Weiner Leads in Polls While His Sext Recipients Get Harassed. Double Standard, Anyone?

Women involved in sex scandals live in ignominy, while the men are elevated to higher heights

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Mario Tama / Getty Images

Anthony Weiner greets NYC Commuters Day after announcing his mayoral bid in New York City, on May 23, 2013.

Correction appended: July 8, 2013

In 1949, U.S. Senator Edwin Johnson took to the Senate floor to denounce Swedish film star Ingrid Bergman, the Casablanca beauty who was then at the center of an epic Hollywood scandal after it was revealed that she had left her husband for the married director of her latest movie. The act, Johnson said, was “an assault upon the institution of marriage,” and Bergman “a powerful influence of evil.” No mention was made of her equally adulterous paramour, Roberto Rossellini, who she later married.

More than six decades — and a whole women’s liberation movement — later, and the story is still the same. Women involved in sex scandals live in ignominy, while the men are forgiven their sexual transgressions. The New York Times related the latest edition of this sad tale in its much-anticipated story about the post-scandal lives of the women on the receiving end of former N.Y. Rep. Anthony Weiner’s sexts and twitpics. In interviews with three of the five women known to have received Weiner’s online advances, reporter Michael Barbaro details how, more than two years after the scandal first broke, the women’s lives remain upended, plagued by continued harassment and humiliation.

(MOREWhy I’m Standing By Huma Abedin)

Lisa Weiss, a 42-year-old blackjack dealer from Nevada, is frequently taunted by customers and ignored by coworkers. Traci, a 35-year-old Georgia fitness instructor and onetime school teacher, lost her job after her employers at the YWCA couldn’t handle the publicity from the scandal. Gennette Cordova, the 21-year-old college student who received Weiner’s now-infamous briefs image, dropped out of classes and moved across the country to escape unwanted attention from the scandal. Meanwhile, Anthony Weiner has launched a surprising political comeback—not only has he thrown his hat into the 2013 New York City mayoral race,  but he is now actually leading the field, albeit by a small margin.

Of course, politicians bouncing back from scandals is nothing new, but lately it seems as if there is nothing that can permanently tar the reputation of men in office. Earlier this year, Mark Sanford was re-elected to Congress after his career was left for dead on the Appalachian trail. Even Eliot Spitzer has regained, if not his former glory, than at least some of his gravitas.

(MORE: Joel Stein on the Fall and Rise of Mark Sanford)

Nowhere is this double standard more obvious than in l’Affaire Lewinsky, the biggest sex scandal of a generation. Bill Clinton has never been more popular, his weakness for women now embraced by his fans as an endearing, even humanizing, character flaw. But Monica Lewinsky has spent the better part of her 20s and 30s in hiding, hounded by tabloid reporters who like to occasionally remind the world that she is “lonely,” jobless, and still living with her parents. Lewinsky, like most “Other Women,” has been reduced to the sordid details of her scandal. Her employment options are limited to Jenny Craig endorsements and the occasional daytime talk show appearance. Even her degree from the London School of Economics couldn’t be taken seriously (FROM THONG TO THESIS, and so on…) For Lewinsky (and Paula Broadwell and Rielle Hunter,) the best post-scandal life has to offer is a book deal, or maybe an invitation to pose in Playboy.

(MOREMonica Lewinsky Mementos Go Up for Auction)

Of course, there’s no reason why Clinton—and Weiner and Sanford—should not have gotten a second chance to restore their reputations. Their legacies and political intellects are not defined by the sexual choices that they made. Unfortunately, the far-less-powerful women they were involved with have not been afforded that same luxury. Instead, they bear the full brunt of public mockery and opprobrium, forever branded by Wikipedia as modern-day Hester Prynnes.

A previous version of this article included Jill Kelley in a list with women who had affairs with government officials. Kelley’s complaint to the FBI about harassing emails led to the discovery of the affair between General David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell. 

6 comments
united_we_stand
united_we_stand

The more sexual partners a woman has had the lower value men place on her. In contrast the more sexual partners a man has the higher his value is in the eyes of women. Not sure why the author thinks womans liberation would eliminate this, when it has  exacerbated it. These are built in evolutionary instincts we cannot change. 

Fact_Feed
Fact_Feed

As an upstate NY male, I empathize with your sentiments and anguish entirely.  

I fully expected Weiner to be laughed off the political stage in short order -- not on moral grounds, but simply because I presumed voters would justifiably perceive him as a blithering idiot buffoon whose judgement (lack of it) would render him too incompetent to be taken seriously. 

NOW - ironically - I find myself having to contemplate whether the voters, themselves, are "blithering idiot buffoons whose judgement (lack of it) would render them too incompetent to be taken seriously." 

Although we MUST take the voters seriously, we do NOT and should not have to hear their incessant whining about the plight of our political reality, when they keep electing brain-fried, stunted mentalities to high office.  It's difficult to say which is more frightening - Weiner or the mindless electorate.

DJNITTI
DJNITTI

It's the media and their sensationalism that tries to make scandals out of virtually anything.  Since the beginning of time kings, queens, politicians and virtually everyone in power has cheated on their spouse and no one ever questioned how that affected their governing.  Most voters really don't care.  It's their personal lives and as long as they don't use their power to coerce or to benefited the person they're cheating with then why should we care?  

The only one I had a real problem with was NJ Governor MCGreavey because he gave his unqualified lover a no show job has the head of the state's Homeland Security office.  I thought he should have been sent to jail for that unless there's a situation like that, where the law has clearly been broken then it's a personal matter than although I think we should be aware of it, I don't think it should have much bearing on their careers.  

Anthony Weiner's "scandal" is the most laughable of all.  I had never seen a sexless sex scandal before.  So he sent some pictures, who cares?  His wife should care but why should we?  He paid the price and now it's time to move on.  I will vote for Anthony Weiner and if anyone cares to know why then go to this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_O_GRkMZJn4 and you will see why.  I've never seen a more passionate politician and that's what I need in a politician, sexless sex scandal and all.

alvarez.t3
alvarez.t3 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Where do they find these inbred , self serving forgetful ignorant voters to re elect failure and a liar ?

justplncate
justplncate like.author.displayName 1 Like

The problem in these cases (going back to Gary Hart) is not one of moral failure.  Having a sack of money fall out of a passing armored car, and trying to keep it is a moral failure.  These serial inappropriate sexual actions are lack of impulse control by men in responsible positions.  THAT is the problem that should be the focus of these incidents.

Is this a troubling personlity flaw.  Does he lack impluse control in other areas of his life?  That is what we should be asking.

jmrm01
jmrm01

On the other hand, maybe you’ve bought into a myth of the suffering woman because it plays to your world view.

I wondered how you would know about the suffering of the women caught up in Weiner-gate?  It’s rare that such people pop up in the news so long after the fact.

A quick Google of the young woman at the center of this scandal finds her twitter feed and seems to show she’s doing just fine, and making fun of people who believe the Weiner’s problems somehow caused her life to be upended.

https://twitter.com/GNCordova/status/349585824813289472

https://twitter.com/GNCordova/status/349721429228527616