Observing US:
A column about America,
by Marylaine Block
originally published by
Fox News Online, 1998-2000

#9, July 29, 1998


by Marylaine Block

I've got a deal for all you guys out there. I won't assume you're all like Bill Clinton if you won't assume we're all like Monica Lewinsky.

She is easily the worst thing that has happened to working women since the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

Most working women, you see, take just as much pride in their professional competence as men do. In return, we would like to be paid as much as men doing the same work. We would also like to be respected as much as men.

This goes doubly for the bright, idealistic young women who go to Washington not only with a commitment to their professions, but to working in government to improve people's lives.

It's hard enough for women to be taken seriously because of some of the stereotypes men have about us - that we'll only work until we catch a man, that we're overly emotional, and that we go stark staring bonkers every 28 days. Not to mention the notion that we're bimbos to be panted over by the General Halftracks of this world.

It's even harder for us to be seen as dedicated professionals when a Monica Lewinsky lights up the news for months.

Now, none of us has any idea what Monica Lewinsky is really like, because all her words and actions have been conveyed to us by Linda Tripp and the opinion filters of the media. But her image is that of a woman who wants to BE something rather than DO something, a woman happy to get what she wants through the power of a man rather than through her own achievements.

Her image, in fact, is that of a groupie. Some groupies fling themselves naked in front of rock stars, and some hang around hotels and bars frequented by traveling athletes, in hope of sharing in the riches and reflected glory of men who DID accomplish something and are famous as a result.

Other groupies daydream about men with power, which is why the Henry Kissingers and Alan Greenspans of this world will always have attractive women at their side (though I do not entirely rule out the possibility that women might find them delightful companions).

The hallmark of the power groupie at work is exactly what people noticed about Lewinsky: she was always hanging around the boss' office, and she never seemed to get any work done.

The groupies present a big problem to the men they stalk, not the least of which is temptation. Most groupies are young and attractive, and it is understandable that when one of them throws herself at a man, he will be tempted to catch. But if he does, he puts everything he values at risk - his marriage, his family, his job, his self-respect.

But the groupie at work presents an even bigger problem for serious career women - she adds to the stereotypes of women as uncommitted to their work, and dangerous temptresses to boot (and we all know what trouble Eve landed us in).

Women have made significant advances in the workplace the hard way, proving at every step that we are serious about our work and good at it. This story is the last thing we need at this point. Thanks a heap, Monica.

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