The Problem with Edwards' Statement

I try not to write on politics much, since I find politics exhausts me. I've yet to feel deeply enthusiastic about any candidates (though I remember giving money to the Democratic Party during the 2004 election -- mainly because "anyone but Bush" was my motto). This morning I was listening to the NPR coverage of the Edwards' admission of his affair. I find it amazing that we still get riled up about politicians' infidelities. I think it's stupid that they all purport to be morally superior, when obviously they are only human and fallible. This has been my main irritation with the Obama campaign, the eagerness with which his supporters have wanted to believe he is beyond reproach and progressive to the bitter end. He is a politician. Politicians are not just in politics for their investment in public service. It seems particularly reckless to engage in an affair when one has political ambitions, since Americans still want their politicians sexless and (Christian) morally pure.

So, Edwards had an affair. Blah blah blah. But what I wanted to note was how he portrayed Elizabeth Edwards. I can't easily find this statement online, but on the morning NPR show, he comments that when he told his wife, she was angry, and "she responded exactly like the kind of woman she is. She forgave me." This statement upsets me. The implication is that a good wife, a moral and Christian wife, will stand by her man and forgive him. I think Feministe or Bitch, PhD, have covered this bullshit before -- how political wives have the responsibility to be the moral compass for their politician spouses. "The Wire" actually shows this quite well, though seems to think the mayoral candidate's wife is a bit of a drip, so no wonder her hot-shot husband (who becomes mayor, sorry for the spoiler) is sleeping around.

Has anyone else noticed that these wives are never given any form of sexuality of their own? They are the anchor for their husbands, and dear god is this tiresome. I'm not a fan of Sarkozy, but I love that Carla Bruni is his wife. She may have used her sexuality and her beauty in manipulative ways (she's been involved with all sorts of high intellectuals and men of power), but she's also obviously extremely smart and competent. While there's lots to say about the problem of women having to use their bodies and their looks as their leverage for power, I also respect a woman who can go from Bernard-Henri Levi to the president of France. Though, I guess I wish that Bruni's power were not directly identified by her sex partners. I mean, she makes pretty good music. The Hillary Clinton Problem was that she was not recognized as her own woman, since no matter what she's done, she's still known as Bill's wife...what we need is strong women politicians who are not married to/sleeping with power. We have some women like that, but I do believe we're still only at 16% women in Congress. For those unaware, women make up about 52% of the population, and probably if you looked at the demographic distribution of congresspeople, most of them are probably over 40 or so, and as you get older, women make up more and more of the population....So it's quite possible that among the age group of Congress, women make up more than 50% of that age demographic. I am too lazy to look up U.S. demographics right now.

This is sort of tangentially related to the Alison Bechdel strip on "The Rule", which I think will become a teaching staple for me. The characters in the strip discuss what qualities a film needs to have in order to be worth seeing. The film has to have at least 2 women in it, they have to talk to each other, and they have to talk about something other than about the men in the film. This seems like a silly set of criteria, but if you stop and think about most films (and many tv shows), it's actually quite hard to find films and shows that can fulfill those expectations. Try it.
p.s. I re-read this and realized how hastily I threw this together. Non-sequiturs all over the place. I mention the Alison Bechdel strip to point out how power is related and who gets top-billing and legitimacy. Most of the films, in which women are usually accessories, rather than protagonists in their own right, depend on female characters as means to promote/prop up the male characters. It just doesn't seem awfully different from the way in which female politicians and wives of politicians end up playing supporting roles.

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