Austen wrote about it in Persuasion when Mrs. Croft, the Admiral’s wife, defends her decision to follow her husband on all of his sea-faring expeditions. She wonders why women are a sex often held aloft of or apart from “normal” everyday life. She hated to hear women talked about “as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures.” For “none of us (women)” she says, “want to be in calm waters all our lives.” Woolf wrote about it too in her essay “A Room of One’s Own,” believing that “anything may happen when womanhood has ceased to be a protected occupation.” But it’s not just novelists, any romantic poet who ever put lyric to paper wrote about it: women have been placed on pedestals since the land before time. We’re the “good” ones. The muses, the moral guides, the innocent. So when women “go wrong” oh how the fingers start pointing. When men mess up, they often get the “oh, well, they didn’t know any better” defense while women? We get the “how could she?” attack. It’s almost as if the male gender (sorry guys) has so many bad apples that one more falling into the mire just gets a shrug of the shoulders, but when a tainted rose falls from the perfectly pruned female bush–everyone notices.
The recent scandal surrounding Virginia Governor Bob Mcdonnell has interestingly (surprise, surprise) found its epicenter on his wife. Sure, he’s being asked to step down, acknowledge the errors in (everyone decries, mostly his wife’s) judgment, and apologize to his Virginian constituents. But his wife? She’s been called an “awkward Cinderella” trying to fit into a political “castle” and “the ills” that have befallen “the House of Mcdonnell,” are mostly pushed upon her. The Washington Post was quick to announce that these “ills…are all about vanity. Most specifically, the vanity of the state’s first lady.” She’s been characterized as a sort of silly sixteen year old: swept away by the luxe life she’s gained through her husband’s work. A sort of late-in-coming sweet sixteen she is reveling in. A former Redskins cheerleader, the media was quick to pin on her all the stereotypes that come with that occupation. Now, don’t get me wrong, she’s been pulled through the mud mostly for good reasons: the things she did with public and privately acquired money are pretty disgusting. The interesting thing is though, that throughout all the stories about the scandal, there’s an underlying assumption as if, while we expect these sort of things from a man, (especially a political man), from a woman–well no way. How could she?
I’m not saying we’re all not disgusted when a man does something disreputable, but they have an uncanny way of still makin’ it back to the top: Clinton bounced back quite nicely I’d say from his indiscretions and near-impeachment back in the 90’s. The man gave a speech at the 2012 National Democratic Convention for goodness sake–all to rousing cheers and gushing crowds. Now there’s a turnaround. The more recent scandals involving former Senator Anthony Weiner, while he definitely has endured setbacks during his own bouts of eyebrow-raising activities, the guy just won’t really go away, and, chances are, he’ll still find his way back into some position of power. Some are comparing he and his wife’s, uh, tense relationship to the Clintons, and they turned out just “fine” didn’t they? But Lady Mcdonnell? Think we’re ever going to see her again in a good light? No way. Women are the ones who hold out, take the high-ground, pull out the morality card and “just say no”…right? So when we do fall, it’s hard, and the road back is pretty steep. Remember Sarah Palin? She wasn’t even VP yet and her daughter’s teen romance turned pregnancy “oops” started the avalanche of political woes for Palin. Governor Mcdonnell? I’m sure he knew what his family was doing while perched in the State’s house, but his wife gets most of the smackdown. Governor Palin? She perhaps could have kept a closer eye on her teenage daughter, but she was the one who fell under the volley of “bad mother,” “bad woman” attacks. There wasn’t a chance she could resurrect her career after that slip. So, who’s really on that pedestal anyway? Literature says women, but I’m beginning to think that politics and society give a vote for the man. When women slip, there’s no hope for a re-mount, but when men slip? Everyone’s ready to give ’em a boost back up–besides, they didn’t really mean it anyway…right?
**In case you’re confused, most of VMMV’s opinion articles are usually all about gender differences, but as far as expectations of morality are concerned–equality is always expected, yet rarely returned**
– <3 A.