When the role of schoolmarm is offered, please say no thank you

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, June 13, 2011 12:56 EDT
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Excellent piece in Salon on why Anthony Weiner is getting denounced by the same congress critters who backed Charlie Rangel, who was actually accused of real ethics violations, and not just being a sad dude who bolsters his ego by getting ladies on the internet to tell him he's sexy.  Basically, Weiner didn't make a lot of friends, and that's apparently what matters the most.  I want to pull something from it, however, that's marginal to the point of the piece:

Several of his House colleagues, including the woman tasked with recruiting candidates for the 2012 elections, said it in the days following Weiner’s admission last week that he’d sent lewd photos to several young women. And now Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, have joined the chorus.

So the finger-wagging work has been relegated to the women.  Great.  But it's not just in Congress.  Erin Gloria Ryan of Jezebel wrote a piece about how Weiner's situation is causing her to question the trustworthiness of all the men in her life.

When men whom I admire let their families down- Anthony Weiner, to use a timely example, or Bill Clinton, to use an example that Jay Leno still likes to use as joke fodder- I can't help but apply it to my own life. If men like that are capable of lying to their families and to the public, then who's to say that the men in my life aren't doing the same to me? When men in public mess up, they're making it a little worse for other men, as the more I learn about the level of deceit that seemingly good men are capable of, the more gun-shy I feel about what men tell me, the less inclined I am to believe everything a man tells me. I become a side-eye machine, cross examining, and disbelieving mundane things.

Yes, let's make this about men vs. women. Erin is being a bit tongue-in-cheek (I think), and admits that it's unfair to judge all men by the actions of a few.  But still, this entire piece bothered me because once again it upholds an extremely conservative view of gender, where men are naughty little boys with overactive libidos and women are scolding schoolmarms whose trustworthiness is assured because we're practically asexual.  

Women should resist this crap with all our might.  In this moment, it feels pretty good, I'm sure, because it casts women as morally superior and all that.  Though that alone should give anyone with feminist sympathies pause, since we should be striving to unite men and women as equals, and avoid this pitting them against each other shit that sexists do.  But not only is that a problem in terms of truth (women cheat nearly as much as men, and most research points to the gap as being most likely a matter of opportunity and not desire), but also because this is just the patriarchy selling the same old double standard, but dressing it up and making it seem like it's a good thing so we're happier to embrace this church lady shit.   And while this double standard occasionally chews up a  man like Weiner, the main victims are women.  It's a short leap from insinuating that women are the more chaste sex to saying women should be chaste at all times, and if they aren't, then they deserve to be abused. I wrote a piece at RH Reality Check showing how thoroughly this is about using sex as a weapon against women that I'll hope you read.  When prudery expands, it's women whose rights get legally constrained, women whose clothing choices get monitored, women who are raped and then told they brought it on themselves by being unchaste.  

All this finger-wagging about Weiner distracts from that, but it's worth remembering that even in this case, the driving force behind it was the conservative desire to punish and abuse women for failing to live up to arbitrary and often impossible modesty standards.  Don't forget that conservatives were combing through Weiner's online contacts, finding the women, and closely examining—for the good of the nation, no doubt—their online pictures for short skirts and cleavage-showing shirts, anything that could used as evidence of sluttery.  It's distressing to see other women mindlessly rewarding this sexual witch hunt because the ostensible target is a man.  Not only is that inexcusable on its surface, but it's self-defeating.  

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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