Shame on Huma-Shaming

humaNew York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner has once again found himself in the spotlight for sending sexts and explicit photos to women, under the alias “Carlos Danger.” Post-revelations, however, the media tired of discussing the former Congressman and instead moved to the women involved, passing judgment and moralizing about them in sensational linkbait stories.

Just  the tip of the iceberg is the New York Post‘s cover blaring, “Señora Danger, What’s Wrong With You?” alongside a stunning photo of Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin, with small type below reading,

Sure, Carlos Danger is a sleaze, but his señora is no saint either. Huma Abedin happily lied to a public that had been nothing but sympathetic to her as she inexplicably stood by—and colluded with—Anthony Weiner.

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Other publications followed suit. There was a heavy dose of slut-shaming from Susan Jacoby in The New York Times:

Nevertheless, the female thrill seekers are as bewildering in their own way as the sleazy would-be mayor of New York is in his. Why is he called a pervert while Sydney Leathers’s  [Weiner's extramarital sext partner] statement that their Internet contact progressed to phone sex twice a week— “a fantasy thing for both of us,” she told one tabloid TV show— is greeted with neutral, if not exactly respectful, attention? Some fantasy. Cinderella, where are you now that we need you?

Then there’s Huma-shaming courtesy of Sally Quinn in The Washington Post:

Though her friends say she is strong and resolute and defiant, sadly she [Huma] makes all women look like weak and helpless victims. She was not standing there in a position of strength. It was such a setback for women everywhere.

And some feminist-shaming from Dr. Keith Ablow at Fox News:

So, don’t think for a minute that the women who welcomed Anthony Weiner’s sexual energy were being used by him, first or foremost. They were used by the Women’s Movement long before he ever hit “send.”

In “Things That Look Like Feminist, But Aren’t,” MSNBC’s Irin Carmon spells out the sexism in the media’s portrayal of the women around the Weiner scandal, concluding that what is “actually  setting back women” is the “barely-varnished takedowns of women for their personal and sexual decisions, in column form, purporting to be feminism.”

But these sexist jabs aren’t just unfeminist and harmful to women: They end up defining us. Once again, women are typecast as good girls or bad girls–sexually promiscuous or “soulfully beautiful.”

We pass judgment on the women involved, critiquing their feminist cred, while forgetting that Anthony Weiner is the one responsible for his own actions and the scandal that ensued. Some in the media, though, seem to think that it’s easier to blame the women who “enabled” him. It’s easier to ask why Huma Abedin doesn’t just leave her husband. It’s easier to write about complicit sexter Sydney Leathers pursuing a porn career.

Like a broken record, these “women roles” repeat over and over. Abedin has become the new Hillary Clinton, cast as the “power hungry” wife who was well-versed in the “Clinton school of forgiveness,” where “power is more important than dignity.”

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This sexist chatter becomes a powerful weapon to disempower women. No matter former Senator and Secretary of State Clinton’s notable political achievements, she can’t shake the perceived stigma of having not left her husband in the aftermath of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Why does a scandal that begins and ends with Weiner (or Bill Clinton, for that matter) end up becoming a commentary on women and the merits of feminism? As Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote at Salon:

This is how we talk about females. They’re victims or they’re schemers or they’re pathetic lonely losers or they’re slutbags. This is the narrative we create, the roles we cast them in within the public discourse. The man in the middle of them all, the one who actually lied to his wife and his voters, he just gets to be a sleaze. It could be worse. He could be a woman.

Photo of Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin from Flickr user SoniaT360 under license from Creative Commons 2.0. Photo of  NYPost cover from Twitter. Photo of Clinton and Abedin from Wikimedia Commons.

Comments

  1. ailimhazel says:

    Maybe they have an open-marriage, an “understanding”. I know the media would go crazy if that were the case. But so what if they do? Their “Coming out” might help to broaden the understanding of different types of relationships beyond monogamous and long-term.

    • and maybe polticians’ marriages & intimate relationships are NONE OF THE PUBLIC’S BUSINESS!!!!! Have felt this way since Bioll with Monica…am SO sick of it! Somehow Democratic polticians get a lot more derision than GOP ones do–while WIVES & GIRLFRIENDS get smeared the WORST & the LONGEST. Maybe the question to ask is: WHO is this sensationalistic slop serving? Not democracy. Not feminism.
      Hmmm…maybe the same old patricarchal, rightwing?

  2. Wrong these male created slurs against women are misogynistic not ‘sexist.’ Furthermore men commonly ‘disappear’ whenever men engage in sexual promiscuity because men must never be held accountable for their sexual immorality – that is if one believes ‘in sexual immorality’ as defined by men.

    Anthony Weiner ‘chose and enacted his agency’ when he decided to continue sexually preying on women and there are many reasons why Huma Abedin is continuing to stay married to serial male sexual predator Weiner, such as perhaps Weiner is the one controlling her finances. Or perhaps she knows that if she were to initiate divorce she would be blamed by women-hating malestream media. Weiner is a very powerful male politician which explains why malestream media as usual is excusing his male sexual predatory behaviour.

  3. Good post. I think there are many of us who can’t figure out the Huma-shaming. The whole idea of feminism is to allow women the freedom to be ourselves. The new feminism seems to want to set limits everywhere. That’s what’s shameful.

    I wrote about this same issue myself, in a piece called “Huma Abedin is not Anthony Weiner”: http://www.ramonasvoices.com/2013/07/huma-abedin-is-not-anthony-weiner.html

  4. carlyann says:

    Clearly Anthony Weiner has a problem.
    His problem is NOT his wife. It is upsetting that her promising career is being potentially tarnished by the way she is being attacked by the media for her decision to stay in her marriage. Just as I feel a woman’s right to choose an abortion is a personal choice to be arrived at with the consultation of her family, physician and in concert with her religious beliefs, I also feel that the right to stay or leave a marriage is a personal choice that needs no input from me.

    Personally, I wish Anthony Weiner would abandon his run for office. I am insulted as a New Yorker that he is wasting time and money trying to convince anyone that he has the judgement and skill set to be the next mayor of New York City. I am upset with Anthony Weiner NOT Huma Abedin.

  5. Debra Istvanik-Strotman says:

    Both women and men stay with spouses for many different reasons. It’s easy to say what you would do though you can’t actually say for a fact what choices you would actually make found I. A situation with a poise that is distastful not only to you but to others.
    Frankly it is nobodiy’s business but the couple involved. Until you walk in somebody else’s shoes it is best to take care of your own relationship and hope all turns out well for oar involved in a nasty scandal.
    I think Weiner is an ego maniac, asshole but thank goodness I don’t live with the jerk.
    Oh and I remember right wing women attacking Hillary for not leaving Bill; funny thing not long after the women screaming the loudest ended up in with husbands caught having had numerous affairs and these loud mouths ‘were standing by their man, and told the public to respect their privacy. People are big gossips until they find themselves in similar situations.

  6. THE SENATOR THE ONE WITH THE PROBLEM HIS WIFE HUMA HAS A CHILD TO THIS MAN I AM VERY SUPPORT OF HER NOT HIM IF IT WAS RIGHT WING THEY WOULD LOOK THE OTHER WAY NOT RIGHT I THINK SHE SHOULD RUNI N STEAD OF HER HUSBAND

  7. I appreciate this post. I too am fatigued and angered by women getting shamed and belittled for the choices men make! The world continues to give men a pass for being “guys”. Nothing will change until men are held accountable for their behavior.

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