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Responsibility in Public Office: What Weiner Could Learn from Women

by Caroline Huber on June 15, 2011

Though Anthony Weiner’s Twitter transgressions are somewhat amusing in their absurdity, the barrage of political sex scandals lately is getting frustrating and tiresome. I also can’t help but notice that sex scandals, while certainly bipartisan, seem to be committed mostly by our male representatives.

We ask, “What is up with these guys?” but we’re also wondering, “Why is it that women politicians are rarely involved in sex scandals?” The most obvious “boys will be boys” excuse—blaming men’s sexual dalliances on their testosterone handicap—doesn’t really fly, considering there is no evidence that men are generally more likely to cheat than women.

According to Sheryl Gay Stolberg in The New York Times, the reason we don’t hear about female political scandals has less to do with biology and more to do with the current political sphere and the substantial gender gap in the way men and women approach office. Stolberg says, “Women have different reasons for running, are more reluctant to do so and, because there are so few of them in politics, are acutely aware of the scrutiny they draw—all of which seems to lead to differences in the way they handle their jobs once elected.”

Perhaps female politicians, like Nancy Pelosi, are less likely to be involved in sex scandals because the many obstacles they face to succeed in politics force them to take public office more seriously.

Studies show that women are less likely to run for office, and while men tend to pursue politics as a career path, women want to address particular issues or achieve specific changes. Once elected, women may feel pressure to work harder than men to maintain respect, and they often hold themselves to higher standards, being aware of the degree of public scrutiny aimed at them in the man’s world of politics.

Given this information, gloating is not the appropriate response to our male politicians’ sex scandals because the assumption that women are morally superior to men is not only untrue, but it also doesn’t help our cause. We are not happy when our politicians of any gender act like idiots, and it is certainly not a triumph that women are so underrepresented in politics that they must hold themselves to higher degrees of morality and competence beyond their male colleagues.

Beyond the inherent negligence of sexual misconduct, I am concerned that these scandals represent a greater negligence pervading politics. When you are elected to represent the interests of a large group of people in public office, then you accept an honor and a huge responsibility that demands a certain standard of behavior. By engaging in irresponsible actions that break our nation’s laws or ethical codes, you are disrespecting both your political office and your constituents.

Weiner’s conduct while in office conveys to me that he does not appreciate the significance of his political responsibility. The growing number of scandals might indicate that some of our politicians have grown too comfortable in office and actually feel entitled to their positions, an attitude that should not be tolerated in our government. These men could learn something from their female counterparts, who do not have the luxury of taking their positions for granted and actually appreciate the seriousness of politics and the responsibility they have assumed by accepting public office.

Do you think it’s true that men are more likely to become involved in political scandals than women? Is this an inherent gender difference or is it indicative of the political climate? Do you think women hold themselves to a higher standard, given what it takes to become an elected official? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Lisa June 24, 2011 at 3:38 PM

There is something about the psychology of the men involved. It is not a generalized lack of judgment. It is a generalized sense that it’s all about them. In a not-just-a-little-bit-pathetic sort of way, this clamoring for attention and love despite the very obvious risk tells us a lot about why they put themselves in the public eye in the first place. It is that very self-absorbed motivation that makes them unfit for office.

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