Weinergate apparently the most important thing happening in politics

Anthony WeinerThe Women’s Media Center has put together a great statement following Rep. Anthony Weiner’s admission that he tweeted a wiener shot to a follower:

In light of the breaking news surrounding Rep. Anthony Weiner’s admission of having online extramarital relationships, the Women’s Media Center urges media to focus on productive stories that do not focus on outing lurid details of women involved in this issue, nor excessively focus on Rep. Weiner’s personal life. Stories of assault, adultery, and sexual misconduct from high profile male politicians such as Schwarzenegger and Strauss-Kahn have garnered much coverage in the past weeks, and the women involved have borne the brunt of media coverage on the wrondgoings of male leaders. As the latest news about Rep. Weiner surfaces, we urge media to cover this story in a fair and balanced fashion. Of more substance, media should be concerned about a cultural and political climate where some high powered male leaders use their positions of power to access women sexually, and encourage media to ditch harmful, irrelevant personal details.

What they said.

It’s a pretty disturbing time as far as news about powerful men is concerned. It’s hard not to get essentialist and say all men in positions of power take advantage of that using their crotch brain. Of course, Weiner’s probably the least good current example, and the one it seems we’re gonna read about the most, despite the fact that it’s not so relevant.

I like Paul Waldman’s idea at The Prospect: media should have to lead their reports on the Weiner story with “It’s important because…” If only. Sure would cut a lot of this chatter out so they could focus on what’s actually happening in government.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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  • honeybee

    One thing I don’t understand is what does this have to do with “powerful men”.

    This was a consensual act, conducted over the internet, with someone who it’s not even clear knew who he really was at the time (not that that is even relevant).

    Most would probably consider this cheating and he did lie. That’s true. But I don’t think this happened because he is “powerful” or who he is. Normal everyday men (and women) do stuff like this all the time. We talk about it on here all the time.

    Anyways just a nitpick. I like the statement that was issued alot.

    • http://feministing.com/members/thetruestfaith/ Mia

      Ms. Cordova has made it very clear that she was not conducting an online relationship with Weiner, nor did she ask for that inappropriate picture. Therefore, making it non-consensual, and sexual harassment. That’s the issue. Here is a man who has been vocal in his support of women’s right, and yet sexually harasses women. I call it hypocrisy.

  • http://feministing.com/members/meganmacdonald/ Megan

    Another perfect product of white male privileged. These men are conditioned from birth to believe that they are “above” the law, above morality, above race and above women. That their actions have no consequence and they’ll move on, get over the “social” repercussions of their actions and successfully continue their lives.

    • honeybee

      I’m not clear on how participating in a consensual sexual activity is any of those things or how you can make it out like only “white privilaged males” do things like this when it’s obvious, from articles on this very site, that men and women of all ages do exactly the same all the time.

      And do you really want even MORE social repercussions for people’s private sexual behaviours??? I’m dumbfounded someone would post that one a feminist site. We need less of this not more.

  • ggg_girl

    I find this statement to be highly misguided. Let’s review some facts:

    Schwarzenegger – relationship with someone he had authority over, a clear wielding of his power as a supervisor over her, a real-life affair
    Strauss-Kahn – accused of rape
    Weiner – consensually shares photos with consenting adults over the internet, no affair in real-life

    Why does this statement equate the actions of Weiner with these other two politicians?
    Also, this quote: “…the women involved have borne the brunt of media coverage on the wrondgoings of male leaders.” Weiner did no wrongdoing in his contact with consenting adult women on the internet. Painting Weiner with the same brush as Strauss-Kahn and Schwarzenegger is wrong and irresponsible. I am disappointed with these two aspects of this statement.

    Weiner is as much a victim of the media circus of sex-negativity as any of the women covered. He was not “wielding power” as a politician, he was just having some consensual internet sex/flirting just like millions of us do every day.

    Basically, he is being slut-shamed in the exact same way as countless other women in “sexting” cases. As a feminist, I stand behind Weiner and oppose they who try to sex-shame him for expressing his sexuality in a legal and consensual manner with consenting adults.

    • http://feministing.com/members/hellotwin/ Ami

      See Mia’s post above – not all of this was consensual. Also, the dude is married. Thinking that online sexual escapades is bad when someone is married is not slut shaming or sex negativity – it’s realizing that marriage is supposed to mean something and that he did something that’s not okay to a lot of us in the context of a marriage. It would be different if he were some single guy just having fun, bu that’s simply not the case. Call me old fashioned for thinking that marriage vows still mean something in this day and age, but that’s how I see things.

      • http://feministing.com/members/azure156/ Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

        I agree with Ami.

        While I haven’t read Ms. Cordova’s statement (a discarded newspaper at the coffee shop ran interviews with two women who claimed to have entered into consensual correspondences with him, but then again…it was the NY Post.)I did see Anthony Weiner’s statement on TV yesterday where he stated that his wife was angry about this, and also that while she had been aware of flirtatious online correspondences from before their wedding, she had been led to believe that he had discontinued them, that the online correspondences he had were platonic or professional. This, coupled with the report of her anger, leads me to believe they did not have an understanding that this was acceptable, and he misled her altogether. Which is not cool.

      • http://feministing.com/members/dausuul/ Evan Grantham-Brown

        I know people in open marriages who can and do sleep with other people, and don’t consider it cheating. Who’s to say what the state of Rep. Weiner’s marriage is? That’s between him and his wife, and none of our business.

        Sending raunchy photos to women who did not request or want them is harassment, and if Weiner did that, punishment is warranted. But that’s the only part of this whole business that we the public have any stake in.

        • http://feministing.com/members/kaelin/ Matt

          This. Well, we also have a stake in the foiled cover-up, but that’s really it.

          Granted, these sorts of limitations may force us to elevate the importance of what we consider admissible, but the severity of this “scandal” also rises nowhere near the rape allegations against DSK.

        • http://feministing.com/members/azure156/ Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

          “I know people in open marriages who can and do sleep with other people, and don’t consider it cheating. Who’s to say what the state of Rep. Weiner’s marriage is?”

          Well, from his own words, which I stated above after watching him say it, she is “angry and hurt” and had been told that he’d discontinued any non-platonic online correspondences. So I’d say we can surmise that an open marriage is not the case here? Also, nothing I ever read about polyamory or been told by the people I know who practice it indicates that lying to any of your partners about what’s going on is an acceptable part of it.

      • http://feministing.com/members/bookaholic/ bookaholic

        The media loves a sex scandal — I read something recently about the origins of the sex scandal in Victorian tabloid newspapers, and it seems to have been a way to talk about sex, while simultaneously criticising those who engage in “scandalous” sexual behaviour.

        I think that this example illustrates that. There has been no explanation in the media about why it is important, whether he was breaking marriage vows or sexually harassing women. I think the really interesting thing about the story is how our societies (I’m Australian), lap up sex scandals. A minister in the NSW state parliament was caught coming out of a gay club. He was not out and married, but had never spoken for or against gay rights. Nevertheless, the media published, labelled it a gay scandal, not a cheating husband scandal and he quit parliament a week later.

        • http://feministing.com/members/dausuul/ Evan Grantham-Brown

          Well, hang on. If he was harassing women, that’s important; that’s an abuse of power, and as Weiner’s employers who put him in a position of power, the people of New York ought to know about it.

          The issue of marriage vows is for Weiner and his wife to sort out between them. I can’t speak for her, but if I were in her position, the last thing I’d want would be to sort out my marital problems in the glare of the media spotlight.

  • anyadnight

    I heard this story from my sister in law’s very conservative and religious Republican father who was upset that the politician had sent a picture of his penis to “his girlfriend” and equated this with pornography. I had assumed this was basically consensual until later. (I guess that wasn’t considered relevant by my family where as for me consent is the most important moral consideration in this case.. hmm…)

    Anyway, one of my first thoughts was about how frequently anti gay rights politicians are caught coming onto men or sexual harassing male pages or otherwise doing similar things, but with men all while lobbying to limit gay rights and here this Republican is angry because a man and what he said was his girlfriend engaged in a pretty typical sexual exchange. Now that I know she did not consent to getting Weiner’s nudes, that changes how I feel about him sending it to her..

  • http://feministing.com/members/saraht/ Sarah

    If Weiner abused his elected office (reports are stating that he used his Congressional phone line to engage in phone sex, not to mention using the same Twitter account that he uses to conduct public discourse) and harassed any of the women to whom he sent explicit photos (not one of the women has confirmed that the relations were consensual – of course no woman has the obligation to, but who are we to trust here?) then it most certainly is important to be aware of this issue, and it’s important for news outlets to report the news.

    This is no longer a personal issue, and we’re not prying into his personal life. We need to know if a “champion of uteri” is harassing women, and we especially need to know if he abused his elected office to do so.

  • http://feministing.com/members/zeenacheda/ Dan C

    Ugh. I’m such a supporter of his. I didn’t want this to be true. But, fuck it, now he needs to do the right thing and resign. We need to start cutting their nuts off when they’re sworn in.

  • http://feministing.com/members/kaelin/ Matt

    “It’s a pretty disturbing time as far as news about powerful men is concerned. It’s hard not to get essentialist and say all men in positions of power take advantage of that using their crotch brain.”

    Is one’s sense of feminism — that gender differences are usually (even if not exclusively) a result of social constructs and norms rather than biology — so easily shaken by a few sex scandals that take place in said society entrenched with all those constructs and norms?

    There is a need to go after the negative on some level, to point out and appropriately punish the harms of the scandals and say why they are bad, but it might be a good idea to return to the feminism refrain and explore why so many men are making these sorts of choices (relative to women), including some who seemingly want to support the rights of women (often credibility so).

    For example, women are conditioned to be guarded with their sexuality and, from my vantage point, are further conditioned to be more aware of the messages their expressions and activities are sending. While both men and women in areas of government are both supposed to be “guarded,” men will probably be less likely to possess proficiency in this skillset (particularly if they possess a demeanor that is more impulsive), so they will likely not perform as well as a group. Granted, this does not mean women perform well for the best of reasons. It may be a case where many men (relative women) do not receive enough education about the harms they can cause through acts that may seem banal or non-malicious to them, but some of the women’s “perfection” can be tied with them being overly concerned with how others perceive them sexually rather than them just being beholden to ethics and their own person.

    There are other arguments for analyzing the matter, but it is the sort of consideration that begs other questions: what rules on social behavior are superfluous and which are necessary? How do we educate all people accordingly? How can people find appropriate and sufficient outlets for their sexuality, creativity, and expression that do not infringe on matters of ethics or violate any reasonable code of morality?

  • http://feministing.com/members/caveneil/ Neil

    I think that while the conduct at issue here is of course unimportant, it still says a lot about the Congressman. The whole affair is just tawdry and shameful, especially his attempts to evade responsibility.

    A Congressman is supposed to have gravitas and dignity, which is pretty incompatible with sending a picture of your penis to a woman half your age and not your wife, who isn’t even your girlfriend and may not want the picture to begin with. He was further degraded by his embarrassing and evasive response, which extended the media circus surrounding the events.

    This behavior is a betrayal of his constituents and ideological allies, because it prevents him from effectively representing them and furthering their goals by badly tarnishing his credibility and dignity. It also shows him to lack good judgement and self control.