Does Eliot Spitzer consider himself a feminist? Yes. Um…

Last night on Up With Chris Hayes, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was asked if he considers himself a feminist. Spitzer answered in the affirmative, and was then asked how he squares that position with the reason he is a former Governor: he got busted patronizing escorts, which is illegal in New York, and using public funds to pay for the hotel rooms in which some of those meetings took place.

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Spitzer said: “I’ve been forthright and direct. I resigned five years ago and done a great deal between now and then… The record I had was one of devout dedication to women’s rights, on the issues of choice and the issues of equal pay or issues of anti-discrimination, both as attorney general where we were fervent in pursuing those cases; [and] where we were fervent in governing and legislation.”

Yeah, but dude, you also used public money to break the law and sleep with a woman half your age, so…

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Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/xopher/ Chris

    I’m feeling a little bit of disconnect here. I’m willing to argue with Spitzer’s feminist creds, but the points above don’t really resonate. Are you saying that he’s not a feminist: A) because he paid with a sex worker; B) Because he did so with public funds; C) Because he slept with a woman younger than he?

    Frankly, while point B constitutes an ethical violation, I don’t think it’s directly applicable to feminism per se. The other two I don’t see as unethical in and of themselves at all, especially because, as far as we can tell, the women who had him as a client were working consensually.

    If I was going to nail Spitzer for anything, it wouldn’t be sleeping with sex workers; it would be the hypocrisy of doing so after making his name by sending dozens of women to jail for being sex workers and claiming that he was doing so for their own good. That’s something worth challenging on feminist grounds. But generally, I do support the rights of sex workers and clients to meet consensually and without stigma.

  • http://feministing.com/members/marlene/ Marlene

    Being a client of sex workers is now inherently antifeminist? How does that work?

  • http://feministing.com/members/samll/ Sam L-L

    Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote about this in a little more depth and complexity over at Salon.

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

    “Yeah, but dude, you also used public money to break the law and sleep with a woman half your age, so”
    However repugnant I find him, I don’t agree that breaking the law or patronizing a young sex worker, in themselves, block Spitzer from being a feminist. Were the girl underage, or coerced, I would support your argument that he cannot by definition be a feminist. But there are lots of feminists who support the legalization of sex work, lots of feminists who break the law on the regular, and lots of feminists who pay for sex or have sex with much younger people.

  • http://feministing.com/members/pinkaface/ Laura MacKenzie

    Are you arguing that he isn’t a feminist, or that he should not be re-elected to public office? Breaking the law and using public money to pay for the hotel rooms justified him losing his job, for sure. But I don’t think going to an escort disqualifies him from being a feminist, if that’s the issue. If there can be feminist sex workers, there can be feminist johns, right?

  • http://feministing.com/members/acasey/ Elizabeth

    I’m not going to defend Spitzer against the charges that he misused public funds, broke the law, etc, because he did. But the line “slept with a woman half his age” is slut shaming. The sex was consensual, regardless of whether there was money exchanged, and both parties were adults. A man can be a feminist and still sleep with women. A man can even be a jerk who I don’t want to associate with and still be a feminist. These “sex scandals” distract from actual legislation. Illegality aside, shouldn’t what Spitzer does in the bedroom (or hotel room) be between him and his sexual partner(s)?