(WOMENSENEWS)–In California’s extraordinary recall and election campaign, the issue of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s attitudes and actions toward women has now suddenly taken center stage, in part because the Los Angeles Times published Thursday accounts of the candidate sexually harassing six women. With the vote just four days away, Women’s eNews presents two very different opinions on how female voters should respond.

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Women Joining Arnold Website :: Californians for Schwarzenegger:

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Workers Against The California Recall:

Women Should Support Arnold

Jennifer Stockman

By Jennifer Stockman
WeNews commentator

California is on the verge of fiscal collapse. Its citizens blame their governor Gray Davis and have petitioned to have him removed from office. Unfortunately, most of those seeking to replace him have agendas other than restoring the state’s finances. Only Arnold Schwarzenegger has pledged to protect and uphold California’s social values while taking the fiscally conservative steps necessary to balance the budget and restore confidence in the state’s finances.

The transition from movies to politics seems to have been more difficult for Arnold’s critics to handle than it has been for the actor himself. Unwilling to look at the serious issues raised by California’s crisis and the programs put forward by Arnold’s campaign, his opponents choose to dwell on decades-old Hollywood hype.

Fortunately, Californians are smart enough to separate Arnold the man from the characters he plays in the movies. He has said many things over the years to promote those characters–bodybuilder, Terminator, Kindergarten Cop–but Arnold has taken the acting hat off and has formulated a positive, well-thought-out plan and a stellar team of expert advisors that will help put California back on track.

Arnold has brought some of the brightest and most diverse minds together to tackle public education, the environment and the economy. He has wisely used his fame to bring these experts to the table; something no other candidate, not even the incumbent governor, can or will do.

His support for women, and issues of concern to women, is unmatched in the large field of recall candidates. He has repeatedly confirmed his support for women’s reproductive rights. And he is not afraid to publicly voice his moderate views on social issues as they are directly in line with traditional Republican values of personal freedom and limited government. Arnold will be an important part of leading the California Republican party to be a more tolerant, inclusive group for all Republicans.

“One of the biggest mistakes the Republican Party has made is they haven’t reached out enough to women,” Arnold recently told a group of over 100 supporters at a town hall meeting in Sacramento. “You have to include women much more, to bring them to the table, make them really part of the party.”

A Schwarzenegger victory will signal more than just a win for fiscal sanity and social moderation in California. It will send a send a loud and clear message, from the state with the largest number of electoral votes, that the future of the Republican Party lies with socially moderate candidates.

Women voters take their rights, including their voting rights, very seriously. We look at a myriad of issues to find the candidates who best support our beliefs. We care about education, personal freedoms and health care, but we also care about jobs, public safety and our pocketbooks. Women have in Arnold Schwarzenegger a leader that they can trust to protect their constitutional right to choice and to support California’s current socially responsible family planning issues and children.

Women can trust Arnold Schwarzenegger to be a leader on these social issues, to alleviate California’s economic crisis and to get the state back on track.

Jennifer Blei Stockman is the National Co-Chair of the Republican Pro-Choice Coalition.

A Vote for Arnold is a Vote Against Women

Thomas D. Elias

By Thomas D. Elias
WeNews commentator

If California’s recall politics are weird, this may be the single most bizarre aspect: after weeks of scrutiny and many repetitions of his off-color remarks about women, muscleman actor Arnold Schwarzenegger apparently has managed to eliminate the gender gap that normally dogs Republicans in California.

Put plainly, a woman voting yes on the recall of current Gov. Gray Davis will essentially be voting to make a governor of an admitted serial groper and harasser who has only recently made public comments that encourage brutality toward women. Yes, Schwarzenegger is pro-choice and has encouraged the career of his wife, journalist Maria Shriver.

But women voting for him would have to ignore his past predatory behavior and some implications of the business protections he says he wants to make a state priority. The changes he would like include elimination of mandatory time-and-a-half pay for employer-required overtime, an end to state-paid day care for children of poor working women and an end to the state requirement that companies with 20 or more employees provide health benefits, to name just a few.

“It’s astonishing that so many women ignore his attitude toward us,” said Jennifer Alondra, a Los Angeles attorney.

No one knows yet whether Thursday’s newspaper reports of charges by six women that Schwarzenegger groped, humiliated and tried to strip them in elevators, gyms and movie studios over the last 25 years will change that. His campaign at first denied the incidents ever occurred, calling the women’s charges a “typical last-minute attack from Democrats.”

But then Schwarzenegger made an apology unprecedented at such a late stage of a major campaign, essentially begging forbearance and trust from women voters. Contending that some of the stories were politically motivated, he admitted that “where there is smoke there is fire.”

“Yes, I have behaved badly sometimes. Yes it is true that I was on rowdy movie sets . . . and I have done things I thought were playful that now I recognize that I have offended people. I want to say I am deeply sorry about that . . . When I am governor I will prove to women that I will be a champion for women. I hope you will give me the chance to prove this.”

Some of the women the Los Angeles Times located for the current story agreed to be named and Hollywood legend abounds with even more dicey tales of alleged predatory behavior by Schwarzenegger. One woman describing a series of gropings during filming of “Terminator 2” told the newspaper, “What could I do? He was the highest-priced actor in the world. I was a peon.”

And London TV anchor Anna Richardson, who accused Schwarzenegger two years ago in a Premiere Magazine interview of touching her breast during a 2000 interview while promoting “The Sixth Day,” repeated the accusation. “He kept looking at my breasts, kept asking if I worked out,” she said. “I went to shake his hand and he grabbed me onto his knee and he said, ‘Before you go, I want to know if your breasts are real.'” She said Schwarzenegger then “circled my left nipple with his finger and he said, ‘Yes, they are real.'” Only then did he let her go, the journalist said.

Another young woman, a script reader at Warner Bros. studios not included in the Thursday story, recalled last year that Schwarzenegger charged out of his trailer as she walked by one day, grabbing her and trying to pull her inside.

Up until now, women voters have wanted to pay little or no attention to Schwarzenegger’s documented and vocal misogyny. Example: On a Los Angeles television talk show last week, a male panelist repeated the remark Schwarzenegger made in July as he promoted “Terminator 3.”

“I saw this toilet bowl,” Schwarzenegger said. “How many times do you get away with this–to take a woman, grab her upside down and bury her face in a toilet bowl?”

“I don’t want to talk about toilet bowls,” responded Los Angeles civil rights attorney Constance Rice, usually a fiery feminist. “He was just joking,” chimed in Schwarzenegger backer Barbara Johnson, an Orange County businesswoman and a self-described feminist.

A similar desire among masses of women to ignore Schwarzenegger’s sexism was implied by a Los Angeles Times poll released Wednesday that found 54 percent of women voters favoring the recall of incumbent Democrat Davis, up from 46 percent just two weeks ago. Both Davis and Schwarzenegger insist that a yes vote on the recall is essentially a vote for Schwarzenegger.

But that was before Schwarzenegger admitted he was a groper and harasser. Now he’s essentially thrown himself on the mercy of women voters. Why should they trust this celebrity bodybuilder any more than they would a boyfriend or husband who came up with a similarly lame apology?

Before the Thursday report, the press had also largely given Schwarzenegger a pass on his sexist past, often repeating without challenge his statement that any objectionable comments were made long ago to promote his career and movies, and he’s a changed man.

And male Los Angeles Times editors reportedly held the Thursday story two weeks, reluctant to run it. One reporter said “They faced an outright revolt in the newsroom if they spiked it, so they finally had to go with it.”

Earlier, when that paper, the largest in California, devoted a front page headline and almost a full inside page to a discussion of “Schwarzenegger’s words about women,” the “toilet bowl” remark appeared in the 46th paragraph, beneath many quotes from his wife Maria Shriver about how supportive the actor has been to her and other women.

When The Sacramento Bee carried a front-page story titled “Focus shifts to women’s issues,” there was no mention of toilet bowls.

And when former candidate Arianna Huffington criticized Schwarzenegger for his alleged disrespect of women in a nationally televised debate, the moderator (a termed-out former Republican state senator) interrupted her, gave Schwarzenegger the floor and let him wisecrack that he had a role for her in a putative “Terminator 4,” an obvious reference to his notorious scene and his later remarks on it.

After that debate, every national cable news network gave Schwarzenegger free air time to explain he was just kidding. And the actor immediately leaped into the polling lead among candidates to replace Davis.

Here’s what the overriding question will be if Schwarzenegger wins: What’s wrong with the hundreds of thousands of California women–and the men who say they love them–if they install as governor a man who acts as a predatory sexual harasser and who uses language encouraging outright brutality toward women to make money and promote his career?

Thomas D. Elias writes a syndicated column appearing in 73 California newspapers. He is the author of the recent bestseller “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment . . . and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It,” now in its third printing.