Double Standards Endorsed by Women

>> Sunday, July 5, 2009

You know, it occurs to me that women are much harder on women than anyone else is. Take for instance the take on Sarah Palin's gubernatorial retreat by two of the New York Times opinion columnists, Maureen Dowd (pictured at left, photo by Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times) and Gail Collins. Ouch. Not that I'm a fan of soon-to-be-ex-Governor Palin--I, personally, don't like her and I think she gives women a bad name--but still, ouch. I didn't see the male columnists rushing in with the same level of unrelentingly vicious commentary.

Another one by Maureen Dowd with an edge of viciousness was aimed at the wives of political leaders, leaders whose affairs had been exposed to public scrutiny. Now, I'll tell you. I don't know if there's a real correlation between being willing to betray your vows to your wife or selling out the interests of those you "represent". One can make the argument that a willingness to betray loyalty in one direction equates with a willingness to betray loyalty in another. Perhaps that's true, but I've seen many apparently (maritally) faithful politicians who seemed to have no qualms about selling their constituents down the river and an (admittedly few) politicians with the fidelity of alleycats to their spouses who looked like they were at least trying to work on our behalf.

But I don't think being a family man or being faithful really mean anything more than one of many indications of character. What the taxpayer/voters pay for is the work done on the job, the efforts on behalf of the constituents for their good. I can readily digress at this point on special interests, but I should probably save that for a different post. This is not a departure for me. I don't feel that Michael Phelps owed the public, well, anything. He owed his sponsors and himself a good performance in the pool (which they got in spades) and, in my opinion, nothing else. I've yet to understand the urge to make heros of celebrities beyond what they're famous for (beauty, talent, skill, etc.). I don't and never have understood this preoccupation to know every frickin' detail of the private lives of people in the public eye. You can try to convince me otherwise, but I suspect it will be slow going.

Some of her advice seemed practical, like not dragging the kids into the mess in front of the cameras (I wish most political parents would do this) and changing the locks when he tried to excuse his transgressions and professed willingness to work on the marriage. And I tend to agree with the notion that blaming the other woman is a waste of time. After all, the only person who owed you loyalty was the dork with the wandering eye (and hands and genitalia) - let's place the blame where it belongs.

But much of her advice struck me as catty. Like avoiding the press. Sure, your husband is professing his undying love (to someone else) and his own duplicity to every news agency. You see/hear your husband's betrayal splashed on every headline and from every news source. Even if your relationship isn't close or romantic, it's a public humiliation. Now, everyone's eyes are on you and, right or wrong, a fair number will be looking for your shortcomings to explain the situation. Even if you didn't have any, your judgement and trust in your signficant other hardly flatter. Shouldn't, however, that advice apply 10-fold to the philandering loser rather than his spurned spouse? Why does she come off as the "harriden" when her husband has all the control and judgement of a pimply teenager?

In fact, according to this, there were no winning answers for the humiliated women: don't stoically stand by his side as he goes on in detail about how he loves someone else (OK, I agree - 1), don't take your side to the same press that's blasting his side to all the world (3,4,11, 12), don't be sarcastic (6), and, here's a winner, if you gave up your career to back him, hey, you asked for it (10). The only thing that is apparently OK (by omission) is quietly slinking away and, at best, coming back later pretending nothing ever happened.

Unh-hunh. Did I suddenly wake up in the nineteenth century? Mr. Public Servant can't shut his trap about his indiscretions but Mrs. Humiliated Private Citizen has to be stoically quiet no matter how much humiliation her husband dished on her? Or it will reflect poorly on her? Folks, as much as I think these marital squabbles are no one's business but the spouses involved, I'll be the last to say she should, for the good of her husband's image (and, inexplicably, her own) be publicly silent on a very public betrayal. The fact that society still sees that as appropriate just goes to show that we haven't come as far forward as we think we have.

And it makes me terribly sad that women are in the forefront of perpetuating that sort of thing.


  • The Mother

    I can well understand the antipathy to Ms. Palin. I share it, in spades. Hubby and I have been round and round about this--he tends to give her the benefit of the doubt, and somehow thinks I should, too, since I'm a woman. But he's a bit more conservative, politically, than I, and manages to excuse some of her greater errors in view of her politics.

    As for political wives: you wouldn't find me standing beside the philandering SOB. You might find me in the kitchen sharpening a really big knife.

    But I think Ms. Dowd's suggestions were not based so much on her OWN conception of what the woman should do, but on her conception of the way the world views what she should do. Funny, the knife wasn't even mentioned. Darn.

  • Doctor Faustroll

    Sarah Sirhan? What's the problem?

    I'm reminded of John Milton and his sisters...

  • Aron Sora

    "Now, everyone's eyes are on you and, right or wrong, a fair number will be looking for your shortcomings to explain the situation."

    But, why do we care. I think people just want to see more of the train wreck.

    Could it also be that she is playing peacekeeper. Trying to make things better by being quiet. Maybe we need to train women on how to keep peace and still talk.

    I'm the worst person to comment on this though.

  • Stephanie B

    I understand what you're saying, the Mother, but I hear that rationale all the time. Women slam women for not being skinny enough or having poor fashion sense and, if you call them on it for carrying the stereotype forward, the parrot back that society sets the rules; they're just helping people deal with reality.

    Know what, though, I've seen a lot of men who can see past tight abs or physical appearance. I've seen a lot of people who can appreciate someone being cuckolded by someone drunk on his own importance. I understand not wanting to hear about this any more, but I still think we blame the wrong people.

    And I don't want to perpetuate the double standard.

  • Stephanie B

    I understand the notion of letting something go for one's own self preservation, Aron. What bothered me was the criticism aimed, not at the cheater or the one singing of his indiscretions in public, but at the most injured party in the mix.

  • Relax Max

    Why do you think Governor Palin gives women a bad name, Stephanie?

    Surely not because she is intelligent and represents the views of tens of millions of American women and men? No, that wouldn’t make sense. Must be something else that rubs you the wrong way. Oh, wait. She holds different views and values than you do. I see. Well, okay.

    By that standard, I should really HATE President Obama. But I don’t. And I don’t think he gives men a bad name, either.

    Now, Maureen Dowd I dislike intensely. She gives women AND men a bad name. Dogs, too.

  • Relax Max

    I forgot to tell you how much I enjoyed your quotes this week, and even more last week, if that is possible. Last week, I think my favorite one was:

    Ridicule is the first and last argument of fools.
    -- Charles Simmons

    I don't know why I suddenly remembered this quote you quoted. Maybe because of some of the snide remarks about Mrs. Palin in your comments. There never seems to be anything concrete, does there? Only ridicule and attempts at marginalization. So hard to answer the snide all-knowing.

  • Stephanie B

    Relax Max, clearly we have different definitions of intelligence. Or did you miss her "I'm quitting" speech.

    For me to count it as intelligent, it must involve more than a wink. Catch phrases and a superficial (and inaccurate) understanding of key issues doesn't impress me. And, if it impresses you (even if you share values, beliefs and views), I have to admit I'm disappointed.

    I don't support women because they're women. They have to meet the same criteria as the men to get my support.

    As for your second comment, I know I can give concrete reasons, but I don't see any point in listing them. I don't think she has a future in politics and don't see any point in pointing out the obvious.

  • Stephanie B

    However, I have to admit I find Maureen Dowd tends toward belittling and it's not something I care for.

  • Relax Max

    Of course you don't see any sense. You have it all figured out and anyone who hold differnt views must, by definition, be wrong. Yes, I missed her "I'm quitting" speech. If you think it was dumb, then I am sorry I missed it. I did catch Biden's latest speech though. Bet you must be proud.

    No, my complaint is that it is unfair to just blast someone and ASSUME everyone is nodding their head with you. You "get it" and others who love her values are just thick hicks.

  • Relax Max

    I wasn't talking about YOUR comments, though. I meant the comments to your post.

  • Relax Max

    If you have read ANY of my stuff then you know I despise ALL politicians of every party ilk. They all swim in septic tanks on weekends. Therefore I hope Sarah Palin becomes Queen of America someday: she is entertaininng.

  • Stephanie B

    I find it interesting that you've assumed you understand my views. I had no idea you could READ MY MIND.

    Normally, I prefer to express them myself. There are intelligent conservatives (I consider you one, though I often don't agree with you). I work with some highly intelligent folks who also are conservative. I don't decide they're stupid because they think differently - I'd be a damn fool if I did. Nor do I think every liberal is brilliant.

    Ironically, this post was a criticism of a liberal commentator. I find it ironic that you are taking it upon yourself to turn it into a condemnation of my openmindedness. Or am I not as entitled to my opinion as she is?

  • Relax Max

    Speaking of speeches by politicians... did you catch Obama's "I have a vision for Africa" speech? Jesus Christ. Is that arrogant or what? I don't even want him to have a vision for Rhode Island.

  • Relax Max

    I don't have to read you mind. All I have to do is read your blog. I know EXACTLY how you think. Heh.

    And don't call me a conservative. I hate conservatives worse than I hate liberals. At least liberals are entertaining. Entertaining is pretty much all I ask for in politics lately.

  • Relax Max

    You consider Maureen Dowd a liberal commentator? Whoa! That's like calling Helen Thomas fair and balanced. Dowd is a spiteful hatemonger who has been jilted by life and is rightfully bitter. Please don't read her any more. Please don't put her 30-year-old picture in your blog anymore either.

  • Stephanie B

    Having a bad night, Relax Max?

    I only assumed conservative since I've only seen you attack liberals and support conservative positions. But I can understand eschewing labels and a general distaste for politicians.

    Even if we view current events differently, I can understand wanting to avoid hate-mongering. In fact, I think that was the point of the blog post.

  • Relax Max

    I'm having a very good night, thanks. I don't mind labels although I have trying to avoid labels for your sake. You can label me a constitutionalist. Conservatives don't want change. At least that's how I picture them - set in their own ways with no new ideas. I, on the other hand, want to change almost EVERYTHING. Until we are back at the beginning almost. WEll, not every single thing, I guess.

    Going by the Constitution. What a novel idea.

    I keep coming around because your occasional siding with logic and sanity give me hope for your redemption. I care. :)

  • Stephanie B

    You think I want the government we had two hundred years ago (using logic and sanity)?

    I love ya, Max. Good luck with that.

  • Shakespeare

    Hard to say who makes less sense, Relax Max, or soon-to-be-former-Alaska-Governor Palin.

    In defense of women, Republican Carl Rove (a man) called Palin a "kook" after this last performance, and I found her entire speech (which I actually did watch, Max) both incoherent and nonsensical. Perhaps the reason I feel such animosity towards her is not that I detest her political leanings at all but that I find her a deplorable representation of womankind. If all I can do to justify my abandonment of an elected post is a lame basketball metaphor, I shouldn't be in any position of power. The least she could have done to bow out is write an actual speech of some kind (or pay someone to write it for her). Then we might have some idea why she did what she did, instead of just getting a glimpse into the psychosis of her daily stream-of-consciousness thought process.

    Palin doesn't need Dowd to point out her weaknesses... she does that very well all on her own.

  • Stephanie B

    You know, Shakespeare, you do make a point. As much as I hate the notion of women endorsing outdated notions of what women ought to be (that many men have even grown past), I, too, am more disturbed by a woman misrepresenting womankind in the public eye than a similarly underperforming man.

    I'm offended by female authors that promote the notion that "rape is romantic" and I'm actually more offended because they're women. I think that's why thinking and intelligent women are disgusted by Sarah Palin. It offends me that anyone describes her as an intelligent woman. Real intelligent women understand their issues, can speak in coherent sentences, can defend their positions without kitzchy phrases, prompters or side-stepping.

    She's a pretty woman (and I suspect that's part of the appeal for some), but I don't like her hypocrisy, her megalomania or her politics. But I have to admit, the assertion that she represents an intelligent woman is the part that really bothers me.

    I comfort myself in that she clearly has no future except for those, like Relax Max, on the lookout for entertainment.

  • David

    I was disheartened and dismayed by Gov. Palin’s resignation as governor. I thought she symbolized what the Republican Party was all about. She could have been the next George Bush. We desperately need someone who represents what Bush was all about in the White House. Please don’t go away. I am grief stricken.

  • Stephanie B


  • Relax Max

    Help Shakespeare! I've been looking all over to see where your Karl Rove "kook" quote came from and all I can find on the news last night was him praising Palin and saying what a bright future she has. Could you steer me to the origin of that quote? You say he said it after her "retirement" speech? Just can't find it. Thanks.

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