Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Redefining Infidelity (and oh yeah, stupidity, too)

I live in the greater New York metropolitan area but I don’t think I’m getting any more coverage of the Anthony Weiner fiasco than those you elsewhere.   I have been treated to a variety of salacious and ridiculous front-page headlines in my local paper, thought, poking fun at Weiner’s antics as well as his name.  I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say, sometimes I wonder if my twelve-year-old son is the headline writer for the Daily News.

The other thing I’ve been wondering about since the scandal broke is: What are we currently calling infidelity?  And why, overwhelmingly, are men at the heart of these salacious sex scandals?  Weiner has vociferously protested that his marriage to the gorgeous Huma Abedin—now pregnant with their child—will not end, and maybe that is so.  But did he really think that texting provocative pictures of himself was a minor thing?  The number of women with whom he has now been “involved,” albeit virtually, is almost reaching double digits but I think there are still some people out there who don’t think “sexting” is a breach of the marriage vows because there was no physical contact.

I heartily disagree.

A couple of rules of thumb:

-If you don’t want your spouse catching you do it, it’s wrong. 

-If you wouldn’t do it in front of your spouse, it’s wrong. 

-If you’re doing it in secret, it’s wrong. 

-If you deny that you did it, it’s wrong. 

Obviously, putting all those things together would indicate that you are either shamed by what you did or afraid of being caught.  By very definition:  wrong.

Basically, if you can’t figure out how to use Twitter, you really aren’t qualified to do many jobs, not the least of which is New York City mayor, Weiner’s aspiration.  Most kids I know are fluent in Twitter.  Most of them also know that posting pictures of yourself online, either on Twitter or your Facebook account, can lead to undesirable things happening.  Why?  Because we’ve told them.  We’ve told them to be careful and to not post anything that they wouldn’t, potentially, want the whole world to see.  So why does a politician do something so bone-headed?

I’ve been wrestling with this for the past week.  Why is it that seemingly not a month goes by that we don’t see a male politician taking to the stage to give his version of events, and his excuses for his actions?  Why is it that we rarely—or actually never—see a devoted husband standing beside his incredibly stupid and oversexed wife as she recounts what she did and how she got caught?  Sheryl Gay Stolberg tackled questions like these in her recent New York Times article, “When It Comes to Scandal, Girls Won’t Be Boys.”  A quote from Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said it best:   “The shorthand of it is that women run for office to do something, and men run for office to be somebody.”  The article went on to say that once elected, women feel more pressure to work harder, to prove themselves in a man’s world because even though we’ve made tremendous strides, let’s face it:  politics is still a boy’s club.  We’re just allowed to play sometimes.

Of course, there are women who cheat, female politicians who have been accused of adultery and other sordid actions, but they are in the minority.  And when that does happen, instead of not being surprised, we’re disappointed.  As the article points out so eloquently, we expect more from our female politicians.

Ok, so I know that this post has about three thesis statements and multiple main ideas, but that just goes to show you how hard it is for me to wrap my brain around this stupidity.  (Or just that I was having an “off” writing day.)  Men with beautiful, accomplished wives texting/sexting women they’ve never met…it boggles the mind.  Does it really just come down to the fact that these men crave sex of any kind so badly that they’ll risk everything for even a virtual encounter?  Are they still the uncool kid at the uncool table in high school, wishing a girl—any girl—would talk to them?  Or does it speak to a narcissism so great that they believe that they are invincible?  I’d love to know what you think, Stiletto friends.

Maggie Barbieri


  1. Maggie,

    This whole Weiner thing (and in light of the Arnold revelation) has become such a joke and sadly, so commonplace among our male politicians that it seems we've almost become immune to boys in high places doing stupid things. Maybe this will teach others a lesson. Think before you act!

  2. 1. It's most often men because of two things: men are raised/structured to be different in our society, sexually as well as in every other way and there are, still, far more men in positions of corporate and political power than there are women.

    2. I'm not sure that it's cheating, though I am very sure it's weird and dumb. My premise is that just because we have technology making any and all private and hidden behavior public in ways that are easily and widely distributed doesn't make that behavior something we can call cheating. What I mean is that all people do things that are private and should be, that they have a right to have things (even freaky things) that are just their own and while once it goes public it's a whole new situation, I'm not sure you can say that some fool investing (too) heavily in a fantasy life means they are cheating on their spouse. Some people are just built that way and there is a lid for every pot (and, a pot for every lid). Yes, there are levels to this and I would believe that even if you don't say the sexting was cheating, it can sometimes be shown as part of a growing pattern and an escalation of naughtiness and risk that would likely lead to cheating. Eventually just sexting isn't going to scratch the itch and someone's going to be meeting up at a motel. But, a guy or gal who looks at naked people pictures now and then or someone who flirts with the barista a couple of times at Starbucks or someone who imagines themselves having a romance with George Clooney or Angelina Jolie is not necessarily a bad partner. I just get nervous when we lean to forming the "Fantasy Police" and say that people in relationships must never be less than ideal or "normal" in their thoughts and even actions. We're at our core animals, albeit high-functioning animals, and that means we aren't always going to control ourselves and mistakes will be made. If your fantasies, as in Weiner's case, seem to grow more frequent, more time-consuming, more risky, etc., and they begin to depend more and more on reaction from other real people, then it's a problem, and it's a problem on many fronts. But, everyone imagines things. If they didn't, writers and other artists would be out of a job.

    3. I think Weiner has to go simply because if you were too foolish and inept to understand that this activity was going to be trouble and you also can't seem to understand just how the internet and other modern media work (and this guy is younger than me!), then you don't have the chops to do a good job in public service. Basically, he's shown himself to be a ninny, and ninnies need not apply. It doesn't mean he can't work to get back to being less of a dope and less disrespectful of his wife and others in his real life. It doesn't mean he can't find work of value to do and make a contribution to our society in good ways. But, it means he can't do this particular job well right now and that's unacceptable.

    Lastly, a couple of weeks ago Bill Maher asked that when they see news like the Weiner story or the Dominique Strauss-kahn story what must women think about what men will do if they think there's even a tiny chance no one can or will stop them. What, indeed.

  3. Maria, totally agree.

    Vicky, agree with you, particularly on #3. If you can't figure out social media--and understand the implications of "over-sharing"--then you're certainly not equipped for a job with the responsibility of mayor or congressman or senator, etc. Guy is stunod, as we say out here in the glorious Northeast. Maggie

  4. I wanted to say: Have you looked at his face? No wonder he's sending body shots!

    But that would be superficial and so grade school of me. (;

    I think it's about attention. Politicians, such as him, believe they're above the fray... And what's the first thing they do when caught? They lie, like the rest of us are too stupid to figure them out. Bottom line, in such a cyber savvy world, I don't think it comes down to anything more than old fashioned male ego.

    BTW, excellent, well thought out post... thesis statements and multiple main ideas included!!

  5. I totally agree with Vicky's point #3 as well, which is why I'm not keen on those saying, "Oh, but this doesn't have any impact on the work he's doing." Um, yeah, it does. If your judgment is SO freakin' poor that you'd text naked pics of your private parts to random women when you're married to Hillary Clinton's aide, you don't deserve to serve in public office. I don't care what you do in the privacy of your bedroom. But if you're doing it via the Internet, you're an idiot. Because you will get caught, and then everyone will see the whole Weiner and nothing but the whole Weiner (sorry, I couldn't resist!). ;-)

    Great post, as always, Ms. Maggie!


  6. Narcissism for sure. It's rampant in politics and positions of power.