Thursday, June 16, 2011
I don't want to talk about Anthony Weiner. The man has gotten more than his fair share of press already, and the reports of his tasteless social media interactions make me queasy. However, I do want to talk about his wife, and what some of the comments I've seen floating around in the interwebs about her say about our society's feelings towards women.
This discussion isn't just about Huma Abedin. Inevitably when any high profile man gets caught in some sort of bad behavior that humiliates his spouse*, the talk eventually turns to how beautiful the betrayed wife is or isn't (Tiger Woods is another recent example). Huma Abedin is gorgeous, leading the online community to cry out, "How could he do this to her? She's hot!!" And this is the sort of talk that gets under my skin.
Why is so much emphasis placed on the wife's looks? If she were ugly would his behavior have been more acceptable? If she were merely ordinary-looking would it have made her somehow more deserving of being humiliated and betrayed? Her worth as a human being and her value as a wife are not dependent upon her looks, any more than a misbehaving man's looks are tied to some sort of sliding scale that determines how outraged people ought to be about his behavior.
Whether you feel that Weiner's actions were completely reprehensible or that they merely demonstrated a lack of judgment and incredibly poor taste is beside the point of this discussion. The part of the story that disturbs me is when people focus on the wife's looks as if they're something that needs to be accounted for in the body of evidence.
The other fallacy I've noticed in the online discourse is more subtle: the underlying expectation that beautiful women are supposed to be immune to the hardships of life, that they don't get manipulated and lied to and have their hearts broken just like everybody else. That if you're hot and your husband sexted someone else, then you must be a nagging, overbearing shrew because beautiful women don't get cheated on unless there's something really, really wrong with them. Being beautiful does not endow women with a superhuman ability to detect cheaters; it does not prevent them from falling in love with the wrong person or making bad choices; it does not mean that their spouses will love them more or treat them better.
Beautiful women get betrayed for exactly the same reason that other women do: they get involved with men who are liars and cheats. And that sort of man will lie to and cheat on whoever he's with, no matter what she looks like. A man is either a good man, or he's not; what ultimately saves women from the bad ones is discernment, strength, a belief in one's self, maybe even a little bit of luck. Often these things have to be acquired the hard way, too; beauty may bring other advantages in life, but it won't help in this arena.
Huma Abedin is beautiful. But bringing her beauty into the discussion of her husband's behavior is disrespectful to her as a wife and a woman. Beauty will not help her handle this situation; only her character will.
I'd love to hear your comments. And hey look, I wore clothes today too!
Top: Forever 21
Jeans: Level 99
Bracelet: Nicole Miller
Boots: Jo Ghost
*ETA: I didn't mean to make this a hetero-exclusive discussion; obviously people get hurt in same-sex relationships also, just as wives can sometimes treat husbands badly. But when we're talking about a powerful, high profile person doing something shitty to their spouse, 9 times out of 10 it's a straight man doing it to his wife.