Vote for Huma

This weekend’s New York Times Magazine features Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin, and details how they’re rebuilding their marriage and Weiner’s political career in the wake of his boner-photo tweet scandal. I wrote about it in my Guardian column this week, and more broadly the script that politicians follow when caught cheating: Lie, then admit, then apologize with wife in tow, then stage a come-back. And sure, sometimes (often) we should forgive them because their stupid personal flaws don’t impact their ability to govern. But also, I’d like to see political wives have more options. People stay in marriages for all sorts of reasons, and staying in the relationship after an affair isn’t necessarily a bad or wrong choice; none of us are inside these marriages, so we have no idea. But it would be nice if there were more acceptable public models:

Huma Abedin is, after all, a savvy political animal. A great many of the wives of cheating political men are, like Abedin, smart, ambitious and political in their own right – the exact kind of women we want in power. Perhaps Abedin has no interest in running for elected office and prefers to remain on the strategy side. Or perhaps she’s taking a page out of the Hillary Clinton playbook and realizing that while a woman scorned may be able to launch a scorched-earth campaign against her husband like no one else, Americans despise few things more than angry women. While angry men are tough and passionate, angry women are irrational, hysterical, imbalanced and out of control. While her husband gained credibility for his angry antics as a congressman, a political future for Abedin requires a calm facade.

On an individual level, it makes sense for ambitious women to stand by their political husbands, for reasons strategic, romantic or both. But on a broader social level, we need a diversity of post-sex-scandal narratives. We need space for women who have been publicly humiliated, deeply hurt and fundamentally betrayed to be publicly angry without being called crazy. After all, being entirely livid is actually quite a sane response to a large-scale humiliation brought upon you by a person who is supposed to be your partner in life and love. Women shouldn’t have to play the part of the forgiving wife in order to make sure their husbands’ careers aren’t torpedoed; they certainly shouldn’t have to choke down righteous rage and smile for the cameras in order to make their own careers tenable.

I don’t doubt that women like Abedin are doing what’s best in their particular circumstance, whether their actions are motivated by a desire for privacy, love, a choice to continue the relationship, political strategy or something else. But they’re operating in a universe that offers few other options.

Which is why I hope sometime soon, a wronged wife says goodbye to being ladylike and hello to being a crazy bitch. There isn’t one correct response to realizing you’re married to a self-involved fool. But there should be more options for those women whose beloved fools put them in the public eye. Publicly angry women make us uncomfortable; the only way that’s going to change is with a culture-wide exposure therapy of sorts. Bring on the scorned women – and the women who decamp to Paris, or retreat to the spa, or actually hike the Appalachian Trail, or calmly tell their husbands where to shove it.

And if those same women have devoted their intellect and ambition to supporting their husbands’ political careers? Make them the Comeback Kids with the magazine covers. Have them run for office.


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Gender, Marriage, Politics, relationships, Sex and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Vote for Huma

  1. Nicholas says:

    Fair points, all.

    If I were in her position, however, I think I’d take my very good odds of being Chief of Staff to the 45th President of the United States over campaigning (seriously, campaigns are awful) for a job that, it turns out, doesn’t even have the power to ban over-sized sugary beverages.

  2. Cynthia says:

    Jenny Sanford didn’t appear as the wronged wife and didn’t put on the conciliatory act — she dropped his ass like a bag of stinky dog shit. She also didn’t get called crazy or hysterical. She’s a cool customer.

  3. robotile says:

    I never really thought Weiner’s behavior was that bad. I mean, creepy and weird but not eject-worthy.
    But that NYT article just made me wonder why Abedin even liked him in the first place, inappropriate tweets or no. She seems pretty kick-ass and he sounds like an annoying douche in person — even his brother describes him that way! And their “meet cute” story was more like a “uh, how exactly did these two people wind up together” story.
    As for running for mayor, I’m guessing Abedin has bigger national fish to fry but would be stoked if she chose to pursue political office.

    • Emolee says:

      I never really thought Weiner’s behavior was that bad. I mean, creepy and weird but not eject-worthy.

      It is my understanding that he sent pictures of his dick to women who did not solicit them; some of these were young women who were his followers online because they were interested in politics.

      That is pretty damn bad.

      • EG says:

        I agree that it’s bad, but the other thing I think is this: politicians do worse things every day and don’t resign or throw in the towel. For pete’s sake, while the Weiner scandal was ongoing, a piece of shit Republican fucked a sixteen-year-old and still saw no reason to resign.

        I don’t think that by getting rid of Weiner we get somebody who doesn’t sexually harass women. I think that by getting rid of Weiner we get somebody considerably less radical who hasn’t been caught.

        Yes, I do know that I have very low expectations for my politicians. I expect them to be corrupt, selfish, amoral, sexist, arrogant scum. All I ask of them is that they use their corruption, amorality, and arrogance to advance my side. And that they refrain from out-and-out physically attacking anybody while in office, because surely if they were at all good at their jobs, they could call in a favor and have somebody else do it for them.

      • Dave W. says:

        Are you sure that this was while the Weiner scandal was ongoing? The date on that article is 1989, consistent with other dates in the article.

      • EG says:

        That’s very odd. I’m certain that I read the article during the Weiner scandal, and that I got to it from a headline link on the NYT, either the front page, or the US/Politics headings, because, well, I remember it, but also that’s the only way I would have found it. But I just looked the dude up on Wikipedia, and yeah, 1989. Let me look into WTF was going on.

        Thanks for pointing this out.

      • Donna L says:

        Maybe there was another, very similar occurrence more recently? It’s not like these things — middle-aged male politicians behaving badly — are exactly uncommon, unfortunately.

      • robotile says:

        Maybe it’s because my standards for “acceptable online behavior” are just way way lower than in real life, but\I have somehow accepted unsolicited dick pictures are par for the course if you are online. Sad, huh? Also, to be fair, it wasn’t a completely naked shot, which somehow seems marginally less creepy (but equally pathetic).

    • Athenia says:

      I felt the same way too after reading the article. Why is she with this dude?

  4. So here’s the thing about politicians and monogamy:

    If they are running for office, I don’t care if they are monogamous. I do care if they are too self-serving to keep a promise they made to the person closest to them.

    That’s complicated, because nobody in politics can say, “it’s okay, our marriage is more flexible than strict monogamy.” Some are, some are not, but everyone has to pretend.

    But for the most part, I don’t suspect these cheating assholes of being in open relationships and unable to disclose it. I think they’re just selfish cheating assholes, who get self-indulgent when they are powerful and famous and have lots of opportunities. And that’s exactly the sort of person who can’t be trusted with political power.

    • LC says:

      I think they’re just selfish cheating assholes, who get self-indulgent when they are powerful and famous and have lots of opportunities. And that’s exactly the sort of person who can’t be trusted with political power.

      That’s pretty much how I feel about it, too.

    • EG says:

      I think they’re just selfish cheating assholes, who get self-indulgent when they are powerful and famous and have lots of opportunities. And that’s exactly the sort of person who can’t be trusted with political power.

      I don’t know; I kind of expect this. It’s practically the definition of what happens when somebody acquires power. I can’t imagine how or why somebody who wasn’t selfish, self-indulgent, untrustworthy, and/or arrogant (just to throw in another one) to a near-pathological degree would be successful in the US political system.

      I just assume that the majority of them haven’t been caught. Yet.

  5. Past my expiration date says:

    I’m all for columns explaining the reasons why the script involving a wife standing by supportively while her husband confesses his misdeeds and asks for forgiveness is awful. Or why there are lots of competent women who don’t run for public office and lots of sorry-excuse-for-a-human-being men who do.

    But I’m not all for columns speculating about why Huma Abedin stayed with Anthony Weiner, or Hillary Clinton stayed with Bill Clinton, or Jenny Sanford didn’t stay with Mark Sanford. It’s none of my business. Even if Abedin and Weiner want to make it my business (I guess?) by talking about it in the NYT Magazine, it’s still none of my business.

    • Drahill says:

      I felt like this was a bit assumptive. Because, frankly, we don’t even know if Huma actually was cheated on, or if she feels that way. her husband did a lot of stuff online, but I don’t think anyone ever alleged that he had physical contact with anyone other than his wife. I personally have friends who permit their husbands to have online “fantasy lives” that include cyber-sex or stuff like that, and they don’t think of it as cheating. Huma has never publicly discussed anything relating to her marriage, so I think it’s a bit odd to speculate on “why she stays” when frankly, we don’t even know if he wronged her. It’s safer to assume that Jenny Sanford or Dina Matos were wronged because they divorced. But there is something speculative about it.

      • Sid says:

        If you read the NYTimes piece, i think its fairly safe to say she felt wronged.

      • Drahill says:

        Eh, the impression I got from the piece was that she felt wronged that he initially lied to her. Which is perfectly understandable. I’m more addressing whether she was wronged by his initial actions.

  6. Sid says:

    I think what you’re suggesting is fabulous. When Weiner stepped down, some were in fact suggesting that it be Abedin to take his place as rep. I think this certainly would have been tenable had she been more of a policy wonk and not Muslim, but as it is, she probably needs time and experience.

    Incidentally, the “Goodbye, pervert!” send-off has to be all time most hilarious moment in televised political shame.

  7. hotpot says:

    Ok, here’s a question… How much does being a woman weigh in terms of supporting a candidate for public office? I’m not talking about supporting a Thatcher or a Palin just because she’s a woman. But on the other hand I think we can confidently say that women don’t really have an equal shot at getting elected for public office whether it’s Congress or mayor or President/PM. I also believe the studies that find that women lawmakers st least, priorities issues differently even when you control for ideology or party. Just as we believe in social justice that privileged groups should be allies but not speak for the underprivileged, so does it take representative women, POC, trans, lawmakers and other kinds of diversity among our public officials…. Not just bc of the different priorities they bring but because simply having and seeing them in power helps change the political culture, which I think is another way to bring our issues to a higher priority. Class is another element here because of how expensive it is to run for office.

    So I guess what I’m saying here is that I think there are a lot of contests, such as the current L.A. mayoral race, where I as an observer can’t see to much difference between the candidates but one of them would just happen to be, if elected, the woman mayor of the largest city yet, surpassing the record set in 1979 in Chicago. I feel that’s as good a reason to support that candidate, Wendy Greuel, as any

    • EG says:

      All else being equal, I tend to vote for the candidate who’s a member of a subjugated group. Obviously, if there’s a significant policy difference, then I don’t, but if there isn’t, well, why not?

      • Calioak says:

        Because people are people are people. The last time I voted for someone BECAUSE he was a member of an oppressed group, I ended up voting for a guy who used his position with a volunteer youth group to mess with teenage girls. That’s what I get for stereotyping and now creepy pervert is our mayor and I get to take credit for contributing to it. Gah.

      • EG says:

        Yes, and if one candidate is a creepy asshole to teenage girls and the other is not, I would advise giving your vote to the one who is note. However, if they’re both creepy assholes to teenage girls, or neither is, or their creepy asshole status is unknown, then you have a situation in which the “all other things being equal” clause applies.

        As mac says.

      • Well…EG does say “All else being equal”. I’d consider creepy perviness to be a highly significant de-equaliser, wouldn’t you?

      • Urgh, that was supposed to be a reply to Calioak. (I’m really sorry that happened to you, btw; it sucks.)

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