(Author’s note: There are images within this article that may be NSFW or triggering.)
I have always been a supporter of Anthony Weiner and the general bulk of his politics, sans some of the most cringe-worthy and conservative views on Israel/Palestine . A politician who seemingly understood the necessity of reproductive rights, LGBT legal justice, healthcare for 9-11 relief workers, with a charismatic yet aggressive personality on the floor, he made his way into my book of politicians I admired. I had also always been slightly on edge with this same falling over enthusiasm, mainly to what could be best described by Olivia Marudan in her essay as “Because A White Guy Said It” syndrome. Was this status holstered on him because we are lacking that much in male politicians working for reproductive issues or because of the white guy validation? Was he simply a great ally or was it someone whose privilege bolstered him up to a Tim Wise type of status? Either way, while Weiner has always been someone to be admired, the thrusting of him onto the pedestal by the feminist and reproductive justice movements has always caused a moment of pause for me.
How relevant that is now.
Last week, I defended Weiner’s actions as a reflection of his own personal choices, not something he was bringing to the job he was elected to do. I still stand firmly behind the idea that two people can only define their relationship and whatever goes on it, is frankly, not my concern. However, this week, as more and more information has leaked out on Weiner’s personal playground that is Twitter and Facebook, I have felt the confidence run slowly from my veins and the resentment quickly building. What once seemed like a another embarrassing incident of consenting adults not realizing that the Internet is public, now has turned into online harassment and a very privileged dude in allies clothing.
Weiner announced he was taking a personal leave of absence from his position, seeking professional treatment on his new found goal of being a healthier person and husband. A deep believer in therapy, I can’t help but scoff at the convenience of seeking therapy once one has been caught, a popular song and dance on the politician-celebrity road circuit to recovery and forgiveness. As Nancy Pelosi began hinting at an internal investigation as to whether or not Weiner used state money to fund his jollies (an investigation which taxpayers will be paying for), more information on other women and even more concerning behavior came out. Meanwhile while everyone, including myself, is caught up in this, the defunding of Planned Parenthood and the passing of H.R.3 is happening right under our eyes, a gift that is much like manna from heaven for the GOP.
What it the utmost disappointment in this whole hot mess is while what was presented as fiction, then fact, then consensual agreements, has now turned into what is defined as online harassment and a grown man sending what are still being investigated as questionable tweets to a seventeen-year-old. So the man who not even four months ago spoke at the Planned Parenthood rally (where I enthusiastically cheered him on) about the importance of respecting women, has pulled the curtain back and shown his own disregard for the meaning of the word “no.” While his vigor or being “aggressive,” “feisty,” and “blunt” may have made him the saint of liberal politics on the House floor, the context changes severely when in the realm of Internet relationships. What does it exactly mean when the man who swears to fight for women’s rights sees little value in respecting their own boundaries if it interferes with his sexual turn-ons?
“I’ve had a really hard time trying to fight these implications that I’ve been involved in an inappropriate relationship with a married congressman,” said Genette Cordova. She has currently dropped out of school to avoid the onslaught of unwanted attention.
Which brings me to a phrase which I feel wraps up the entirety of this situation, as well as the complexities and nuances of how deep rape culture actually goes. “Unwanted attention.” We are witnessing it in the Strauss Kahn case, the Malta and Moreno verdict, the victim blaming of an 11-year-old for being gang raped, the Julian Assange case, hell, throw pop culture in there with Rihanna’s video “Man Down.” Now with the patron male saint of feminism being caught in a variant of this type of harassment and abuse by using his powerful status to send women pictures of his body, Weiner has joined the ranks, albeit within the boundaries of digital communication, of the behavior he spoke against.
This goes beyond political ramifications now ““ we can all expect the conservative party to use this as a leveler for their platform, hands down. Weiner’s actions speak for themselves at how deep misogyny can run when in one breath you can shout at a pro-choice rally, “Respect women!” and then in your private downtime email them unwanted half-naked pictures of yourself. If this is coming from the man who considered himself a staunch supporter of women’s rights, what the hell is going on behind the curtain with those who lie at the opposite end of the political spectrum? I almost respect certain conservatives more ““ at least they are open about their deep misogyny with attempts to audit rape claims and defund Planned Parenthood as a priority that overtakes the flailing unemployment crisis. I know where I stand with them. But Weiner is like that guy who tells you he loves Bell Hooks and supports you and then turns around and snaps a hilarious rape joke he saw on Family Guy. You think he’s with you, you think he’s got your back. Turns out, he’s just like the rest of them.