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Over the Edge

In response to:

The Case of the Kissing Senator from the February 1, 1996 issue

To the Editors:

In “The Case of the Kissing Senator” [NYR, February 1], Julia Reed writes, “When simple court cases, hearings, official inquiries become referenda on issues, then real information becomes secondary and is, usually, lost.”

Perhaps Ms. Reed was trying to illustrate her own point when she follows that statement by the totally inaccurate assertion, “The day after Lorena Bobbitt cut off her husband’s penis with a kitchen knife, National Organization [for] Women President Patricia Ireland called her a ‘heroine’ and she became a symbol of oppressed women everywhere.”

I have never said such a thing, and to my knowledge I was never reported to have done so. On the contrary, the only time the word “heroine” appeared in any NOW statement on the Bobbitt case was seven months—not one day—after the incident, and it was a comment made by NOW Executive Vice President Kim Gandy who said Lorena Bobbitt was not NOW’s heroine. Patricia Ireland
President
National Organization for Women
Washington, D.C.

Julia Reed replies:

Ms. Ireland was reported to have called Lorena Bobbitt a “heroine,” in a piece I wrote for the May 1994 issue of Vogue. The quote came from a television broadcast I saw right after the tragic event, and there is plenty of other evidence of Ms. Ireland’s feelings regarding Mrs. Bobbitt and the action she took against her husband. Just after the incident, the Virginia chapter of NOW set up a Lorena Bobbitt support line and NOW President Ireland said in a September 1993 ABC News broadcast that “the depth of anger that was plumbed by this [case] and the response of support that comes to Lorena Bobbitt comes from that depth of anger, of feeling that there hasn’t been adequate resources and recourse and redress of the terrible violence that women face.” On a January 1994 broadcast of Larry King Live, Ms. Ireland explained that Mrs. Bobbitt had “a strong cultural bias in favor of staying in the marriage and ultimately got pushed over the edge,” and asserted then, and again on several other occasions, that her case “underscores the need for Congress… to get about the business of passing a comprehensive violence against women act.”

A piece in the November 30, 1993, San Diego Union Tribune reported that “Patricia Ireland, president of the National Organization for Women, proclaimed Lorena Bobbitt a ‘real-life, walking, talking archetype: the Victimized Woman Who Strikes Back,”’ and quoted her as saying, “It’s a real pivotal case. It’s as important on the issue of marital rape as Anita Hill was on sexual harassment.” And finally, when Mrs. Bobbitt was found innocent of the malicious wounding of her husband, Ms. Ireland told CNN that “All of us are relieved that the jury rejected the argument that Lorena Bobbitt should be locked up in a jail cell while her husband walks free.”

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