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My Picks for Women of the Year

Image: My Picks for Women of the Year

(Manuel Balce Cenata/AP)

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Friday, 30 Dec 2016 02:39 PM Current | Bio | Archive

So Donald Trump is Person of the Year?

The Time magazine award is for simple newsworthiness, both for good or ill, but how about one for honesty and courage? The hands-down winner would be The Washington Post columnist, former deputy editor, and member of its editorial board, Ruth Marcus.

Last month she told the world that at age 20 an editor ran his hand "farther and farther down the neckline of my dress." That part was dog bites man. She bit the dog by admitting she did nothing in response because she wanted a summer reporter job from him. Even more, she admitted that her failure to object to the creeping hand worked and earned her the entry journalism position.

She even confessed "the episode wasn’t traumatic, not even close."

Marcus deserves the prize although she softened the blow by advising modern women to speak up. I disagree with almost every political position she takes — except about family — but one must admire the courage to concede submission worked and lacked trauma in the politically correct world of the national press corps.

Actually, another Washington Post columnist was almost as gutsy but hers was mitigated by the fact she was hired precisely to offer a more skeptical feminist perspective, although not necessarily rightist ones on any other issue.

A few months before Marcus, Kathleen Parker questioned sexual harassment itself, asking "When is a woman a victim, and when is she a participant? What is the statute of limitations on intimidation?"

Parker asked about the 20 women who stayed decades at Fox News and worked up the ladder to success but just recently complained about earlier unwanted sexual advances by boss Roger Ailes. One star Fox anchor complained of unwelcome behavior that took place a decade earlier.

Another female employee worked 20 years at Fox receiving promotions, earning a $250,000 salary and obtaining a $3.15 million severance after a pledge not to go public — and just recently went public anyway, after asking Ailes for a new job recommendation. "Is a woman still a heroine if she speaks up only after she has tolerated it and professionally benefited while other were being targeted? Was she expediently complicit for her own advantage?"

Parker charged that these questions were "unwelcome" in the TV industry and certain colleges but needed to be asked for the benefit of younger women and for "the sake of feminism itself." She concluded, that "rallying to any and all women who claim victimhood, even in the cases of complicity, damages the cause and credibility of those who are targeted for abuse."

The year was remarkable too for a book by Nancy Weiss Malkiel "Keep the Damned Women Out," telling the story of the sexual integration of all-male Ivy League colleges in the late 1960s and 1970s violating the normal storyline of brave feminists confronting the male establishment and winning the day.

In fact, wrote Malkiel, "Coeducation resulted not from organized efforts by women activists but from strategic decisions taken by powerful men."

What was the real story?

Apparently Yale University was losing male enrollment to Harvard and other Ivy League schools that were more convenient to nearby women colleges. So Yale decided to open itself to women students to make dating easier for the men to keep them matriculating at Old Eli.

Market capitalism had won the day for feminism.

A special recognition might be awarded to The Atlantic editor Caitlin Flanagan for asking, also in the Washington Post, why Trump was treated so roughly in the media for his sexual dalliances and Bill Clinton got off scot-free?

Her conclusion was that Clinton could not get away with such behavior today, expecting that Trump would suffer by losing the election. It did not quite work out that way.

Trump and Clinton may be immune from sexual charges but judging from complaints against men on many campuses, the charge can almost be the end of the story.

Once again Marcus was ahead of the pack. Two years earlier she had concluded thatthe line between consensual sex and sexual assault is not always comfortably clear. Especially when alcohol is involved. Especially in the context of the college hookup culture.

No doubt, sexual assault on campus is a serious problem that authorities have too often ignored. Yet the new insistence that women must not be shamed into silence and that consent must be evident threatens to edge too far the other way, turning young men who may have misread a sexual situation into accused rapists.

Her most motherly voice to parents is to forewarn both sons and daughters on the way to college, as she does for women and men in the workforce today. A worthy woman of the year, indeed.

Donald Devine is senior scholar at the Fund for American Studies, the author of "America’s Way Back: Reclaiming Freedom, Tradition and Constitution," and was Ronald Reagan’s director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management during his first term. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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So Donald Trump is Person of the Year? The Time magazine award is for simple newsworthiness, both for good or ill, but how about one for honesty and courage?
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Friday, 30 Dec 2016 02:39 PM
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