Good morning! This week, I wrote about Juanita Broaddrick, and her allegation that Bill Clinton raped her in a hotel room in Arkansas, almost 40 years ago. Buzzfeed came out with an extremely well-done, thoughtful interview with her, and I wanted to engage honestly with her claims, because I don’t see a lot of that on our side.
We cannot know for sure — none of us — but she seems believable, and I think I believe her. I quickly jotted down a few thoughts about what this might mean. Did it mean Bill Clinton is an evil man? I said I don’t think so. I think all of us can do evil things, and all of us have done evil things. Every time we’ve tried to hurt someone, we’ve done evil. But very few of us, I think, are actively evil people.
Because my thoughts were quick, a few were more sloppy than not:
To sum up, I think Bill Clinton could very well have raped Juanita Broaddrick; that it doesn’t make him an evil man, or irredeemable (I’m Catholic; we’re all forgiven, if we’re sorry, and Broaddrick says Bill Clinton personally called her up to apologize). It doesn’t even necessarily make him a bad feminist — you know, later, once he stops doing that.
This section read as though I presumed to forgive Bill Clinton on Juanita Broaddrick’s behalf. I am truly sorry for that. I don’t believe in God, but I do still love (most of) the tenets of my church, and redemption is central to it. That no matter what we do, if we truly repent, we are forgiven — maybe not by the people we wronged, but by God if such a thing existed. If Bill Clinton had seen the error of his ways — unknown — and had striven ever after to Do Right, then yes, I believe he can be redeemed. (All of this language assumes he did it, which, again, while I tend to believe it, will likely always be unknown.)
Also in that small little paragraph was a suggestion that Bill Clinton could still be a good feminist. This needed about 17 more caveats and conditionals; I thought that was covered by “it doesn’t necessarily” etc, and it clearly wasn’t. For the record, I think Bill Clinton is an okay feminist as far as supporting his wife’s ambitions — and even that is suspect — but his actions and deeds have never been all that great for women, starting with the time he signed the Welfare bill, which marked the last time I voted for him. (I voted for Nader in ’96 and 2000 because of that one signature. I wasn’t trying to “apologize” for Bill Clinton, or say rape is okay when Bill Clinton does it. I DON’T EVEN LIKE BILL CLINTON.)
The other main point at which people took offense was my saying that back in The Day, men might not have even known they were raping, just as long as it wasn’t in a dark alley. This was considered Grade A Rape Apology by a host of readers. But I stand by it. No, it doesn’t make it “okay.” No, it certainly doesn’t make it “good,” and I promise I don’t “love” it. But truly — back then, men were taught that a girl has to say no a couple times before she says yes, so no one will think she is easy. They honest to God were. Why do you think we’re in the middle of a national discussion on Rape Culture if we weren’t trying to unteach what came before?
Is that what happened with Clinton and Broaddrick? Again, no one can know. Maybe he knew she didn’t want to, didn’t fucking care, and could give a shit about “seducing” her. I was posing a possibility that came out like a declarative, and I am sorry for it.
Also, in attempting to show how intellectually honest I am, I said I mostly believed Bill Clinton’s accuser but for some reason (which I still haven’t thought out properly, and which still remains vague in my mind), I didn’t believe Donald Trump’s. This is (mostly, I think) because her claims of violence sound so outlandish — death threats, etc — while Clinton’s was mundane and therefore easily understood. I discounted the anonymous woman’s claims despite her having a corroborating witness because Trump doesn’t really have a reputation for teenage girls. But his host at the time, Jeffrey Epstein, certainly does, and I should have taken that into account. I should also have left her out of it.
I asked Robyn to read this for me before I post — Dok, having been raised Catholic like me, saw what I was trying to say instead of the red flags — and she still disagrees. She thinks the focus on redemption is unhelpful; that trying to redeem oneself is for one’s own feelings but does nothing for the victim. I want to make it clear, I don’t think you have to forgive anyone who has wronged you whether they’ve tried to redeem themselves or not. But I hope people who have hurt others do try to atone for it. Otherwise, you might as well just keep doing your evil, because why not?
I sincerely apologize to Juanita Broaddrick that my post read as though it was excusing Bill Clinton for her. I’m sorry to readers who thought I was saying rape is just dandy (though I don’t think it’s a fair reading of the post). And no, I don’t love Bill Clinton, I think he’s a jerk, and likely raped at least one woman. I still think we’re all redeemable, though, and that you’d be dismayed to learn some of your loved ones’ secrets — that it’s very likely they too pushed a woman past consent, and that hopefully, if they’re teachable, they’ve been ashamed of it since.