The XX Factor

Is Christine O’Donnell a Victim of Sexism?

Once again this campaign has produced epically strange moments in feminist history. Christine O’Donnell, who believes women in the military “cripple our readiness” is nonetheless happy to cry sexism on Gawker for publishing an anonymous account of her one night stand. And the National Organization for Women, which has endorsed her opponent, now jumped to her defense against the “sexist, misogynist attacks against women.” A great harmonic convergence.

The account in Gawker was juvenile, petty, obnoxious but I’m not sure I would call it sexist. If it’s true, it seems to me, in O’Donnell’s case, totally relevant. This is a woman who talks about “sexual purity” and “lust in your heart,” and ways to prevent it. She has, throughout her career, felt free to call out other people’s sexual practices as immoral. So it seems to me important to learn that she herself is no paragon of virtue. To me, it’s not all that different from Larry Craig and his bathroom stall . If you don’t want to be so judged, then keep a lid on it. True if you’re a man or a woman. In this case it was a “she” who threw the first stone but same rules apply.

These moments are never a plus for female candidates; in fact, studies show that sex-based insults do women more harm than men. But if we forget about O’Donnell and think of all womankind, then I’m with Rachael on this one. Take the Krystal Ball road . Get people used to the idea that women running for office have sexual histories, and those will show up on Facebook. We got used to candidates smoking pot; eventually we’ll be able to handle this scandalous behavior, too.

Photograph by Chip Somodevilla for Getty Images.