Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fallacies


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.

31 comments:

paisleyapron said...

Gorgeous bracelet.

You know, what gets under my skin is exactly what you said--when people say that somehow she could be responsible for his bad choices, that she was a nag, or whatever. I'm sorry, but a person is solely responsible for their actions, good or bad. There have been a lot of excellent characters in the history of the world who were abused and mistreated at one time or another. This kind of thinking is like saying a woman is responsible for being raped because of what she wore. Sick, sick thinking. And very anti-woman.

Thanks for an interesting, thought-provoking post.

Marie @ Lemondrop Vintage said...

Good for you- I wore clothes today too, went to a gym and refrained from photographing myself in the flippin' lockeroom. You're right, why even bring her looks into the discussion of his idiocy? I supposed people mean that he is that much more of an idiot when they say it? I don't know, good point. I did find her to be beautiful, but I don't think I related his bad behavior to anything at all about her.

Patti @ NotDeadYet Style said...

Brava, Audi, this needed saying. Weiner's wife's appearance has *zero* to do with his behaviors. I read a fairly despicable article about how she should "marry down" next time so her *next* husband won't stray. It has nothing to do with looks or marrying up or down: it's about choices and character.

Oh, and I adore your bracelet, it is TDF.

une femme said...

You're so right. Every. Word.

Megan Mae said...

I agree with what you've said. A man (or woman) is either a good one or not. The looks of a person is not going to keep their significant other from being unfaithful.

I also think it's incredibly invasive the way the media is in everyone's relationship. That just makes it so much more humiliating on top of an already hurtful situation. I'm glad someone has addressed this in a way that doesn't promote hate-mongering.

I love your boots and bracelet. The skulls are such an awesome foil to the floaty top.

Lisa said...

Well said.

Rad in BK said...

Thank you. Huma Abedin's looks, or her behavior/personality, is none of our business and shouldn't be up for discussion. I've known quite a few men like Weiner, who need a lot of reassurance and attention all the time. It's usually not about the primary relationship, but instead about the cheater's compulsive needs. I feel very bad for Huma, but this is her personal relationship issue. Let's please move the national debate back to our flailing, failing economy, our neverending wars, and problems with crime (NYC has a had a recent uptick in reported violent crimes, including sexual assault).
I love this shirt. This shirt drapes perfectly and those boots are just gorgeous. Clothes are better than sex scandals.

LPC said...

Her looks have absolutely nothing to do with how he behaved. As you say, beauty doesn't give women confidence in any guaranteed way.

Leslie said...

I agree with you. Further - today, when Nancy Pelosi was giving a press conference about important stuff like jobs and the economy 3 major networks - CNN, MSNBC and Fox turned off the sound when she announced she wasn't going to talk about Weiner. Talk about screwed up national priorities!

Shybiker said...

Sound point. And one that needs to be said. Good post.

Tina said...

Loved this post. I just lectured to my class tonight about sexism and politics. We discussed how Hillary Clinton was on the campaign trail when some moron yelled out "iron my shirts" and that the role of the wife is to be submssive and take shit from her husband. It amazes me that most of my students see nothing wrong with the objectifying women.

angie said...

Great post :)

LOVE your new pixie. LOVE the clean lines on this outfit and you in this rich plum colour. Just beautiful!

Laura said...

This is so pervasive in the media, the message that woman who are not beautiful deserve to be treated badly by men.

Rebecca said...

Well said. I think it is sad that his wife is subjected to so much scrutiny right now. Not only does she have to see the media discuss her husband, but also her looks.

I think your new, shorter haircut looks great.

ilegirl said...

It seems to me like subtle blame of the wife for the behavior of the husband, as if he isn't responsible for the choices he makes in regards to behaviors of a sexual nature.

poet said...

Absolutely agree with all you said, thanks for speaking up about it! I've definitely encountered the negative attitude towards women that you describe, and I should have been more deliberate about distancing myself from people who held it in the past (one of them being a cheating ex-bf, surprise, surprise... I do still blame myself for not rejecting him earlier than I did, but then again, giving people second chances was not a flaw the last time I checked!)

Allie (Wardrobe Oxygen) said...

Hear hear Audi! I agree with all that you said..


... and you look fabulous in that color BTW!

Martica said...

Amen, Audi! I couldn't agree more- now please expand on this and send it into NYT or the Chronicle as an op-ed piece.

Celynne said...

I guess people just have this strange mentality that if someone is attractive, no one would possibly dare cheat on them. Like beauty beats shitty partners.

Those boots are the shit, by the way, holy crow.

stacy said...

I absolutely love those boots!

I was a bit pissed when I saw how some were spinning that is was the wife's fault because she traveled so much. BS! He was a cheater and it was all about his selfish attitude. It's not her fault she fell in love with someone like that, and the media should not be putting the blame on the women. Having been propositioned by married men before...this just pissed me off.

Becky said...

This is something that's been bothering me for quite some time. Why is that when there is news about the woman, her looks are inevitably commented on, but when there's news about a man, nobody cares? Why is it that looks are the first thing anybody ever comments on when seeing a woman? It's frustrating! Looks have nothing to do with this type of situation. It's so frustrating that we're still having to deal with judgement like this in 2011. Ridiculous.

Love this outfit, especially the jeans!

athena_ak said...

Brava! This needed to be said. The only thing I would add (that several commenters have touched on already) is the general theme that somehow a woman (whether she is the wife, mistress, victim, etc.) is somehow responsible for the man's bad behavior. This was apparent in many people's reactions to Chris Brown's abuse of Rihanna, and it's shameful.

Carmen said...

Well said.

Mishqueen said...

An interesting note:
I just read up on the subject of abusive relationships. Apparently the abusive spouse in heterosexual relationships is also almost always the man.
In homosexual relationships, women are known to abuse women, and men are known to abuse men (referring to all types of abuse).
But of women abusing men in a heterosexual relationship, we hear very little. Apparently it is very rare.
Which says to me that there is still a great gap in men AND women's minds between equality of the genders.

Amanda said...

Amen.

That HuffPo (I think) article that suggested women should "marry down" and avoid handsome men if they want to avoid situations like this made me both nauseous and confused (I always thought Weiner was articulate and witty but never exactly a hot tamale). Neither his appearance nor hers should matter one bit in this mess. Personally, I don't care if the guy is Tweeting pics of his junk all over the internet- for all we know, his wife might be neutral about it or even encourage it- but I feel so sorry that she's become media collateral damage as a result of his indiscretion. Even Dominique Strauss-Kahn's wife has had an easier time of it in the news than Huma Abedin.

Love everything about the outfit. Gorgeous draping on the blouse + rich color, great jeans, snazzy shoes, and gorgeous bracelet!

Pam S said...

In England we had a similar kind of thing happen with a football (soccer) player cheating on his wife. People said "If Cheryl Cole can be cheated on what hope do the rest of us have?" and this angered and upset me a lot.
I'm not stunning, I'm not ugly but nobody (apart from my fiance) would call me gorgeous. My fiance has never cheated on me, he's loyal and wonderful. Ashley Cole cheated on Cheryl with at least 6 different women before she kicked him to the curb because he's a self absorbed asshole who thinks with his penis. The same goes for Anthony Weiner.

The women, the wives of these cheating asshats are sized up by the media and pronounced too beautiful to cheat on. How this makes sense is beyond my understanding. It's almost as if the media is declaring that this is somehow the woman's fault for not being perfect enough, like you said, she's beautiful but she must be a shrew why else would they cheat? It doesn't seem to occur to people that the guys are just arses and that the wife is probably a lovely women blessed with good looks who probably needs comfort and not judgement.

I'm really glad to see someone who questions these sort of statements. A lot of people when I questioned the Cheryl Cole comments couldn't understand what was annoying me, they thought I was jealous because I didn't immediately praise her beauty and declare all men idiots.

Keely said...

Gorgeous top and boots! Just gorgeous!

www.casualchickiki.com

Sarah R said...

Awesome post. I could care less about him. What I really want to do is give her a hug and shoulder to cry on.

Janer said...

Gorgeous bracelet! And fab outfit, as per usual! How excellent that your wisdom and ability to express it match, maybe surpass, your sartorial skill, Audi. You make such a good point about our focus on attractiveness as a culture and no longer so much on ethical beauty. Sadly it seems, the only crime is getting caught, and this holds for women too.

Anonymous said...

Brilliantly articulated. You go girl!

Audi said...

Patti @ NotDeadYet Style: Ugh, the notion of her being advised to 'marry down' sickens me. It's not like she's some bubble-headed trophy wife either; she's the aide to the Secretary of State for chrissakes.

Rad in BK: Hear hear! Let's focus on the issues that matter for once.

poet: Sadly that attitude is still very pervasive. Glad you kicked the cheating bf to the curb in the end. :-)

Martica: I'll get right on it!

Becky: You're right; no one ever discusses the man's looks in this type of situation. It's like the only value a woman brings to a relationship is her physical attractiveness.

athena_ak: Exactly; this isn't really much different from blaming rape victims either.

Mishqueen: Interesting, though not really that surprising, I guess. I wish more women had the courage and self confidence not to put up with that crap.

Pam S: Yes! All women have an equal chance at being treated well if they believe in their own worth and are willing to demand it and not ever put up with less. Looks have absolutely nothing to do with it. What, so all women who don't look like supermodels are supposed to put up with cheating spouses? Bullshit, I say!

Sarah R: I'd like to think we're sending Huma a virtual hug by contributing to this discussion. :-)