Weinergate: Why aren’t men more ashamed?
By Amy Richards
The opinions expressed are her own.
Sadly, women have grown to expect men to behave badly. To cheat, lie, deny and manipulate. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t angry — thousands of women rallied in France calling for Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s resignation and in this country columnist Katha Pollit has a volume of essays recounting her rage.
I think a timelier question is: Why aren’t men angrier? Reading the news of tweeting penis images, harboring your lover in the family’s home, sexually assaulting a hotel maid, I would expect some exalted cries from men attempting to distance themselves from “those” men. At least, maybe we could hear some admissions of embarrassment.
I certainly had a twinge of embarrassment when Sarah Palin winked during the Vice President debate and when Brandi Chastain ripped off her shirt after winning the world cup. Many women feel the need to apologize for their gender — and there is public pressure for them to do so. Men don’t seem as cursed.
These different reactions underscore an age old disparity: men are free to be treated as individuals. One man’s behavior isn’t used to undermine all men. Women don’t have it so easy: Women are penalized for their gender. Anna Nicole Smith marries for money so all women do. Perhaps women’s lack of outrage is our attempt to focus on the specific rather than the general. They are tired of being seen as one in the same and refuse to punish men in the same way.
As seems to be the case with many people, I don’t find these male digressions “newsworthy.” Women are numb to such egregious behavior, not because we tolerate it, but because to note it and even to defend it means that we have capitulated that men will be men. Of course, this behavior isn’t isolated to famous examples (Gary Hart, Bob Packwood, Tiger Woods), but perhaps a disproportionate number of powerful men. I just heard from one woman that she was taking her three kids and leaving her marriage because of her husband’s cheating. Most alarming to her was the number of women who said some variation on “we tolerate it, why can’t you?”
Public servant or not, I am amazed that these seemingly hard-working successful men have time for such dalliances, and of course the chutzpa to think they can cover it up and ride out the public opinion. If women weren’t doing those documented extra-hours of housework each work, maybe they would have time for more romping. Not surprisingly, the women caught in these sexcapades are disproportionately domestic help. In other words, women whom these men clearly have power over, which perhaps isn’t the same as in their married life.
Weiner’s wife is the one with the ironclad relationship with Hillary Clinton. Schwarzenegger might have been Governor of California but his wife is the Kennedy. As much as their behavior has been defended as man’s strong need for sexual outlets, it seems suspiciously like they also need to reinforce their dominance.
Equally shocking is why outrage over men’s heinous sexual grievances is only asked of women. The aggrieved group is asked to explain itself, but not the powerful one.
This “bad boy news” is not about whether women should show more outrage or not. Instead, it is a moment to pause and ask that we start asking more of men. Boys don’t have to be boys. Women have to stop making accommodations for men to be boys and need to start asking them to express their outrage.
Amy Richards is the author of “Opting In: Having a Child Without Losing Yourself” and a founder if The Third Wave Foundation.
Photo: Former U.S. president Bill Clinton speaks with the Reverend Al Sharpton and Rep. Anthony Weiner at a voter registration rally in New York on April 24, 2002. REUTERS/Peter Morgan PM