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Nina Burleigh Headshot

What If Weiner Was a Woman?

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I won't pile on top of the esteemed gentleman from Brooklyn-Queens today, much as he might enjoy it. But he has posed -- make that hoisted to half-mast -- some sexual-politics issues that deserve airing at least as much as those gray boxer briefs.

A former (male) editor of mine poked up with one of these questions on Facebook this morning, in a rather put-upon, man-victim tone: Would a woman in politics, sending "dirty pictures" to younger men, catch this kind of grief?

The implied suggestion was that a sexting woman in politics would have suffered no pain, maybe even got some gain from it.

We can only hope our daughters will still be grandmothers on the day that a U.S. Congresswoman is caught sending boob and crotch pictures to boy-fans, or, for that matter, a female presidential candidate pays an aide to take the rap for her pregnancy with a male videographer, or a female president gets impeached for seducing a teenage intern in the Oval office.

We should welcome the day such scandals land on the kitchen table with the morning coffee.

Not that women aren't doing all these things right now. It takes two to sex-Skype. But no woman who would leave the second button undone on a blouse can get elected dog catcher in America. Most Americans don't trust a red-blooded, obviously sex-having woman to do anything public besides field buckets of semen jokes in a Judd Apatow movie.

Europeans think we're silly about this stuff. Anyone who has traveled knows how they sniff at American prudishness. And to some extent, they are right. Sexy and apparently sexual females can run for office in some European countries. France actually considered Segolene Royal, who could step out in a bikini at 50, and still run as a barely (pun intended) viable presidential candidate a few years back.

In Italy, randy Knights of Viagra grand master Silvio Berlusconi has done his best to give female sexuality its proper and prominent place in national politics. During his reign, hundreds of hotties have entered Parliament with no higher qualification than that they could maneuver Rome's paving stones in stilettos. Romanian-born porn star Ilona Staller, Jeff Koons' ex, got elected to the Italian Parliament under the nom de plume Cicciolina, and made a name for herself giving speeches with one breast exposed.

That's progress of a sort.

The elevation of sexual women in those countries, though, is merely a facet of the DSK-BHL brand of ooh-la-la, thank heaven for little girls (and maids), cherchez la femme sexism in France, and in Italy, of the dirty dreams of gropers interested not in females with political power, but in exercising their own fading power over the females around them.

Any American woman who has spent any time at all outside the borders of the Land of the Free sooner or later recognizes that America, for all is flaws, is a shining beacon of women's rights to the rest of the world, Europe included. To the Euros, our sexual harassment laws seem ridiculous, the ruination of good men like Spitzer, Edwards, Clinton, et al over sex is simply mystifying. In Africa, Asia and the Middle East, it's unthinkable.

If the diverting parade of American political men crashing and burning their careers over sex indicates anything about us, maybe it's that the male appendage could be on its way to becoming the kind of liability in politics that legendary period-induced mood swings used to pose for female candidates for higher office.