moving down to 7.8 percent, it’s still an anemic recovery at best, and the fiscal cliff and a future of austerity looms for women and men alike.
So what is it I’m supposed to be concerned about? What’s the sales pitch to women? The image that these people construct is Woman As Victim. That is, when it’s convenient. The women of the left accuse us of a conservative-led “War on Women.” From Elizabeth “The Fix Is In” Warren, to Kerry “Voter Suppression” Washington, to Sandra “Pay For My Damn Pills” Fluke, this narrative was on prime time display at the Democrat Convention, and was one that lefty women have reveled in for years. It is bad enough that popular culture from television drama to music videos feature the “woman as victim” and/or “woman as sexual vessel” narrative (think any Law and Order episode and most MTV videos), or that fashion magazines, those great exploiters of women imagery, opine on the so-called War on Women. It is hard for conservative women to endure the spectacle of those who purport to speak on our behalf, wearing it like last millennium’s “fashion don’t,” present us as victims, yet allow women of the right to be maligned and marginalized. I feel like I’m becoming a “hater of lefty women” and this concerns me. I went looking for the Latinization of this condition and discovered that “sinister” is the Latin word for “left.” Imagine that. So “sinister-misogyny” it is and I think I’m developing a case. The sisterhood, er, make that Sinisterhood, is making all women look bad.
In my case, this disease has a long incubation period. Imagine the harp music, indicating we’re going back, back through the mist of time… bah-ling, bah-ling, bah-linggg…
The Tailhook Scandal
I was on my way to an appointment and heard a news report on the radio about a horrific incident involving sexual harassment of female fighter pilots. I figured someone had been raped, the way the story was reported. When I finally slowed down long enough to read the full story, it turned out a female helicopter pilot had gone to a convention of the Tailhook Association, an independent, nonprofit group of active duty and former Navy aviators, and unfortunately went to the third floor hospitality suites, where the primary focus was on drinking and socializing. The following is from Joslyn Ogden, “Tailhook 91 and then U.S. Navy,” Duke University Kenan Institute for Ethics:
One of the mainstays of the third-ﬂoor tradition was the formation of “the gauntlet” on Friday and Saturday nights. The gauntlet occurred when large numbers of men, often 22- to 26-year-old junior aviation ofﬁcers, crowded the hallway waiting for women to walk through. Once a woman walked through she may have been grabbed, pinched, picked up, and groped inappropriately. One aviator commented that the gauntlet “looked like a pinball machine with each guy getting his shot in.” Some women willingly and knowingly entered the gauntlet. However, unsuspecting women were also lured in. As one witness described, “the men would quiet down and create an opening in the crowd that unsuspecting women might think to use as a passage way … [Then they would be] suddenly surrounded by the gauntlet participants who groped them and prevented their exit.” Some women fought back in response; others appeared too drunk to be fully cognizant of what was happening; and others seemed to enjoy it.
One woman who fought back was Lt. Paula Coughlin, a Navy helicopter pilot and aide to Rear Adm. John B. Snyder, commander of the Naval Air Test Center in Patuxent River, Maryland. As soon as she entered the gauntlet, the participants began to chant tauntingly, “admiral’s aide, admiral’s aide.” Against her will, the men picked her up, touched her breasts, and pulled at her underwear. She later stated, “I felt as though the group was trying to rape me.”
I am not excusing the behavior, but Lt. Coughlin weakened her own claim of sexual harassment by allowing a male lieutenant to shave her legs in public at this event. Okay, now try to visualize the potential thought bubbles over the heads: Woman — “shave my legs, but don’t think of me as a sexual object”; Man- “leg to thigh to heaven…” As described by Elaine Donnelly in a National Review article, “The Tailhook Scandals,” excerpted below:
Lieutenant Rolando Diaz, who shaved women’s legs in public, was prosecuted for conduct unbecoming an officer, but three female officers whose legs he shaved were not disciplined on an equal basis. Indeed, one of those three customers, according to Diaz, was none other than Paula Coughlin, who showed her appreciation by signing a banner with “You made me see God. The Paulster.”
Then there’s this from the New York Times’ October 16, 1993 article, “Tailhook Affair Brings Censure of Three Admirals”:
The best-known case, involving an assault on Lieut. Paula Coughlin, appears to be falling apart. The man charged in the case, Capt. Gregory J. Bonam, a 29-year-old Marine aviator, denies he ever saw her, and he has strong evidence to support his claim that she is confusing him with someone else. As a result, the Pentagon has focused on punishing senior officers who are not charged with any personal involvement but rather a broad concept of being negligent or tolerant of the Tailhook offenses.
This was an off-duty, off-base event. I should think that Lt. Coughlin would have an understanding of the culture of aircraft carrier pilots. Am I setting too high a standard for Lt. Coughlin, who, if she wanted to be respected as an equal, shouldn’t have engaged in leg shaving? Women want to be viewed as tough enough to fly a million dollar piece of equipment and participate in combat missions, yet a real lack of judgment was on display here that undermines our case.
This wasn’t like the sexual harassment at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, where a superior/subordinate situation existed between a male drill sergeant and a recruit and the harassment was on the site of the base (and illustrates the challenges of the integrated combat unit). At the time, Cokie Roberts and Senator Olympia Snowe discussed it in a news segment and one of them said we didn’t have this problem in mixed sex dorms on university campuses, so therefore, ipso facto we shouldn’t have it on our military bases. I don’t remember which one of them made the bone-headed comment but it was met with agreement by the other. I sat there in stunned amazement. As if there is an equivalency to civilians in a dorm and recruits in the military, who can’t just leave the base in the event of a threatening situation (AWOL, anyone?). It is embarrassing for me as a woman to see how the military has lowered standards to allow women to achieve passing scores. I want to be a 6’4” Swedish model, but it ain’t in the cards. Likewise, if a woman can pass the same tests as a man, put her in the Amazonian Squadron and let women have their own path to top brass rank. If a woman can meet the standard for the mission, then by all means allow her to do so. But mission success should be the focus for military selections and promotions. Don’t play the victim card and expect special treatment to achieve the same rank, which seems to be the Sinisterhood SOP.