Thursday, August 14, 2008

Politics And Infidelities

It seems like the two go hand in hand; where there is politics, there are infidelities. FDR; John Kennedy; Bill Clinton; Jimmy Carter lusted in his heart (he was too much of a fuddy duddy to act on it); hell, even Grover Cleveland purportedly fathered an illegitimate child -though he was a bachelor at the time; and John Edwards. And all democrats too. Not that republicans don't have their scandals. Theirs just happen -ironically enough- with other men. Larry Craig, anyone?

The real question invariably becomes, though, who is at fault? In this situation, Rush Limbough -that paradigm of good sense and sensibility- apparently blames Elizabeth Edwards. After all, if she wasn't so darn smart, maybe she could have shut up and "serviced" her husband every once in a while. Keith Olbermann effectively smacked down that lovely take:

But the question still remains: is Rielle Hunter a whore, slut, temptress? Is John Edwards a hapless man controlled primarily by his dick? Or is it the other way around? Is Rielle Hunter a nonissue because she was not the one violating marital promises, and John Edwards the true sleazeball? It turns out that no one goes for that whole "middle ground" thing.

Truth is, I don't think Rielle Hunter is anything other than a woman who made a bad, immoral, and hurtful choice. She is less responsible for the hurt Elizabeth Edwards has more than likely been subject to given that she did not, in point of fact, promise to be faithful to Elizabeth. As much as I hate to rely on pop culture for frame of reference, it is kind of like the Rory-Dean affair at the end of season 4 and into season 5 of Gilmore Girls. Dean was the more irresponsible party. Dean was the one who was married. Dean was the one who violated his vows to love and honor his wife. But Rory was in the wrong as well. She knew Dean was off-limits, knew he was married, and chose to sleep with him anyway.

And I think that there is a more insidious side to all of this; and it is how women interact with one another. Both Rory and Rielle Hunter seemingly convinced themselves that Lindsay and Elizabeth Edwards didn't matter; that they were at fault for whatever ills their respective lovers were subject to. Rielle Hunter said to Jonathan Darman (a writer for Newsweek) of Elizabeth Edwards, "She does not give off good energy. She didn't make eye contact with me". She also, according to Darman, had been working on an "idea for a television show about women who help men get out of failing marriages by having affairs with them". We as a society have taught women to view other women as competition, as less deserving, and more often than not as the problem rather than as another human being -and a human being whom we can hurt and cut and diminish through our actions. Men are the primary, are the subject, and the other woman in their lives are often only seen as the object. There is a reason why, on those horrid talk shows, a man's two girlfriends who didn't know about each other until the dick dragged them both on Maury attack one another with an alarming frequency -instead of going after the guy who was two timing them both.

This latest political scandal is an example of many things: egotism, slut-shaming, a propensity to judge women by their looks and sexual history, an alarming trend of making the adulterer the victim; but I think the continued animosity women show one another is perhaps the most important aspect. Rielle Hunter didn't see Elizabeth Edwards as a person worthy of respect; Rielle Hunter diminished Elizabeth Edwards in terms of being a person of worth, of good qualities, and most importantly of emotion. Elizabeth Edwards didn't factor into Rielle Hunter's thinking at all, other than that she had apparently trapped John Edwards in a failing marriage that she, Rielle Hunter, could rescue him from. John Edwards is an adulterer, and the lack of respect he has shown his wife has been very large indeed. He should be seen as wholly responsible for the actions he chose to take, for the disregard he showed to his wife and family. 

But I think what we need to work on most is the way women see each other. We need to stop seeing each other as competitors for husbands, as being less worthy, as just being "less". We -all of us- need to stop the implicit "she's not so great" when we are jealous, when we want what they have, when we don't understand why they have it. The Rielle Hunters of the world, the Monica Lewinskys, the girl who slept with Christie Brinkley's husband, need to recognize that there is a fully viable, worthwhile human also in the picture. That she is not less of a human because they covet or are sleeping with her husband.


MediaMaven said...

Maybe the reason why Elizabeth Edwards "did not give off good energy" to Rielle Hunter was because she suspected Reille was after her man.

Reille Hunter is nuts and she is definitely responsible. She knew Edwards is married and didn't care; she knew what she was doing. But that doesn't mean she should be called a slut or a whore.

Why would that Newsweek reporter ask Rielle if she was dating anyone? It seemed like he had a bit of a crush on her as well.

I'm so glad that television show never made it to air. What a sickening premise, showcasing trapped marriages "saved" by affairs.

I've always been disturbed by this idea that single women are deemed a threat to coupled women. A long-divorced, single woman my mom works with was not invited to an after-work party precisely because she didn't have a man to bring, which is incredibly insulting. Women are evaluated by their status, and women like Rielle Hunter who are known as being man-hungry temptresses make it worse for the rest of us.

petpluto said...

I thought that was exactly the reason Elizabeth Edwards didn't give off "good energy". The woman isn't exactly stupid.

As for the Newsweek reporter, he seems to like Rielle, but apparently -and who knows if this is true or something he said after the fact- he thought there was something potentially going down between Hunter and Edwards.

I completely agree that it isn't just single women who do this and that it is all walks of women, and I hate the implicit "But you don't have a man, therefore you may *gasp* talk to mine!" single women get. And that is complete bull that woman didn't get invited to an after-work party. This is how these types of resentments build up! GAH!