I have a lot of feelings about Weinerate 2.0. Like, is this important? As a third wave feminist, how do I think someone’s sexuality weighs on their political prowess? And then I have a lot of secondary feelings about my feelings. Like, why do I even care? Why have I read 15 articles about this so far today? Why am I bugging my friends on gchat to tell me their feelings about this? Don’t I have other work to do? How strict is my end-of-day work deadline on this report?
Weinergate 2.0 is in full swing. If you are living under a rock, or you just don’t care about NYC politics (fair enough), then you might have missed the recent news that former disgraced congressman and current NYC mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner has been exposed again (everything is a pun with this man’s name) to have sent dirty pictures and engaged in phone sex with a younger woman last summer, after Weinergate 1.0 came and went through the news cycle two years ago. There is everything you’d want from a good political sex scandal – blurry dick pics, screen shots of explicit conversations, calls for him to end his bid for mayor… although the New York Post headline today is is remarkably un-punny given that you could not put together better circumstances for their frontpage team.
I guess the first basic question is, does someone’s sexual behavior bare on their ability to be a good politician? As a Massachusetts native (a Masshole, if you will), I admire an unabashed liberal firebrand, even if they have a shady sexual history. I don’t necessarily think someone’s sexual proclivity, including infidelity, is that important as long as they represent my political views and don’t break laws, and I mostly just care about law-breaking of laws that I agree with. But I do have to wonder about how dumb or arrogant someone has to be to have been so publicly disgraced and then go and do the same thing all over again without even being careful enough to not reveal their identity (although it seems like affirmation of his identity by young female fans might be the whole turn-on for him).
The second thing I wonder about is the role of gender in this (I am permanently wearing gender analysis glasses – it’s like I got gender analysis lasik surgery). Revelations about Weiner’s inability to keep it in his pants comes alongside a recent Iowa Supreme Court ruling that it is not gender discrimination for a male boss to fire a female employee for being too attractive, if she poses a perceived threat to his marriage. As Mieke Eerkens writes on the Atlantic, this is basically legalizing and supporting the standard that men cannot control their sexual impulses like adult humans. This should be offensive to all of us who have learned the adult responsibility of weighing immediate satisfaction against long term goals and desires, who aren’t personally distressed by inappropriate sexual thoughts so that we can let them go and do our jobs, and particularly offensive to the responsible adult males out there who don’t send n00dz to every young woman who shows them any interest. But Weiner is really calling my faith in humankind, really just mankind, into question. Apparently men like Weiner really can’t control themselves from doing socially-determined inappropriate behavior, even if it means they are ruining their ability to achieve big goals like becoming mayor of the biggest city in the country. This makes me judge his ability to be a leader if he might be in tense situations where he could act rashly. Some weird deal-making can happen NYC politics, and I can’t imagine I’d like the behavior a man who in unable to control his impulses while he’s in those negotiations if he gets accidentally angry and/or turned on. Why is it men who engage in this sort of behavior while men are also the majority of our politicians? This makes me feel feminist feelings about Anthony Weiner. What’s going on with the social construction of gendered behavior and politics? Why do men in politics like to do these dumb things? Why don’t women in politics do these things? Is it just because the sample size is too small?
I also have feelings about Huma Abedin, his wife and long-time aide to Hilary Clinton (side note, when did we stop mentioning her maidenname Rodham in the middle of her name?). She is an impressive woman. Also, even though I try not to value women for their physical appearance, she’s really beautiful too. During Weinergate 1.0, she was absent from the usual stand-by-your-man routine. She was her own independent woman with a job, but also probably deeply embarrassed and wanted to maintain her own sanity in the frenzy more than she felt like she had to do the typical silent but visible song-and-dance schtick. But in Weinergate 2.0, she did something else that is rarely done in political sex scandals. She spoke and expressed her independent feelings. She said that she is aware of her husband’s “mistakes” from both before his resignation from congress and afterward. She went on to say, “we discussed all of this before he decided to run for mayor, so really what I want to say is, I love him, I have forgiven him, I believe in him, and as we have said from the beginning, we are moving forward.” This sort of makes me feel like they actually have a great relationship. They seem to be independent people and also very committed to each other and their family. I feel like they may even have one of those “understandings” that people reference when they gossip about the transgressions of people in relationships and marriages. Maybe his weird cyber sex kink is an agreed-upon thing in their relationship that has nothing to do with whether they love one another and are committed to their family. It would be cool if at the press conference she said, “our relationship is not conditioned on socially-determined ideas about monogamy or heteronormativity,” but I know that would never happen.
And finally, why am I so obsessed with this story? Is it just because sex is sexy? It can’t be that, because most other sex scandals are non-issues for me. Is it because I just think it’s kind of weird that a grown man in a healthy relationship is so into internet and phone sex with women he barely knows? Is it because I think the sort of ego-stroking (pun sort of intended) he needs is so fascinating? I’m just hoping the time I spent writing this post just gets all of my Weinergate obsession out of me.
Feel free to share feelings in the comments.