Let’s avoid the slut shaming headlines, shall we?

Dear American Media, can we not write headlines like this:

This Reuters article does something pretty annoying in my view.  It tries to piecemeal a triangle between Paula Broadwell, Jill Kelley and Holly Petraeus, struggling to cobble a narrative arc ultimately leading us down the path to absolve David Petraeus as if Guido Anselmi in Felini’s 8 1/2.

 Somehow, this episode of marital infidelity all became Broadwell’s fault.  The former leader of the Iraq and Afghanistan command and CIA Director was so overcome, so seduced by Broadwell’s feminine wiles. That she destroyed the career of a great man. A great military mind that led our troops who was easily beguiled by flesh. That’s the narrative we want to go with? Are you serious, America?And Kate Sheppard pointed out yesterday, subtle and not so subtle, slut shaming rhetoric is infused in the reporting of this story:

After information came to light about Paula Broadwell, the alleged mistress, Business Insider posted a piece from writer Robert Johnson, who talks to an unnamed “senior military source.” The source praises Petraeus’ “honor” in admitting that he was having an affair with a woman who “got her claws—so to speak—in him.” From the article:

Let’s face it, everyone is human, and we all make mistakes. You’re a 60 year-old man and an attractive woman almost half your age makes herself available to you — that would be a test for anyone.

See that, it’s honorable for Petraeus to admit to the affair. Broadwell is a villain for being a consenting adult in the affair. It seems that the political media narrative wants a scapegoat. Peppering commentary and reporting with lazy character criticism to imply that Broadwell ‘dressed provocatively’ and Patraeus was ‘tested’. General David Petraeus is a grown ass man. A man judging by his illustrious military career  who can make decisions, discern the difference between honor and duty. Oaths and vows.

I know we love triangles and salacious gossip and drama, but give me a break. It’s early, Day 5 of the scandal and if you, like me woke up to read another headline you’ll note that there’s some other dude is in the mix. There’s something like 40,000 pages of email to suss out the truth. Glad somebody found their Olivia Pope to manage the coming days. I don’t know what to think at this point. The story is developing (here’s a timeline if you care).

If only we were so good about reporting military sex crimes with the same amount of fervor.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted November 13, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Oh, quite. He has only himself to blame.

    But… the women are indeed intertwined, albeit reluctantly. But intertwined they are.

    As for the downfall, well, yes, it certainly is one. And the bigger they are, the harder the fall. The General has ruined his career, and could be charged with adultery; under military law, he committed an offence if he misbehaved whiel in the army. No such risk for any the women.

    A downfall? Yes, one big one.

    The headline therefore seems quite accurate. The subeditor is not guilty.

    As for the apology, does anyone remember Magic Johnson? I was shocked (and I am not easily shocked!) that he was being treated like a hero for admitting to being HIV positive. A hero for sleeping around and for cheating on his wife and exposing her to a deadly virus? Give me a break.

    So why the cynicism directed aganist General Petraeus? Hero or no hero?

  2. Posted November 13, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    While it is wrong for the media to slut shame (as it often does), we should also acknowledge that knowingly having an affair with a married man is also wrong and unacceptable. Wrong on both their parts (Patraeus and Broadwell and whoever else was involved).

    • Posted November 14, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      Xopercival,

      Very good point! It had completely slipped by me.

      Yes, of course, Woman No. 1 is also married. And she certainly didn’t behave any better than the general. And has lost much less.

  3. Posted November 15, 2012 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    No doubt the women are to blame, as well as Petraeus. They should have known better than to get involved with a married man, but that’s not to say he is not to blame at all! He’s married and he was unfaithful. It was not an honourable thing to admit the affair, but the right thing. All parties involved are guilty, but slut-shaming the women and putting all of the blame on them is downright disgusting!

    Although, in today’s day and age, I am not surprised one bit. It is so unfortunate.

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