Another exciting round of Men Can’t Be Held Responsible for Their Actions, Let’s Blame The Wife!

I thought I’d point out, just in case you haven’t noticed, that Silda Spitzer is totally to blame for the fact that her husband had sex with a (many) prostitute(s), and we should be questioning her actions. Just yet another game of “a man did something really stupid and selfish, so let’s all look disapprovingly at his wife.”

Now, when Dr. Laura Schlessinger says things like this — “When the wife does not focus in on the needs and the feelings, sexually, personally, to make him feel like a man, to make him feel like a success, to make him feel like her hero, he’s very susceptible to the charm of some other woman making him feel what he needs” — we can’t act surprised and hold a straight face at the same time. That’s just Dr. Laura deciding to get out of bed in the morning; it sucks, but what are you going to do? In the end, despite the fact that the hosts apparently sat there stunned by the delusional and offensive nature of the statement, whose idea was it to have her on the show in the first place? Of course the producer knew that she was going to say something like that, and it’s precisely what they were looking for.

But I’m a lot more interested in the LA Times article about how Silda has been the focus of many conversations about the scandal:

This scandal has many salacious details, but it was the image of Silda Wall Spitzer at her man’s side that dominated conversations across the country Tuesday.

That moment of public humiliation stayed with people — men and women, Democrats and Republicans. At a beauty salon in Brooklyn Heights, at the Mellow Mushroom pizzeria in midtown Atlanta, at a Denver office building, at a bar in the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the same questions came up:

How could she?

Why did she?

Haven’t we seen this play one too many times?

Why do we go through this ritual of public shame and repentance, with the political wife standing mutely before the TV cameras as her husband admits his sexual indiscretion?

“I find it nauseating . . . phony and awful,” said Leah Schanzer, 38, a doctoral student who stopped for coffee at a Starbucks in New York City. She gave an exaggerated shudder.

“It makes it seem like she’s Susie Homemaker,” said her friend Leslie Heller, 47. “She shouldn’t be standing there, next to him.”

[ . . . ]

“She should’ve said, ‘This is your fight. This is your battle. You stand there and get yourself out of it,’ ” said Linda Walters, 61. The Denver resident said she divorced her own cheating spouse.

It’s true: how could she do it? I mean, after spending so many years in elected office under the promise to uphold the law, not to mention claiming to be a strong champion for women, how could she go and throw it all away with the hypocritical and disgustingly selfish move of sleeping with a . . .

Wait, what’s that? Silda didn’t hire prostitutes? She’s not the one who broke the law? You mean that she’s not even in elected office and therefore holds absolutely no responsibility to us, and that she wasn’t the one who decided to fuck over the entire Democratic party with her inability to keep it in her pants? She didn’t even publicly humiliate a spouse?

Well that’s odd, then.

Except that it’s not! As appalled as we may be by what Dr. Laura says, she’s hardly the only person who holds that opinion. In the end, we expect men to cheat. We don’t have particularly high standards for them. Of course, this is insulting to men, but that’s okay because it helps to grant privilege. If you can’t expect better of men, it’s the woman’s job to keep him in line. Hey, it’s not like we could expect the governor to not sleep with a prostitute! But what the hell is she doing?

In the end, there’s nothing that you can’t turn around and blame on a woman. This time, we’ve got: Well, she didn’t have enough sex with him! In other instances, it will be: Come on, what’d she expect if she was going to burn the roast — and then talk back?! Can you believe she wore that short skirt? And why the hell did that bitch eat the fucking apple? After all, if she hadn’t, we wouldn’t be in this mess. Before Eve got all flighty and wrecked Paradise, prostitution didn’t even exist!

Now, I don’t disagree with those who call the display disgusting. What I disagree with is the idea that Silda did something wrong and deserves our disapproval. She didn’t. I wish that she hadn’t gotten up on that stage. I wish that she hadn’t stood there and done the supportive act. It’s upsetting to me, too.  But I’m not the one who had dozens of aides aggressively explaining to me why I had to do it. I’m not the one who quit her job to help her husband get elected, or who has been married to him for 20 years, and therefore has a desperate need to believe in him. And she’s not the one who publicly humiliated her spouse and then asked said spouse to come out on stage while she confessed to and made a statement about that humiliation.

If she had refused to go out there, I’d stand up and give her a round of applause. As it stands, I’m pretty fucking furious at those who want to throw rocks at her because she did exactly what she was expected to do.

Even those determined to defend Silda seem to get it really wrong:

The woman accused of running a prostitution ring allegedly patronized by Eliot Spitzer told one of her call girls that the New York governor had been known to “ask you to do things that, like, you might not think were safe.”

But whatever Spitzer – or, in the language of a federal court filing, “Client 9” – did with a petite brunette nicknamed “Kristen” on the eve of Valentine’s Day last month at Washington’s Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, it probably wasn’t as monstrous as what he asked his wife to do Monday.

Hmm.

You know, most people are speculating that the things “you might not think were safe” were unprotected sex. For my part, I’m highly skeptical. The fact of the matter is that wanting to forgo a condom is probably the oldest and most common request in the book. I’m not so convinced that a request like this would be one that prostitutes would find “difficult,” even if it is one that is undesirable. I’m also not so convinced that a woman who runs a prostitution ring is going to use a euphemism for something as common and non-kinky as wanting unprotected sex. No, my mind goes directly to violent sex. But let’s assume that the no condom theory is correct. I have trouble buying the line that asking a woman to potentially expose herself to a disease that could end either her career or her life is somehow better than asking your wife to join you on stage while you admit that you’re an asshole.

Here’s an idea: how about we don’t play the good woman/bad woman game? I know, Madonna/Whore is such a favorite in this country that I’m amazed Milton Bradley hasn’t turned it into a board game, but why don’t we just cut it the fuck out? This isn’t a competition between the two women. “Kristen” and any other woman that the governor hired did not betray his wife. Yes, Silda was screwed over and betrayed. It was a shitty thing to do. But just because Eliot didn’t emotionally hurt any of the women he hired for sex (we assume), it’s hardly reason to dismiss whatever it was he asked of the prostitutes that made them uncomfortable and quite possibly put them in danger.

Look, I get that a hell of a lot of men are uncomfortable right now. And I get that women had a visceral reaction to Silda standing there. I did, too. I also know that a hell of a lot of women have internalized this woman-blaming bullshit. I know that when it comes to defending the wife, we don’t have a discourse for doing so that doesn’t involve ripping the other woman to shreds and calling her a filthy whore.  I understand that Democrats are desperate to focus on anything other than the politician who has caused them a lot of trouble.  And I know that everything I’ve said here is going to fall on mostly deaf ears.

But still. I know that it was a lot of fun the first time around.  The jokes still haven’t gone away, so I guess that it still is a lot of fun for a lot of people.  But please . . . can we not reenact Hillary vs. Monica?

[p.s. As of writing, Spitzer is supposed to resign in about ten minutes. I’d say that’s a good thing, and hope that the state can get on with its business sooner rather than later.]

UPDATE: Rachel provides this lovely column in the comments. It presents the argument — seriously, as far as I can tell — that Eliot fucking a prostitute actually shows how very much he loves Silda, because he respects her too much to sully her with that icky filthy sex that women don’t want, particularly the kinky kind. In other news, my husband clearly does not respect me. And I guess that I don’t respect him either, or I don’t respect myself, or . . . something.

0 thoughts on “Another exciting round of Men Can’t Be Held Responsible for Their Actions, Let’s Blame The Wife!

  1. Feminist Avatar

    Part of the problem with this response is also th assumption that Silda should feel humiliated by her husband’s behaviour. People’s disapointment with her getting up on stage seems to implicitly assume that this is a humiliating act for her. Is it? She did nothing wrong and now she is choosing to stand by her husband. Why should she feel humiliated? Her husband cheating should not reflect on her. She is the wronged women. Why shouldn’t she stand in front of the public and receive the apology she deserves- this should be his humiliation not hers.

    Reply
  2. Cara Post author

    Well, I think that humiliation is a genuine and understandable reaction. It’s hard enough to have a spouse cheat on you, but most people probably feel that it’s worse to have other people know about it. Feeling emotional pain while the world is looking at you can be humiliating.

    People who are cheated on often blame themselves, even though they shouldn’t — and as discussed, the public often blames them, too. If my husband was standing on a stage, telling the whole world that he betrayed me and I knew that tons of people were looking at me and thinking that I did something wrong, and that I’m wrong to stay with him, but I’m also wrong to fail to forgive him and leave him . . . I imagine that I probably would feel humiliated. But you’re right on the count that a person shouldn’t have to feel humiliated, and perhaps it is wrong to assume that they would be.

    Reply
  3. Kristen

    Yes, because let’s not expect men to ever consider their needs; have a reasonable, honest conversation with their partner about those needs; and go about fulfilling those needs in a legal, respectful way.

    Nope, in the minds of “Dr.” Laura…men + orifice = sex. No choice, no consideration, they are *compelled* by some mystical force called testosterone to insert their penis in to random female orifices whenever such orifices are present.

    *head desk*

    Reply
  4. Betty Boondoggle

    Like I always say, anti-feminists hate men as much as they hate women. Look at the way men are portrayed by pseudo-dr. laura – completely unaccountable, totally helpless against base desires and entirely incapable of maturity or integrity.

    That’s not any men I know.

    of course, pseudo-dr. laura broke up her hubby’s first marriage, so there’s no small about of self-justification going on there.

    Reply
  5. Feminist Avatar

    I absolutely agree Cara- most women would feel humiliated under these circumstances for all the reasons you discussed. I just felt- well why should she feel like that- she did nothing wrong.

    Reply
  6. Rachel

    My friend Ryan, who sent me that link, is so aghast at what she’s saying in that article that I think he’s currently trying not to vomit.

    I can’t tell if she dislikes men as much as women, or if she’s just really ok with believing that men need “a little something extra.”

    Reply
  7. Cara Post author

    Yeah . . . that one definitely required a post update. My opinion is that she’s totally okay with it, and genuinely believes that sex dirties women. Which makes it rather interesting though not surprising that she’s totally okay with men seeing prostitutes. You know, we only want some classes of women to deal with the icky nasty filthiness of Teh Sex.

    Reply
  8. Jennifer

    What?!?!
    Maybe there relationship wasn’t perfect but it was still completely “client 9’s” fault that he hired prostitutes. I seriously doubt that Silda took him by the hand and walked him into that place. He’s a big boy and went on his own. I’m sure she had many reasons for taking the stage next to him, and I will not second guess them. She’s a grown up too. Obviously, he is a disgusting cheat and she can decide to do with him as she will.

    Huh. I had no idea there was such a lack of respect in my marriage. Oh well. I think I’d prefer to go on disrespecting each other and being happy.

    Reply
  9. Lepidopteryx

    I would have a lot more respect for Silda Spitzer (and Hilary Clinton, for that matter) if they had kicked their husband’s asses to the curb.
    Was I humiliated when I found lipstick in a shade I wouldn’t wear to a dogfight on my ex-husband’s underpants? No – I was PISSED!

    Did I go to him and ask what it was that he needed that he wasn’t getting from me? No – I threw them in his face and told him that his days of sleeping under my roof were over.

    If he had had politcal clout, would I have stood by him? Hell, no.

    Forgetting our anniversary, or even my birthday, I can forgive. Forgetting that you’re married when you’ve got a case of the hornies – you don’t het a second chance. If he can’t be trusted with something as simple as keeping his fly shut, how can he be trusted with anything else?

    Reply
  10. Liz A

    I wouldn’t think less of someone who makes the choice to stick with their partner after an affair or whatever – the two of them are the only ones who really know what goes on in their relationship and if there is something left worth salvaging. Monogamy isn’t necessarily the most important factor in a relationship.

    I don’t think it’s entirely fair that often people suspect it’s a mercenary decision to stay with someone because of their political or celebrity status. Affairs can end relationships, but not always, and why should it be any different for those in the public eye?

    Reply
  11. Abbey

    Because when it’s in the public eye, it becomes larger-than-life and will likely be used as some sort of cultural barometer that we measure ourselves up against. We take it personally precisely because it is tossed out there on the airwaves where we as detached observers wrestle with how we would have handled ourselves in a similar situation. It terrifies us to imagine ourselves on that stage, sucking it up when we really want to scream and walk out.

    Some of us can even imagine using that as an opportunity to further humiliate HIM by not accepting his phony apology and going along with his self-serving bullshit. Call him a hypocrite and walk away.

    But then, wife after wife stands by silently, accepting his apology and it just makes a person wonder. Not a single woman is going to tell her man to get bent? Really? Huh. That’s surprising.

    It makes me wonder what proportion of women in general society would really stand by in silence if placed in that situation. I have a hard time accepting that the example politician’s wives set is a true representation of society overall.

    Reply
  12. marie yasin

    Speaking from personal experience. If they cheat once, they will cheat again. Don’t take it…divorce them and let them take care of the children , their meals, their laundry and see just how wonderful their lives become without the loyal little wifey there by their side. Okay, if they find some stupid young thing to take over more power to them…how long do they think that will last before she’s after someone younger, more studly and without a brood of his own? Heh, if you’ve been wronged then take no prisoners.

    Reply

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