Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Silda standing beside her husband while he apologizes

The image of Silda Spitzer standing stone-faced and inexpressibly sad by her husband as he admits to the world that he patronized prostitutes and apologizes for his behavior should be put in a time capsule so that women from the far future can see twenty-first century subjugation of women in the United States (as well as the rest of the world). Here, an educated woman of high social standing faces pity and contempt.

My heart ached for Silda. I understood why she humbled herself before the merciless glare of the TV cameras. For each of us who live in a patriarchal society, the forces that cause our degradation are different, depending on a myriad of factors, and the form of that degradation is accordingly different, but ultimately, each of us, usually privately but sometimes very publicly, has to yield to these pressures.

Some women have foolishly and unimaginatively condemned Silva. "How could she allow herself to be humiliated?" Others have called it "phony" and "awful". They confuse the particular circumstances of Silva's humiliation-she being a politician's wife and no doubt part of the whole phony political scene-with the universality of her situation. Until we realize how circumscribed our lives really are and how each woman is doing what she needs to do to survive in a world that we women didn't make, we are destined to be manipulable, arrogant, and alienated from each other.

Some condemn her as a sell-out because she quit her lawyer job to advance her husband's career. Had she asked my advice in advance of doing this, I might have counseled her as to the risk she was taking, and maybe I would have lacked empathy for a woman making that choice, but in the final analysis, I really know that she had no choice, and my utmost sympathy goes out to her.


HoustonCourtney said...

Thanks for these cogent points; thinking about Silda with personal & political as always dear Carol.
Don't you think it curious timing on NY Gov Eliot Spitzer's bust considering his recent article on predatory lending & critique of the Bush Admn politics? In the Washington Post just prior to his outing.
I don't doubt that after the dust clears, we'll learn that Spitzer was targeted for surveillance just hoping to find some dirt on him. I'm NOT excusing his philandering behavior at all (like GaryH, BillC, etc) because folks should know they're being scrutinized whenever throwing stones against the empire. The news flashes now on Kristen & her story is racy and sells papers obviously. It's all just too bad that another smart rather decent on the face of it, Dem fighter for integrity, has now destroyed his trust with spouse Silda, his THREE daughters, his reputation and future in politics. Done.Gone.
For those who remember Dragnet & the strait-laced United States Treasury officer on the hunt.. When Spitzer was Attorney General, he was supposed to be the "Eliot Ness" of Wall Street, looking out for public $$. Eliot copped out on prosecuting thieves of Wall Street, instead going for "structural reforms."
{trivia pursuit:Eliot Ness only busted up a few of Al Capone's breweries for the sake of photo-ops.} Colbert- late nite TV quipped the mysterious drama: Eliot Mess.
On a brighter note- Splendid idea about you with a web log, that is blog!
Quite a few feminist blogs out there on the world wide web: see
You might should cross link yours to the feminist blog super collected website?
11 of us have viewed your 1st blog writing today.
Maybe your FEMWORDS will be more focused on feminist words, language? the semantics wars & rhetoric labeling normal variations in women's health issues into diseases & debilitating conditions to be studied and pharma company money to be made(:
It would be nice to hear about FWHCs, women's self-help, your often pithy reflections and larger political implications; all should prove timely and useful.
I like the feature of sign-in and comments. Then as you write, we can respond to your blog notes and over time probably add to your history/herstorical perspectives, recollections and help develop your BOOK:)
Will you also not JUST use the blog & still send out your mass email to us all on a blind GROUP list- without individual emails? Realistically, most of us are not going to go out to blogs on a daily or even weekly basis.
Think about your own behaviors. You/I/we scan our emails and DELETE so many immediately. (I don't delete yours and save in my FWHC email folder:)) I still WANT to hear your perspectives on the world around us, struggles, what happened at the support Iranian women demonstration, what you wrote about Lorraine Rothman, or Barbara Seaman, living well and nagivating in ambiguity and social change...
Some of my excellent writer friends who I used to enjoy exchanging correspondance & hearing their perspectives moved to BLOGS, myspace, Facebook or other social networking webposts and honestly I rarely go there.

Phyllis Chessler, eg.
Cindy Sheehan,
Amy Branham,
Gloria Meehan:

I used to enjoy the FWHC and OBOS alerts & sharing info on women's health but they also went to a blog & I only go there if I need to research or make a referral on something, OBOS did snap a great name in print Our Bodies Our Blog!
The womens health blog sounded good to me with that name but has gone mostly commercial crap.

Rachel, the cool, feminist & savvy medical librarian has a good blog which I check maybe once or twice a month. You'll find her with good ole fashioned SH politics most of the time. Get a link to her blog? I bet she'd be HONORED by your presence.
In Sisterhood,
Cathy Courtney

Jeanne said...

There's another angle to this public stoning that we might also want to consider. I don't quite know what to make of it so maybe you have a little more insight. And that is that Eliot Spitzer publicly supported Hillary Clinton. Is this attack somehow aimed at Hillary? How does that make her credibility look? She stayed with her husband during the right wing attacks on his sex life. And now she lost the credibility of one of her public supporters. Is that to be construed (or misconstrued)to mean that her male supporters are nothing more than wife-cheating patriarchal womanizers? And that she is supported by them & therefore goes along with their behaviors? Who benefits from this attack? And who loses? Is there another hidden agenda perhaps?

victoria siegel said...

I have been many woman in my life. When I married an Italian with a low education I was a woman with a low education. When I married a alcoholic I was a woman who went to AA meetings; poor pitiful me. When I married a liar and a cheat, I was a fool. When I married a pilot the world thought I was so clever. When my pilot husband died I was a widow. Who will I be Next?

hodge2100 said...

Hi Carol -- thanks for making a forum like this. So many of us enjoy pondering your thinking.

ginny said...

What you say is so true. We have all fallen into the trap of blaming ourselves or other women for our own oppression. On an individual basis, this gives the patriarchy more power. How can we resist if we don't even recognize there is a problem, if we think it's just a matter of gritting one's teeth and being stronger.

It was so hard to see her in the "wronged wife" stance, bravely facing humiliation without a word, her hands clasped in front of her. Why is that required of her?

There are some other questions that come up in this situation of course—do feminists believe that any married man who has sex with another woman is doing something wrong? I don't think we should take that position. As someone who has been judged for the public aspect of my own sexual behavior in the past, I would say there is no way we can know the whole story. We don't know what Silda's real feelings are about this situation. We do know that she is being publicly humiliated, as she acts the part of the pitiful but brave wronged woman.

And then the question about prostitution. Isn't prostitution simply a more upfront financial arrangement than those of many marriages or other perfectly respectable relationships? Does it really help us as women to have everyone be "shocked " at Spitzer's behavior? I don't think so. I think the whole framework—the philandering husband; the virtuous, self sacrificing wife; the exploited young prostitute—has to go.