There is one thing Governor Sanford, Senator Ensign and former Governor Spitzer have in common beside a propensity toward moral indiscretion, and that is they are all middle-aged men. When we look back at some of the most flagrant sexual scandals of political officials, we cannot help but see that it is middle-aged married men who are the transgressors. Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Larry Craig, Gary Hart -- the list is endless. For these men, one has to wonder, if they can so easily betray their families, how easily will they betray the public? The question that comes to mind for me is: where are the women on this list?
You might counter that this absence is due to the fact that there simply aren't as many women elected officials. It is hard to imagine though that of the 6 women Governors and 17 women Senators presently in office, not to mention the fact that women comprise 25 percent of all elected officials nationwide, that the fewer number of women elected officials accounts for this discrepancy. Women in our society, who still bear a disproportionate role in terms of child care, elder care and other family responsibilities, have these added duties that they must always consider. They also have not been in power that long. It is hard to conceive of Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi or Sarah Palin holding a news conference to say they had been conducting an affair, disappeared to another country to call off an affair or visited a male prostitute. I am not of course saying that all middle-aged male political officials are having affairs, but statistically we must ask why we are seeing an unequal number of cases among men and women. Is it because men who have been in power for so long are acting more boldly and feel they are above the rest of society?
Biological determinists would argue it is due to genetic factors about male sexuality. Others would argue that it is the very potent lure of power that distorts one's moral compass. Yet, others may argue that this is what we see in society anyway and these men are no different from others conducting themselves in similar fashion. Whatever the answer, I hope that one of the outcomes that emerges from the constant string of male politicians embroiled in sexual scandals is that we will escape the stranglehold that men in this country still have on positions of leadership.
Yes women have made great strides in running for office and winning, but they still lag behind men in positions of political power. Women comprise 52 percent of the population yet only hold 25 percent of elected office in the US. Furthermore, women are voting in much greater numbers than men in presidential elections (9 million more women than men voted in the last 2 elections).
When we start to overcome the hurdles that prevent many women from running (the fund raising disadvantage women have as they don't always have the same network of donors as men, the unique child care demands that may prevent them from running for office, the fear of negative personal attacks on themselves and their families), we will finally start to see more women in office. And only then may we finally see less of the sleazy, moralizing hypocrisy of some of these men who on the one hand hold up their superior morality, and on the other hand think they are above the law and canon of familial ethics.