The DC Madam killed herself today, about a week after being found guilty by a jury on prostitution-related charges of money-laundering (among other things).
Among her alleged clients are Louisiana Senator David Vitter, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Randall Tobias, and Harlan K. Ullman, a senior associate with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who developed the “shock and awe” doctrine.
I titled this post with a “Dammit,” something I am not inclined to do normally in this academic setting, because I am just disgusted and disheartened at how this has played out. Anyone who has paid attention to how women versus men have been treated in the context of prostitution could have seen this train coming down the tracks. Women who are exposed as having been involved in prostitution scandals often kill themselves. Men tend to waltz away, unscathed in the long term. I realize these are gross generalizations for which I have no empirical substantiation, but I am thinking about Brandy Somethingorother, from about a year ago. Without going back and looking the story up, I think Brandy was a professor (or used to be) who was also a prostitute. When she was publicly revealed as a prostitute, and when it seemed that she was going to be in huge legal trouble, she killed herself. I do not recall that any of her male clients, nor any of the DC Madam’s male clients, killed themselves. Just the DC Madam and this Brandy Somethingorother killed themselves. Why is it that the women are scorned and shamed and kill themselves but the same thing does not happen on the male side?
I am one of three daughters, raised in an all-girl household (save my long-suffering father). All three of us Nowicki girls have graduate degrees. We were raised completely unaware of the notion that being a girl ever mattered in the bigger-picture sense. (It mattered in terms of whether I needed to lift the toilet seat and whether I was likely to grow to a size to be able to compete on the football field with any chance of success, but it did not matter – or so I thought – in terms of justice and fairness in life.) We were raised with the belief that everyone – women, men – are judged equally on the basis of their achievements and missteps, and gender is irrelevant.
But, yet, the DC Madam was left dangling by her neck in some shed in Florida, while Vitter, Tobias, and Ullman are out there, happily employed, likely soon to put their affiliation with the blissfully deceased (likely their view) DC Madam far, far behind them. *That* is what prompts me to title this post “Dammit.” We all could have seen this coming. *That* is why this post is titled “Dammit.”
It strikes me as ironic that I just learned today that corporate and securities law professor Jill Fisch was hired by UPenn, such that there is now one fewer top top law school with basically no women among the corporate/securities law faculty. Score one for the women. Congratulations Professor Fisch. Tough to juxtapose that, however, with “RIP Deborah Jean Palfrey.” I guess today is a wash in terms of equality for women. Dammit.
My condolences to Ms. Palfrey’s mother. Regardless of the legality or illegality of Palfrey’s actions, it should not have ended this way.