I went off on vacation while the Weiner “sex” scandal was breaking out in the United States. Nonetheless, it’s being talked about so much that I don’t feel I missed out on much (except maybe, thankfully, the American daytime news tv coverage of it!).
It’s interesting to me in the wake of the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn in New York for charges of attempted rape, etc. to see something like this come up in American news. When DSK was arrested, a lot of people wrote interesting things about differences in French and American culture toward politicians (a lot of people wrote dumb things about it too). This one from Slate I liked particularly:
It makes good points about how we see what we want to see: despite the evidence, we hold to stereotypes that aren’t really all that true.
Nonetheless, I really don’t think a Weiner-type situation would have rocked the boat of French politics. I understand that the Democrats want him to step down in order to avoid looking like the party of idiots. But honestly, if his constituents want him to stay, I really don’t care what he does.
But the reason this is interesting to me is because of one aspect of the discussions that have come up with French people since the arrest of DSK. They say they can’t believe he would do something so stupid, especially when he was quite possibly on the path to the French presidency.
I have to admit it shocks me when people say this. What Weiner did was stupid. What DSK is alleged to have done is not “stupid.” It’s reprehensible and dehumanizing and violently mysogynistic. If he did it, it wasn’t because he wasn’t thinking—it’s because he may well like, as Emily Yoffe said on the DoubleX blog*, “to see women submit to him in abject terror.” It’s because he didn’t see what was wrong with it and thought he had every right to get away with it. I get that it’s hard to believe someone you’ve trusted as a politician may have had these tendencies his whole life. It might be harder for me to believe if it were someone I really believed in (but then again, I do hope the Socialist Party wins in 2012 so I’m not an unbiased spectator either). But this isn’t something that happens in moments of idiocy and narcissism, like sending off lewd and less lewd pictures of yourself to women who’ve commented positively your politics. “Stupid” doesn’t even begin to describe it, and it worries me that people think it does.
It’s still hard for me to have conversations in French about this kind of thing. I tend to over-avoid argumentative conversations even in English, though I’ve gotten slightly better at that since moving to France. All this is to say, that’s why I’m saying this on my blog.
(*I should mention I’m not totally nuts about everything Emily Yoffe says in this article. But it is hilarious when she says that “we know Europeans believe American justice puts people on death row for parking infractions.”)