When Samantha Bee stood up at the Daily Show podium and faux admitted to cheating on her husband in a Spitzer-esque press conference, I wondered if there were any female politicians who had been caught red-handed (red-pantied?) in an extramarital affair. In the current issue of Newsweek, Julia Baird ponders the same question — "Why aren't more powerful public women caught up in sex scandals?" — and comes up with a few possibilities. While Baird makes note of a few female pols who have behaved badly (former Charlotte, NC mayor Sue Myrick, Idaho congresswoman Helen Chenoweth, Utah congresswoman Katherine Bryson), one of the possible reasons fewer women have been caught cheating is because there are fewer female politicians, period.
"Few [female politicians] are prominent enough to attract savage media scrutiny," Baird posits, and it seems that the ones who do, take up quiet, longterm extramarital affairs with age and class-appropriate mates, as opposed to the stripper and prostitute scandals that have plagued male pols. The ladies of The View were discussing the Newsweek story this morning, and they talked about how in a field where there's more women, like teaching, you hear more about Mary Kay Letourneau types who abuse their male underlings. What's glaring about the teacher example, and the fact that male politicians tend to have affairs with much younger and tackier women, is that both situations seem to be about power, and not about sex.
It could be argued that female politicians don't have more affairs because men don't see them as more powerful, or find that power to be attractive. Young guys want nothing to do with Hillary Clinton because power and experience and age are not valued in women in our culture. The teenage boys involved in the teacher sex scandals are so young that they can be controlled — they're not really "choosing" these older women. I don't think it's a question of whether women cheat less or are better people; it's that a female politician would have less opportunity to cheat in the first place, as the men around her are unlikely to throw themselves at her. The Newsweek article quotes former White House press secretary, Dee Dee Myers, who says, "I don't think Hillary Clinton is going to be hitting on the intern." Even if she did, would that male intern be remotely interested? That said, I think women are better liars, and if Hillary specifically were having an affair, I'm almost positive that we would never, ever find out about it.
Girls Will Be Girls. Or Not. [Newsweek]