According to a recent article on CNN.com, former Rep. Anthony Weiner "has set off a frenzy of speculation that he may be planning to run for mayor of New York in 2013." There was also a recent photo spread in People magazine and despite what you think I am not making that up.
Now take a moment, please, and picture this: Imagine a middle-aged female politician who last year sent -- to random strangers -- a highly close-up photograph of her vagina and other various intimate girly bits since a person could not exactly crop them out of the frame without harming one's self.
Imagine if a female politician spread her legs and then spread the images across the internet and worldwide media in precisely the way Congressman Weiner sent to women a photograph of his penis.
Do you think there would be serious discussion about whether or not she would, within a year or so, be asked to run for mayor of the City of New York?
Do you think there would be cozy images of her with her spouse and new baby?
Are you nuts?
Any woman who did that would be instantly institutionalized. She would be grabbed by officials in the street, put immediately into a straitjacket, and carted off to an asylum.
She would be medicated instantly and heavily. She would be fed through a sippy cup or from a tray shoved through a slot in the bolted steel door.
Her family would explain, in tears, that she been subject to catastrophic emotional trauma because otherwise there could be no excuse for such outrageous and utterly insane behavior.
But if a guy is waving his flagpole around and we're supposed to salute it ? We're supposed to regard it as evidence of his being "just one of the boys"? If a man exposes his penis and scrotum in order to take a fuzzy picture of it (or is it "them"?) our collective response is to wonder what the implications are -- culturally -- of this act?
Americans -- male and female -- still have trouble saying the word "vagina," although they have no trouble with the 23,425 words for "breasts."
Women's bodies, like women's lives, have always been the subject of stupid jokes and whispered, ignorant remarks. Despite the fact that about half the world spends half a lifetime bleeding once a month, for example, we still advertise menstrual products as if we're selling weed at a playground ("Hey, you want it 'Because'? You want it 'Always'? You want it 'With Wings'?").
But a New York politician takes a bunch of photographs of his body and mails them to powerless young women -- not to Kagan, or Clinton, or Sotomayor, mind you, which would have been GREAT because their responses would have gone down in history -- and he yet still wants to be taken seriously as a leader in our government?
Sure, everybody has done something in our personal lives of which we are not proud. And sure, most everybody is willing to forgive politicians some kind of weirdness in their own personal lives because otherwise NOBODY would run for office.
But Weiner was driven, not by lust -- which we can sort of find forgivable -- or even by some other kind of desperate passion -- but by vanity. It was plain old lousy, dumb, nerdy, unmerited, vaguely pathological and certainly creepy vanity that made him take pictures of what he thought was his handsome virile/viral self and send those pictures to women he didn't know personally in order to feed his sense of unparallelled perfection.
That's not somebody we need in politics, in People magazine, or anywhere near a camera. Just look away. Or, better yet, laugh.
Adapted from a piece in Psychology Today.