(WOMENSENEWS)–Another one? When will these guys ever learn? How stupid can they be?
That was the initial reaction among women I know to New York Rep. Anthony Weiner’s confession this week that his denials had all been false and those were in fact pictures of his own private parts and he was the one responsible for his own self-sex-objectification and public mortification.
It may not seem like a U.S. congressman’s sexual e-misconduct has anything to do with the gender gap. But the he-she divide is nowhere so apparent as in the all-male roster of prominent politicians Weiner joins in the news archives of sex, lies and–in this latest case–incriminating tweets.
In the June 8 issue of The New York Times, Thomas Vinciguerra assembles a seamless column out of snippets of regret and contrition that U.S. male politicians have offered over the past 25 years. The earliest comes from Gary Hart in 1987. Then comes Bill Clinton in 1998. Lately we’ve had a dizzying spate of public head-hanging, from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Christopher Lee to Elliot Spitzer. The stories are coming so fast Weiner has reason to hope he may soon be dislodged from the hot seat.
Does this suggest some sort of moral superiority on the part of political women? Much as we may be tempted to suppose so, there’s no quantifiable evidence of that for one simple reason: Women are just 17 percent of U.S. Congress.
It may be that women–if given the statistical chance at equity–prove more capable of handling power and not going off our rocker quite so often. But there’s no proof of that since we lack the equal opportunity to attract this kind of disgrace.
Last month a team of Dutch psychologists found 26.3 percent of professionals have extramarital sex, and the more powerful the person–male or female–the more likely they are to do so. The researchers say there are more stories about powerful males sleeping with their employees because more men hold powerful positions.
Sense of Relief
Another common reaction among women this week to the Weiner scandal was relief that his wife hadn’t felt compelled to stand beside him at the self-abnegation press conference. When asked where she was, Weiner simply answered: "She isn’t here."
Reportedly, she was off doing her job as a high-ranking staffer to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
How great for a woman to have a job that saves her from the media glare at a time like that. Work can sometimes be such a haven.
But wait. What am I saying? The "haven" aspect of work only pertains to women with decent-paying jobs that offer a sense of accomplishment and provide leeway for the total demands of life. For many hourly-wage women in this country, those features are sorely lacking. Many have no chance to even claim a paid day off for illness.
This week the Women of Color Policy Network reflected on that deplorable fact by applauding the Connecticut House of Representatives for passing a law on June 4 requiring all employers to provide paid sick days.
Once enacted, the advocacy group says hundreds of thousands of Connecticut workers will be able to care for themselves and their families without compromising their job security and economic well-being.
"More than 40 million workers in the nation – and over 80 percent of the low-wage work force – currently lack access to even a single paid sick day," the network said in a press statement.
With so many women in low paid jobs this law–in the long run–will be far more important than the latest sex scandal.
Lack of Victim
But some sex scandals are more important than others. Weiner’s case seems to lack much of a victim, aside from himself and his wife.
The hotel worker bringing charges of sex assault against the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is a far different story. She says she was attacked while she was trying to do her job. This week she said she would take the stand and tell her story. That’s big.
After the not-guilty verdict in the rape case against two New York City policemen the previous week, many women have been raising doubt about whether sex-crime justice can be found in criminal courts. The fact that the hotel worker plans to take the stand– and that hotel workers were outside the court this week to cheer her on–was really bigger news, in the end, than another male politician’s problematic behavior.
But nothing is quite so intriguing as problematic behavior and the Weiner case gave everyone a chance to wonder.
There was the widespread idea that this was about an over-achiever trying to undo something about his life. Perhaps this was a man who, deep down inside, didn’t want the high-pressure responsibility of being mayor of New York–his apparently well-known aspiration–and actually pined for the quiet life of a porn star?
Whatever the explanation, the biggest moral of the story might be the reminder that nothing that gets said or done on the Internet is private.
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For more on that, read a terrific recent article by Jane Meyer in The New Yorker about a high-profile trial starting June 13 concerning U.S. anti-terrorism efforts and cyberspace. The story raises questions about what might be happening to all of our e-mail.
Read the full weekly news wrap up here:
Weiner Case Shows Sex, Lies and Power Gap
Corinna Barnard is editor of Women’s eNews.