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Why should political wives suffer in silence as their spouses betray the public trust?

Posted Oct 22 2008 4:32pm

This time it's Silda Wall Spitzer, spouse of more than two decades to Eliot Spitzer, the New York ex-governor snared in a prostitution ring, who is the latest woman to play the supportive female in unseemly political scandal, notes Mary Sanchez of McClatchy Newspapers

As Sanchez noted: "Ever notice how the wife is always positioned in these media moments? She is a mute backdrop. Saintly, you might say, in her suffering."

Sanchez noted others who have played similar roles in what's becoming a trend: Sen. Larry Craig’s wife, Suzanne; Dina Matos McGreevey, who is now in the process of divorcing the former governor of New Jersey; and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s wife, Carlita.

"Faced with the public humiliation of a cheating spouse, each woman stood to the side as her husband expressed remorse," Sanchez said. "They all knew the drill: At the end of his speech, the couple walks off the stage together, his hand gently touching her shoulder."

"It’s about time we start questioning this display," she added.

Stephanie Coontz, an expert on marriage and author of “ Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage,” has closely observed how attitudes and expectations about marriage have changed, especially during the last 40 years in the United States, Sanchez said.

She notes that when a jilted woman appears “too pushy“ about her grief or anger, it tends to gain sympathy for the man, not herself, Sanchez said. "Don’t be caught throwing a fit about your husband’s transgressions," Sanchez added. "No, not in 2008!"

Here’s one to contemplate, Sanchez asked: What if the roles were reversed? Once the scandal was exposed, would the husband be a quiet creature of support? Or, Sanchez asked, would his rage be viewed as justified?

"Rather, would the male public reaction match the anger and hurt that no doubt is felt by any betrayed spouse but that, in the case of women, is left only to private venting?" Sanchez asked.
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