Women have a unique, all purpose ad hominem redirect that most women choose not to use, and yet one we see all too often — “You’re sexist,” or, more specifically, “You attack me because I’m a woman, you sexist.” We saw this in all varieties earlier this year. To name two: we saw it covertly, from the Hillary Clinton campaign; overtly, from her supporters.

Former Bush administration rouge Monica Goodling brought another spin on the same formula. She implied that she was attacked because she was a woman, yet did it without saying a word. All she had to do was start acting in the manner of an attacked woman, or at least act like the exact stereotype of an attacked woman.

Stephen Colbert took it at face value. From the same excellent episode of The Colbert Report that brought us the Three-Card Monte game that explained high oil prices, we have also this very funny segment that sums up the incident nicely:

For television, this is a remarkably deep look at what isn’t even the most recent scandal at the highest levels of our incumbent administration. Naturally, there have been deeper analyses of Monica Goodling’s testimony, but Colbert is, as always, going for the laugh. If he makes his viewers thoughtful, all the better.

I was pretty thoughtful for a good five minutes. I think that throwing Monica Goodling to the wolves was meant as all-purpose damage control.

She wasn’t blamed for the improper hiring and firing of federal attorneys just because she’s an expendable woman, but more precisely because the blamers that be knew she could use her femininity to her advantage. As Slate notes, she was in full damsel in distress mode during the hearing, and most of the panel fell for it, hook, line and sinker.

Party-line Democrats who weren’t watching closely had already joined her side because she had appeared to be yet another woman scapegoated in the tradition of Eve. Note that the “You can’t blame me because I’m a woman” defense is only credible if we already believe that women are frequently scapegoated.

It’s a bitter irony that we’re all the more susceptible to Goodling’s innocent girl performance only because we rightly acknowledge that witch hunts still exist.


  1. senseijay

    Does anybody else here see the sick irony of a conservative appealing to liberal guilt?

    This pendulum’s going to swing back soon, if it already hasn’t. UCLA studies talk about stress explaining the difference between male and female mortality rates, but the ratios of male-to-female enrollment in dangerous jobs, wars, and prison haven’t changed. The male is still given the role of the primary breadwinner; not the caretaker. This places him in those situations, and citing unsupported psychological theory doesn’t hold water.

    Or does that make me a misogynist? In a female-dominated profession, it sure does!

  2. Given the recent track records of conservative appeals and how guilty liberals like to feel, I’d say there was no irony at all. It was exactly what I’d expect.

    If I were feeling a little contrarian, I’d ask if the male is still given the role of the primary breadwinner, or if he simply takes that role, but we both know the answer, generally.

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