Why the women aren’t at fault
In a recent column for CNN, LZ Granderson wrote about the women behind some of the recent sex scandals that have littered our already loathsome 24-hour news cycle. Although the men are scorned, shamed and, in some cases, forced to resign, the women often escape the same scrutiny and judgment. He also points out that many of these women come forward when the scandal has already broken, and accuses them of simply looking for media attention and money.
Valid points, assuredly. But while there are situations, most famously the women who came forward in an “I’m Spartacus!” style roll-call after Tiger Woods’s story broke a few years back, where the media attention afforded these women border on inappropriate, our fascination with them is by no means their own fault. But also, however they do behave, they are entitled to it, as they have, in every situation, been working- or middle-class individuals, of whom we should have no expectations of their behaviour. The same is not true for individuals in public office, whose salaries are paid by tax dollars and who are meant to represent their respective electorates. But also, this media attention which they are given in some ways is essential to any change happening.
The men, however, in all recent similar sex-scandal cases—Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Rep. Chris Lee (R-NY), Arnold Schwarzenegger, Silvio Berlusconi—have been men who are in a position of power in many ways. In every case, this power was used in some capacity to either instigate or cover-up their indiscretions, but not necessarily financially. When these women do come forward about the situations they were in, regardless of when or how they do it, it is in a way bucking that power dynamic, and that is something that, for the most part, deserves some amount of kudos. And when it comes to getting on anything from CNN or Entertainment Tonight, that attention it provides to the situation is in some ways the only way in which these women are able to raise awareness that these kinds of things happen.
For Weiner, the situation is a little different. It is currently believed that some of these women approached him, rather than him approaching them fully aware that he was a congressman.
Now, Granderson argues that since these women were the ones that instigated the affair in some regard, then judgments levied towards their moral character is fair game: they are as in the wrong in this situation as Weiner is.
But I refer back to our expectations of these women and of Weiner. As a public figure, Weiner is clearly going to draw some attention, of varying degrees of kindness. People know who he is, some will be attracted to him, fewer still will be compelled to approach him about it, but that situation is not entirely unheard of. It was his responsibility as a public figure, as an elected official, and as a person of power, to not misuse any of that authority to act upon these advances. That is why he is the one on trial, the one resigning, and the one who should be at the butt of jokes and judgment, and him alone.