POSTED: Thursday, July 25, 2013 - 1:11pm
UPDATED: Thursday, September 12, 2013 - 7:40am
(CNN) — Isn't it time to call the spectacle of the suffering political wife, standing by her man in the media glare as he admits to his latest sexual offense against her, what it really is: spousal abuse?
Huma Abedin has the right to make any decisions she wants about her life, just as a victim of domestic abuse has the right to return for more -- but we don't have to stand silently by and condone it.
On Tuesday, she read from a script about forgiving her husband, New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, as he was forced to address allegations that he sent sexually explicit texts and photographs of his genitals to a woman he'd never met, a year after he'd resigned in shame for this very accusations in 2011 and publicly promised to stop. And after she'd given birth to their child, and after he'd presumably gone to whatever Twitter sexting rehab he found, and Lord knows what else.
Abedin, a top aide to Hillary Clinton, was reduced to the standing-by-her-man-at-the-news-conference archetype, a dated wife-as-doormat visual it's time to eliminate from our political theater.
Sure, she can keep him around if she wants to. But we don't have to bless their craven political move to stand together before the cameras to protect his career, nor do we have to play along as they both pretend that this is something other than more public degradation of her. That they are both consenting adults who participate in this behavior does not make it acceptable to the rest of us. (Simple test: Would you want your daughter in that tableau?)
We have the right to say that we will not enable this anymore; we will not endorse it; we will not bless it just because it is her "choice." Instead, we will call a public figure's cheating on his wife, then bringing her to the mea culpa press conference, not only offensive to her but a slap in the face to women in the electorate.
It was bad enough when Harvard Law grad Silda Wall Spitzer stood mutely beside then-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer as he confessed in 2008 to patronizing prostitutes. Or when former hospital executive Dina McGreevey stood silently next to her cheating husband, then-New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey, as he announced his resignation in 2004.
Some of us are trying to raise our girls to be more than voiceless partners sucking up their pride as their husbands trample over their dignity. Men like Weiner and Spitzer were well aware of the excruciating pain the disclosure of their thrill-seeking behavior would cause their wives while they were public figures, and they engaged in it anyway, via elaborate lies and artifices, eyes wide open. In the case of Anthony Weiner, a.k.a. Carlos Danger -- and maybe all of them -- that risk probably amped up the sexual excitement.
Here's the simple rule for male politicians: If you had your fun without her, man up and face the press corps without her. Ironically, each of these men calls himself a feminist. Respect for women begins at home, fellas.