Let me begin by reprinting, in its entirety, a post from the earliest days of Ethics Alarms, one then titled, The Difference Between Law and Ethics:
In the instructive category of “Lawsuits that demonstrate the distinction between law and ethics,” we have the Massachusetts case of Conley v. Romeri.
Ms. Conley met Mr. Romeri when they were both in their 40s and divorced. As romance beckoned, Ms. Conley told her swain that she was childless, and wanted to begin a family before her biological clock struck midnight. The defendant, who had sired four children already, told her “not to worry.” He had seen a fortune-teller who had predicted that he would increase his number of children from four to six.
That held Ms. Conley for seven months. Then he told her that he had been vasectomized years ago.
Ms. Conley sued the bastard, claiming that her now ex-boyfriend had fraudulently misled her into believing he could father little Conleys in order to prolong the relationship, and that his actions had thrown her into emotional distress and depression.
Let us pause here and say that Mr. Romeri is a cur. Knowing that Ms. Conley was desperate for children and running out of time, he nonetheless deceived her for his own purposes, costing her perhaps her only chance to have the family she desired. For the fans of Bill Clinton out there, he was also clearly adept at Clintonesque deceit: he said “don’t worry” about having children, not that he was capable of creating them; he said a fortune- teller has assured him that he would have more kids, but never said her prediction was plausible. Mr. Romeri, like millions of deceitful people before him, probably doesn’t think he really lied. But of course he did.
The Massachusetts Appeals Court, however, found that while Mr. Romeri may have behaved abominably, it was not the place of the law to punish him.
Such claims, the judges said,
“…arise from conduct so intensely private that the courts should not be asked to resolve them….It does not lie within the power of any judicial system to remedy all human wrongs. Many wrongs which in themselves are flagrant–ingratitude, avarice, broken faith, brutal words and heartless disregard–are beyond any effective remedy.”
Our hearts go out to Ms. Conley. But the law will never succeed in making people be honest, caring, and fair. Only we can do that by creating a society in which boys grow to manhood knowing that behavior like Mr. Romeri’s is wrong, and at the same time, a society where women take responsibility for their own welfare, without seeking government remedies for every challenge.
Reading this post again, and watching the (I think) overtly cynical and political effort by Democrats and the Obama Administration to increase the weight of the already heavy hand of the law in matters involving problems that are unique to or that disproportionately affect women, I think the importance of Conley v. Romeri extends beyond the original reason I posted it. Among other things, the case stands for the proposition that the government need not and should not treat women as if they are helpless against adversity, and must be accorded special privileges and protection
The self-anointed pro-women advocates seek to spark a Pavlovian response from small government advocates and conservatives, as various measures, entitlements and enforcement provisions are proposed to lock up women as a Democratic voting block. Any legitimate objections, no matter how reasonable or based in sound social philosophy, are condemned and mocked as proof of misogyny. It’s a deviously clever definition of misogyny for political warfare, I must admit: Policy A or Entitlement B benefits women, thus anyone who argues against A or B by definition opposes the welfare of women, thus such critics are anti-women, and thus misogynists. This logic will prevail even when the government decrees (well, President Obama will have to do it using Executive Orders, since he is incapable of the democratic way of getting laws passed, as required by the Constitution) that women all get a $20,000 tax free stipend upon attaining majority, and that any woman crying “Sexual assault!” must be regarded as unimpeachable in a court of law. Is this far fetched? Those laws might be, but not the underlying, effective and unethical trick.
For example, Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis essentially fabricated her life story to fit the mold of a feminist icon. She was caught, exposed, and is defending herself now by accusing anyone who criticizes her for lying to the public as “anti-woman.” She’s a woman, you see, and criticism, especially fair criticism, is harmful to her. Thus critics of Wendy Davis are willing and eager to harm a woman, hence any woman, thus all women. “We’re not surprised by Greg Abbott’s campaign attacks on the personal story of my life as a single mother who worked hard to get ahead,” Davis declaimed. “But they won’t work, because my story is the story of millions of Texas women who know the strength it takes when you’re young, alone and a mother.”
You see? Davis was under fire because her repeated life story was intentionally misleading and deceptive, leaving out details like the fact that her rise was funded by a reasonably wealthy second husband whom she promptly dumped as soon as she got her Harvard Law degree. She was not being attacked “as a single mother who worked hard to get ahead” (which she was only part of the time: this is deceit); she was being attacked as a lying politician who wasn’t whom she said she was, in exactly the same way that, for example, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal (D) was attacked during his campaign for representing himself as a combat military veteran when he was not. He, however, liar that he was, never had the gall to say, ““We’re not surprised by my opponent’s campaign attacks on the personal story of my life as the son of Jewish immigrants who worked hard to get ahead.”
Davis, however, is a template for Hillary Clinton’s anticipated Presidential run, just as the whole “war on women” charade is designed to make her not merely a Teflon candidate, but one whose defenders will always be able to cry “Bigot!” and “Oppressor!” whenever the many flaws in her experience, record and character are raised. She’s a woman, you see. Attack her, and you attack all women.
The dishonesty of this strategy —I already noted that it was cynical and effective—is staggering. I still hold hopes that the majority of women will be as repelled by it as I am, but who knows: after all, this is the same game plan that has worked for Democrats for the last eight years. Choose a historically subjugated or marginalized minority group, and point out that the failure of a member of that group to attain the White House is proof of that historic injustice. Choose an attractive and savvy representative of that group, and keep asserting that the group she represents is oppressed still, with the failure to achieve the Presidency as irrefutable evidence.
Make certain that journalists—good liberals and progressives and registered Democrats that 88% of them are— recoil in fear from the kind of hard analysis that they would apply to a white Anglo-Saxon male candidate, and will apply to whoever is running against the anointed trail-blazer. Once the anointed minority candidate (women are still “minorties,” we are told, though they are in fact the majority) is elected, after absurdly fawning media coverage, supporters will continue to accuse all critics, partisan or not, of whichever bias fits the template. By my calculations, the next six Democratic candidates for President will be a woman, a black woman, a Hispanic, a gay man, an Asian, and a mixed race handicapped lesbian transexual. Experience and actual demonstrated governing skills and leadership ability will be incidental, but all must be able to deliver an inspiring speech. This strategy is gold.
The biggest obstacle, really, is the first. Women are doing very well, and better every month and year. More are going to college than their species’ male counterparts, and the fields they are not well-represented in are primarily fields that interest fewer women than men. To plow the ground for Hillary, whose primary qualification is her gender—she has managed nothing except the State Department, with dubious results, was an indifferent U.S. Senator and her feminist credentials are marred by her decades-long enabling of a serial sexual predator, You-Know-Who—the various institutions and groups that line up to support left-leaning causes must help nurture the illusion that women are powerless and oppressed.
This was clarified to me when I read a strange story in the Washington Post. It began…
“Forty-four Washington theater companies announced Thursday that each will produce a world-premiere play by a female dramatist in the fall of 2015, one of the more audacious and ambitious responses by an American city to the gender gap in high-profile jobs in the arts. The Women’s Voices Theatre Festival, encompassing virtually every large, midsize and fledgling theater company in and around the city, is being billed as a landmark event in the effort to put new plays by female playwrights onstage. Its organizers acknowledge that it won’t permanently rewrite the statistics showing that in this country, about four plays by men get produced professionally for every one by a woman. But the festival does throw down a gauntlet, in the cause of striking a more equitable gender balance — especially given that surveys show that women make up as much as two-thirds of the theater going audience across the nation. “There are a lot of conversations around the country about how women are not as represented as they need to be,” said Molly Smith, artistic director of Arena Stage and festival co-organizer with Eric Schaeffer, Signature Theatre’s artistic director. “This really is an opportunity to showcase a variety of female voices.”
I was initially drawn to the post because I help run (along with a substantially female board and staff) one of the area’s midsize theaters, and nobody ever asked us to participate in this project. One reason may have been that we typically don’t stage new works (though we did commission and produce a play about the great, under-produced female playwright Sophie Treadwell, an early feminist); another may be that they guessed my reaction, which would have been this:
How does presenting works by female playwrights because of their gender rather than the quality of the works in comparison to the whole pool of new plays serve the needs of audiences, theater, or “the gender gap in high-profile jobs in the arts”? Applying affirmative action to artistic merit is both unethical and the way to very bad art. If there are not as many women as men in the professional theater world, why is the assumption that this arises from some kind of systemic discrimination? There are also a disproportionate number of gay men in high-profile jobs in the arts. So? Is this a problem too? Why?
Rather than decree that the theater-going public—and since it’s disproportionately female, wouldn’t it make more sense to attract more men to the theater?—has to endure plays chosen according to chromosome rather than quality to highlight “women’s voices,” why doesn’t the theater community develop recruitment and training programs aimed at drawing women into the field of theater management, especially direction, where the gender gap really is suspicious. Choosing plays authored by women (which necessarily means not producing more deserving plays authored by men) is non-responsive to the alleged problem it supposed to address. But ah, it does further the narrative that women in America are “voiceless.” (I watch a lot of cable news, more than most of my theatrical colleagues, I’m pretty certain. Voiceless is one word I would not use to describe the female presence there.) Maybe not all of the theaters embracing this affirmative action exercise see it as a political and partisan project, but that’s what it primarily is. (Yes, it’s a marketing gimmick too. Nothing at all wrong with that.) Do you believe that the timing of this project is a coincidence? I do not.
I guarantee that more of the progressive/liberal creative communities will follow the D.C. lead, and similar gender-skewed projects will be launched, cheered by the news media, supported by grants from liberal-leaning foundations and more grants bullied out of not-so-left leaning corporations. This will be part of a culture-wide “remedial effort” to fix atrocious status of the horribly oppressed fairer sex in America, and to pound home the false message that America has stifled women’s voices for centuries, and is stifling them still….that all statistics and indications that women are advancing rapidly are male-promulgated propaganda, and that women are powerless, despite making up more than half of the electorate—you know, kind of like how the interests and tastes of D.C. theater-going women aren’t being served by the plays being produced, even though women choose to attend performances in twice the numbers of men. The mantra of “powerless” and “voiceless” will be pounded into the skulls and consciousness of Americans like “Tara!” echoes in Scarlet’s fevered brain, until early 2016, when they will be replaced by “Hillary! Hillary! Hillary! HILLARY!”
What a lousy way to run a democracy.