So much for solidarity

It seems I have underestimated a problem. A few days ago, I wrote:

A paradox of feminism is that some women are feminists’ worst enemy. Men are self-serving, albeit shortsightedly, when they say sexist things. Women can be too. The notorious Phyllis Schlafly, for example, “seizes in particular upon premarital sex as depriving women of their means for ensuring their support from husbands.”[1] Schlafly now seems like ancient history, but some conservatives continue to retain views on rape, abortion, contraception, sexuality, and even divorce that seem centuries out of date,[2] and women such as Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are to feminists what Bill Cosby, Clarence Thomas, and Herman Cain are to civil rights activists.[3]

In that posting, I was discussing Hillary Clinton, who probably lied to a court when she viciously attacked a rape victim in defending a rapist in 1975. “Going well beyond the defense of her client, she embodied women’s well-founded fears of reporting and pursuing charges of rape in the U.S. legal system.” No one who considers her- or himself to be a feminist should do such a thing.[4]

One of the historical strengths of the women’s movement was its solidarity. This was a solidarity that helped women through the times when they were considered chattel, helped them to raise consciousness, and helped them to overcome.[5] It’s far from a complete victory and, from what I can see, Audre Lorde’s observations about how a white women’s movement neglected women of color and non-heterosexual women still hold true today,[6] with a ‘third wave’ of feminism having evidently failed and, possibly, a fourth wave taking root.

This solidarity was not visible with the women on the Supreme Court on June 26. On that day, the Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law mandating a 35-foot buffer zone around women’s health clinics to protect women from the abuses of anti-choice activists. Joining in a unanimous decision were Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia M. Sotomayer, and Elena Kagan.[7]

The Court’s decision failed to acknowledge that the Massachusetts law was enacted after the murder of two clinic receptionists, Shannon Lowney, 25, and Lee Ann Nichols, 38, by anti-abortion extremist John Salvi at two separate clinics in Brookline. Five other people were wounded in the attacks.

The Court wants to believe that these anti-abortion protestors are merely “sidewalk counselors”, but let us not forget that initially Scott Roeder, who murdered Dr. George Tiller, acted as a “sidewalk counselor” to gain information about vulnerabilities of the clinic; Paul Hill, who killed Dr. John Bayard Britton and his escort, James Barrett, outside a Pensacola clinic was a “sidewalk counselor” first. Hill was mistakenly thought to be handing them a leaflet. Instead he delivered lethal bullets.[8]

I have not analyzed the decision and my qualifications to do so are limited, but it is hard to see how the state does not have a legitimate and compelling interest in preventing the kind of violence that has repeatedly occurred as social conservatives have taken it upon themselves to wreak their deity’s presumed wrath upon women, clinics, and workers.

And one reason for appointing women to the Supreme Court is that they may educate their regressive colleagues as to the problems women continue to face. Instead, powerful women, as seen with Clinton and now with these Supreme Court Justices, have apparently decided to join in attacking or at least in failing to protect vulnerable women.

  1. [1]Faye Ginsburg, “The Body Politic: The Defense of Sexual Restriction by Anti-Abortion activists,” in Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality, ed. Carole S. Vance (Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984), 181.
  2. [2]David Benfell, “The Quixotic Quest to Comprehend Conservatism, Part 1,” May 16, 2014,
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Clinton owes rape victims a deeply-felt apology,” Not Housebroken, June 24, 2014,
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Clinton owes rape victims a deeply-felt apology,” Not Housebroken, June 24, 2014,
  5. [5]Linda K. Kerber and Jane Sherron De Hart, eds., Women’s America: Refocusing the Past, 6th ed. (New York: Oxford, 2004).
  6. [6]Audre Lorde, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings, ed. Charles Lemert, 4th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2010), 449-451.
  7. [7]Adam Liptak, “Supreme Court Strikes Down Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones,” New York Times, June 26, 2014,
  8. [8]Feminist Majority Foundation, “SCOTUS Decision Endangers Women And Healthcare Workers,” June 26, 2014,

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