"New York feminists, explain yourselves," demands everyone's favorite fun conservative S.E. Cupp in her latest column for the Daily News. "The guy who sent photos of his neatly shorn body to other women while his wife was globetrotting with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a feminist icon, has more support among Democratic women than Quinn." How could you let this happen, New York feminists? How COULD you?
Cupp is referring to recent polling that indicates that Anthony Weiner, the former Congressman from New York who is running for Mayor, is ahead of Christine Quinn, current Speaker of New York City council, and lesbian. According to The Wall Street Journal, Weiner is allegedly 5 percent ahead in the polls, with a 3.7 percent margin of error:
"...nearly half of all registered voters would be willing to vote for him for mayor, and more than half of Democrats view him positively, according to the poll. The number citywide who say they wouldn't consider him at all is falling, according to the poll.
His backers are more intense than other candidates, and his support is carried across racial, gender and geographic lines. In a primary, he would beat Ms. Quinn among men and women, blacks and Latinos, and in Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn."
For Cupp, it's Weiner's big gains among minorities and women that are the most upsetting. "While I don’t care much for identity politics, New York Democrats typically do. Is there no self-righteous glee about the prospect of electing the first female and lesbian mayor?" she asks with more than a bit of her own self-righteous glee.
The party's not over until the fat lady sings, so if I were Cupp, I wouldn't worry much about Quinn not winning; we've got some time and more ever-changing polls to get through. (Incidentally, Cupp claim she's really not worried about any of this because she's moving to Washington D.C., where she can be a proud conservative among the many leaders who possess strong morals that always stay intact.) But before heading to that ever-so-humid city, let's take a pause on Cupp's larger point on whether it's "feminist" to forgive Weiner for his actions. Is a male public figure's creepiness enough to damn him forever? At what point is it unforgiveable? And is being hesitant to forgive Weiner an overreaction from women?
There are a few ways men in power can overcome sex scandals. They have to, on some level, grapple with and successfully navigate most, if not all, of the following:
- How embarrassing is what they did?
- How much time has passed since it happened?
- How messily did they handle it?
- Did it reveal them as a hypocrite i.e. show them going against positions they'd held while in office?
- Are they charming and/or good looking?
- Do they still have that intangible trust quality?
This last one is the most important one. Bill Clinton has it, despite everything he's done. He had a few other things, but he still has this affable, chill vibe about him, the sort of thing that led people to vote for George W. Bush because he was infamously the kind of guy you'd want to have a beer with. Weiner doesn't have that. He's on edge, he's jumpy. He doesn't get along with his peers. He handled the sex scandal horribly, and lied about plenty of stuff. What he did was pretty embarrassing on the sex scandal scale.
On the other hand, he made for great television when he was a representative. He's not unattractive. About two years have passed since this all went down. And he'd never campaigned according to some sort of Republican idea of family values, so his own party didn't wholly reject him. He's got a mixed sex scandal legacy.
Cupp holds the inherent assumption that it's feminists in particular who should be upset that Weiner is winning, and that it's feminists who are backing off of their very vocal beliefs to support him. That assumes that what Weiner did is inherently unfeminist. But how is it unfeminist exactly? It's morally repugnant, according to our current societal standards. Despite embarrassing these women and making their lives miserable by association, Weiner didn't personally force them to do anything. That's not to say his actions haven't had important repercussions on their lives. But this could have just as well been a sex scandal involving a politician texting and tweeting pictures of his junk to men. Would it have been more okay for feminist women to forgive him for that?
There are plenty of good reasons to vote for Quinn and not for Weiner, but they're not because it's unfeminist to side with a man who was the cause of embarrassment on behalf of himself and a few other women, including his whose own very feminist wife — who we should remember is totally encouraging him to run.
Image via Jason DeCrow/AP