Weinergate: Why aren’t men more ashamed?

By Amy Richards
June 14, 2011

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

29 comments

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Ridiculous article. Men aren’t ashamed cause we’re not women. Men could care less what other men do.

Posted by Archon | Report as abusive

What is it that Amy Richards wants? Self abuse? Most of us who are married are faithful to our wives. Most wives are faithful to their husbands. No one will listen to us (average “Joe Doaks,” not “Joe the Plumber,” so what difference does it make. Our actions speak louder than words. The laws are set up now that there is “no fault divorce.” If a wife cheats on her husband, what happens in court? Nothing. The same is true in reverse. Society doesn’t care. The law doesn’t care.
Only when people who are in power do stupid things it makes the news. Fight the media, not men in general.

Posted by neahkahnie | Report as abusive

So Ms. Richards how would you explain the behavior of Sarah Palin, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Michelle Bachman, Ann Coulter, Brittney Spears… do any of them act ashamed?

Posted by seattlesh | Report as abusive

Let’s face it men are simple creatures. All they need is sex, food and sports / or hobby and they are set. In that order mind you. Women are more complex and emotional, and in most cases more aware of what’s going on around them then men.

Look at the colleges in America, women are exceeding men in college degrees, they mature faster, and are better listeners and in my opinion way ahead of men when it comes to social settings.

The problem with men, is that sex, is a major player in their lives. Women don’t understand this, if she cannot meet her mans needs, they will off with one who will.

Its all about meeting your partners needs, no matter what they are. The person who does this best, will win that person over, man or women. By the way, I’am a happily married man of 27 years that would never stray, because I have my needs meet.

Posted by cheeze | Report as abusive

Human beings are animals and not actually meant to be monogamous. Spreading ones sperm around produces offspring from different blood-lines, which is a good thing if you are compelled to have your genes passed along. Fidelity is an unnatural convention, so I can’t help but wonder why we are so amazed when people can’t suppress their instincts.

Before you tear me up, I’m a faithful wife of 25 years. My husband and I took vows that include being monogamous, and we have been, but it takes work. That said, not everyone is capable of being faithful, and if they are not capable, they shouldn’t promise to be faithful.

Posted by Marla | Report as abusive

Custom is perhaps the best answer. Men have also a certain lack of self-respect, which leads them to act like cavemen (I am stereotying cavemen). Men also have lots more power in the world and feel they can do anything, alas, hence the wars, the financial disasters, etc. When women get like that they do the same as men. Except the sex thing (generally speaking).

Weiner is actually fairly harmless. He may have been honing his appetite, but it seems he ate at home. What gets men seeking pleasures outside the marriage though is definitely being in a cage. Vows of fidelity or not, given the opportunity, most men will jump. Women not. The research on this has been done, by the way, I am not just giving opinion.

Posted by Talleyrand | Report as abusive

@Fescu

Though I couldn’t care less about men like Weiner, I deeply care about this men-women/women-men-difference-issue.

Rather than telling men to care more, Ms. Richards should tell women to care less. But, of course, based on the assumption that the men have to be fixed, we are told by Ms. Richards that it is wrong that we do not care us much as women do. If you think that is a valid point, then at least have the courage to say, that all men are behaving wrong; the “bad guys” because they simply behave badly and the good guys because they don’t seem to lose their self-respect in spite of all the atrocities the “bad guys” commit. You still think this is a valid point?

I think it is just pointing to a – I give you that – fact, we can observe in reality. BUT. Who is Ms. Richards to tell us that we (the men who don’t feel the need to be ashamed etc) are wrong to behave the way we do?

It is this line of feminism that will never be able to establish any equality between men and women. Because one of its precepts for trying to achieve equality between men and women is the idea that there aren’t any real differences between men and women – they are all just cultural constructs that can be corrected by changing the way we perceive, think and speak about the world.

Gladly, there is another line of thinking (which I do not even want to call feminism because it is trying hard not to be an “ism”). There are real differences (biological, psychological and so on) between men and women, and they should be respected. However, neither the article nor all the stereotypes about men and women do.

There will always be conflicts due to the real differences between men and women. Anybody in a healthy relationship can attest to that. But it is respect for the other and the ability to acknowledge those differences as being a part of the other that will get us closer to equality.

Telling someone he is wrong simply because he feels different from me or behaves in an unexpected manner (and I am not talking about objective moral digressions here) is disrespectful and does not get you anywhere.

@Fescu To you it may seem Ms. Richards is making a valid point. To me it feels more like a bitter attack on man. If you are a bad guy you lose, if you are a good guy you lose. The only way to satisfy this kind of view on men and women is to behave more like a woman, which I think is disrespectful to the real distinction between men and women.

But, of course, I am just a man. How should I know what is the right thing to do? For all we know, I am culturally predisposed to think the way I do. Ms. Richards on the ohter hand, an individual who has clearly broken through these binding cultural constructs (men “successfully” established centuries ago) seems to have all the answers…

Posted by Sekin_Bey | Report as abusive

C’mon, folks, don’t take her so seriously.

Reuters contributing author Amy Richards is a self-avowed feminist activist, organizer, and co-founder of The Third Wave Foundation benefiting “young women, transgender, and gender non-conforming youth.”

Duh!

Posted by jca | Report as abusive

Why should a man be ashamed of his penis being erect? Should a woman be ashamed of her breasts increasing in size when she is pregnant or lactating? Clearly these human conditions are a biological function.

Perhaps most men are not ashamed to send a willing recipient such pictures. Clearly the receiving party was not embarrassed either. It is about time adults start acting like modern people and not Victorian hypocrites. And while they are at it, the media should put as much energy into exposing the gross misconduct of our two parties and the malfeasance of our government.

Posted by coyotle | Report as abusive