November 20 2012
Feminists have come up with the ultimate double standard. It might be characterized this way: Women can do no wrong.
U. N. Ambassador Susan Rice goes on TV and delivers falsehoods to the American people about something very important—a terrorist attack that killed four Americans—and Democratic women on Capitol Hill hold a press conference to announce that to criticize Rice is sexist.
In a column headlined “Never Blame a Woman,” James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal shows how the new double standard is reflected not just in President Obama’s “faux-chivalrous defense” of Rice but in the feminist response to the David Patraeus-Paula Broadwell affair.
Taranto cites Jennifer Vanasco of the Columbia Journalism Review, who believes that journalists hold Broadwell responsible, while letting Patraeus off the hook:
Nearly every time a heterosexual sex scandal threatens to tank the career of a powerful man, we hear (and read) the same story: The poor guy couldn't help it. After all, what can a man do when faced with the irresistible temptation of a nubile younger woman? Certainly he can't be expected to exhibit self-control. . . .
The truth is, an affair is always the responsibility of both people involved. There is no victim. There is no hero. There is just human fallibility. We know that. And it might not be as sexy, but that's the story we should write.
Taranto points out that the Washington Post’s Lisa Miller echoes Vanasco’s complaint:
The commentary and analysis of this season's latest and greatest sex scandal . . . is downright medieval. . . . Powerful men are expected to stray. . . . But the women with whom they consort are unredeemed for all of history.
Taranto says that, yes, there is a double standard, but feminists don’t understand the nature of this double standard:
Petraeus himself, after all, has not exactly been "redeemed." Quite the contrary. The affair came to public attention precisely because of his resignation. No one can take away his considerable accomplishments, but his public career appears to be at an end. History will remember the ridiculous and humiliating way in which it concluded. No doubt he is paying a private price as well: "As you can imagine, she's not exactly pleased right now," ABC News quoted Steve Boylan, a retired Army colonel with a gift for understatement, as saying of Mrs. Petraeus.
When commentators observe that Petraeus must have been tempted by Broadwell, they are not making excuses for his errant behavior. They are merely stating the obvious: that his was a failure of self-control. It is generally understood that men are weak, subject to sexual temptation.
If Broadwell is assigned a disproportionate share of the "responsibility' for the affair, it is because of a failure to acknowledge that women are weak, too--that "human fallibility" does indeed work both ways. If he found a younger, physically attractive woman irresistible, it seems a reasonable surmise that she found a powerful, famous, brilliant man equally so. Indeed, how could it not be so? If either one of them had successfully resisted the attraction, dangerous to both of them, there would have been no affair.
Of course, feminists use double standards when it is to their advantage. Lisa Miller sneered at the “smug fecundity” of GOP candidates during the primary season. She said that this seemed to signal that GOP candidates “are like biblical patriarchs.” Never mind that one of these “patriarchs” was a woman, Michele Bachmann.
Taranto says that the Rice defenders crying sexism seem to be saying that women in public life must be spared the rough and tumble to which their male counterparts are subjected. This only applies to liberal women, by the way: it was okay to criticize the other Rice, George Bush’s Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
But Rice—Susan, that is—defenders are being had…by a guy. Taranto concludes:
A final irony is that the feminist defense of Susan Rice is ultimately in the service of shielding a powerful man from accountability. After all, Obama was not merely being chivalrous when he said that if McCain and Graham "want to go after somebody, they should go after me." He was also changing the subject away from the failure of his administration, which includes officials of both sexes, to give an honest accounting of the Benghazi fiasco.