“If we want fewer sex scandals in Congress, we should elect more women.” Well said, mom! I have been running through this whole Weiner/weiner debacle in my mind trying to decipher my opinion on it. Is it that big of a deal? Is it something the feminist community should be up in arms about?
Maybe not. But I think my mom was on to something. While I don’t want to promote the idea that the ego-driven, hedonistic, self-serving behavior that Weiner and so many other male politicians have exhibited is somehow intrinsic to men and masculinity, the fact is, men in Congress do have a monopoly on that kind of behavior. Perhaps because society teaches men that power and sexual conquest go hand in hand, men who seek power in high levels of political leadership feel entitled to copious helpings of women (who are simultaneously taught to be sexually available to them). The fact that Congress is overwhelmingly male may contribute to the culture where this kind of behavior feels appropriate or even part and parcel with the role.
Would more women in Congress balance out this ‘good ole’ boy’ routine? These revelations in the media of what really goes on behind closed doors also make me wonder what kind of working environment Congress is for women. Additionally, do these stories subtly inform all women that Congress is synonymous with male power, hence further widening the gender gap?
The bottom line is, it’s not about Weiner’s indiscretions or the fact that he’s a scumbag. What we should be worried about is that this type of behavior contributes to the culture of masculinity that dominates our decision-making structures and leaves women out of the mix. The halls of Congress are no place for male domination and expressions of exclusively masculine power. Weinergate has brought to light the necessity of electing more women to Congress, yet has suggested perhaps one of the reasons why this task is so difficult. As feminists, we need to not just talk about this, but rather connect this story to the bigger picture. Let’s use this incident to raise awareness about gender equity in government and refocus our efforts on closing the gender gap.
Originally posted on rachelpiazza.tumblr.com