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A Lecture on Sexism from Noted Feminist Bill Clinton

Henneberger takes issue with Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright’s recent derision of young women who support Bernie Sanders instead of their friend Hillary Clinton. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Like other humans, women don’t usually love being told how to feel, what to think or whom to support. Guilt trips often go nowhere. And threats that those naughty girls who won’t fall in line just might go to hell? They not only don’t work, but backfire.  

I refer, of course, to recent admonitions by leaders of the highly orthodox Church of Correct Feminist Thinking, Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright. Over the weekend, they laughingly derided and condemned young female Bernie Sanders supporters for choosing to support his presidential bid instead of their friend Hillary Clinton’s. At a Saturday rally in New Hampshire, where the latest polling shows Clinton trailing Sanders by 8 points among all women voters, our first female secretary of state told the crowd, “We can tell our story about how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women don’t think you have to – it’s been done.’’ Yet au contraire , Albright said, making a fist, “it’s not done, and you have to help.” Then, appealing not to reason but to duty and damnation, she repeated a favorite line: “Just remember, there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”  

At this, the candidate who hopes to become our first female president burst out laughing and applauded. “So, Hillary,’’ Albright added, “you are not only going to the White House but to that other place,’’ she said, pointing up towards heaven.  

At the next event Clinton did that day, women in the crowd were still buzzing about those comments, according to Roll Call columnist Patricia Murphy. And their reaction? “It was horror: ‘Did she really say that?’”  

Both more surprising and even more offensive than this lack of diplomacy from our former chief diplomat, though, were the remarks of our most famous living feminist, Gloria Steinem, who actually suggested to HBO’s Bill Maher that young women might only be hanging around Sanders’ campaign headquarters in hopes of … meeting guys: “When you’re young,” she explained, “you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys?’ The boys are with Bernie.”  

Now, if some Republican with a comb-over had said that, it would have been cited as evidence of the GOP “war on women.” And how could Steinem of all people fail to realize that you don’t have to remember the 1960 beach movie, “Where the Boys Are ,” with Paula Prentiss and Connie Francis, to chafe at the wrong and retro suspicion that women are surely more interested in dates than democracy?  

After the Twitterverse came looking for Steinem, she backtracked on Facebook, saying that “I misspoke on the Bill Maher show recently, and apologize for what’s been misinterpreted as implying young women aren’t serious in their politics.”  

Crazy, right? How’d they get an idea like that in their overheated little pea brains?  

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Clinton defended Albright for what she said had been a “lighthearted but very pointed remark.” Then, asked if she understood why some people were offended, she took a page out of the Donald Trump playbook and blamed political correctness: “Good grief, we’re getting offended by everything these days! People can’t say anything without offending somebody.”  

So she won’t take it the wrong way, then, if I suggest that in the future, her friends might want to avoid bringing up the special flames that await women who don’t help other women. Lest it alas raise the uncomfortable issue of how she once laughed, in an audiotaped interview , while bragging about getting a client she thought guilty of raping a 12-year-old girl off on a technicality: Special like that, you mean?  

In a court affidavit in that 1975 case, Clinton questioned the credibility and stability of the victim, who an emergency room doctor found did indeed have injuries consistent with having been raped. She also suggested that it was the sixth grader who’d pursued her 41-year-old client: “I have been informed that the complainant is emotionally unstable,’’ the future champion for women and girls wrote in the affidavit, “with a tendency to seek out older men and to engage in fantasizing.”  

Calling down extra-toasty hell fires on women who don’t help other women might also raise questions about how the various women who’ve accused her husband of inappropriate behavior over the years got left out of that deal.  

But the absolute last thing her campaign needs is the Big Dog himself woofing that Sanders supporters need to treat women better, and accusing his supporters of subjecting hers to "attacks that are literally too profane often, not to mention sexist, to repeat.” And here you thought you’d hear a Bill Clinton lecture on sexism on a nippy day in the netherworld.  

Contact Henneberger at melindahenneberger@rollcall.com and follow her on Twitter at @MelindaDC.  

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Topics: opinion