Mass media storm about a congressman with the unfortunate last name recently: Anthony Weiner. This post is sort-of about him. It’s more about his wife. Let me provide some background:
Huma Abedin graduated from GW University, worked with Hilary Clinton since 1996, and is now one of her deputy chiefs of staff. So she’s a pretty big deal.
She said Mr. Weiner’s wife was “very smart,” and urged her to ignore any suggestion that she leave her husband. “If she wants to have a marriage and a life,” Ms. Hodja said, Ms. Abedin should consider modeling her behavior on that of her boss, Mrs. Clinton, who famously stood by President Bill Clinton during marital infidelities.
What bothers me about this quote is the implication that to have a future (“a life”), Abedin must remain with her husband. Does her future career and potential rise in politics (she was named one of the “40 under 40” by Time Magazine) depend on her marriage? Perhaps this is not what Ms. Hodja meant to imply by her words, but it definitely got me thinking.
I’ve heard from many different people, that Hilary Clinton would not have risen to such prominence had she not remained with Bill Clinton after his infidelity, that it would have reflected poorly if she had divorced.
Why? It’s a personal decision whether she wants to stay with him or not, but why would it matter career-wise? There are many men in politics who have had notable divorces for much less than infidelity and are still prominent figures (Regean? Gingrich anyone?). Why then, is it any different for a woman?
Sexism, that’s why. Politics is still a man’s game, and the few women that play must abide by certain rules to stay in. Yes, this is a topic that we all know a lot about…female politicians being regarded for their choice of clothing or hairdos to the exclusion of their political skills. Indeed, there are still too many jokes about a menopausal woman in the oval office being problematic. Perhaps we should revoke the driving licenses of women over 50, for fear they’ll have a “menopause moment” and just step on the gas? Don’t get me started on the number of 50+ women I have seen with handguns. Men, take cover.
There are women in politics that are divorced with little problem, but when it is a scandal there is clear media and constituent pressure on the woman to stand resolutely beside her man. This is unacceptable. No, we must progress farther. Women in politics must be able to choose for themselves and not feel the external pressure to mend relationships based on an outdated ideal of feminine duty. We need more cracks in that glass ceiling.
So to Mrs. Abedin, I say choose! If you want to stay with your husband and support him, by all means do so, but do not let the sexist expectations of other dictate your actions.