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June 21, 2008

Family Affair


I’ve heard from several people about NY Mag’s sly use of this photo.  It accompanied Friday’s snark on the Daily Intel blog about the ex-Governor’s upcoming family vacation to Southeast Asia.  (According to the write-up, by the way, the idea for the trip came from Spitzer’s eldest daughter, Elyssa.)

What I’m specifically curious about is the choice of this 2006 photo to illustrate the post. 

The feedback I’ve gotten (taking fiendish note of NYM’s visual move) is that people — thoroughly mindful of Spitzer’s prostitution scandal — can’t really look at an image like this without making any number of harsh, almost reflexive assumptions about the quality and nature of the relationships here.  So, what I’m wondering is, can you help looking at this image without automatically perceiving it as a portrait of exploitation — or worse, a suggestion that these girls are vulnerable in some particular way?

The Spitzer Family to Vacation in Southeast Asia (NY Magazine Daily Intel blog)

(photo: AFP 2006)

  • WorldAsUnwill

    What strikes me most about this picture is that Spitzer and his daughters are looking rather blithely at one camera, but his wife is looking into another camera with a less genuine smile.

  • g

    The minute I read it was a 2006 photo I thought it was contrived and unfair to put it with the story. Then I clicked on the link and read the comments on the story, and I was repelled.
    Relationships are complicated. Men who visit prostitutes can still have feelings of paternal love for their children. Daughters can love their father. I think including the photo of Spitzer with young women – even his daughters – in the story of something innocnent a family vacation) was deliberately inviting prurient speculation. It’s cruel to these young women.

  • Scarabus

    Yeah, those were my first two reactions as well. Reminds me of Degas’s painting The Belleli Family, where the disjunctive gazes imply a disjunctive family. Making use of the services of high-end call girls is a far cry from acting as a predatory pedophile within one’s own family.

  • catfood

    Nearly all politicians use their family as publicity props, so to that extent it is exploitative. I don’t think there is anything really sinister going on in respect to his daughters, however it does cast him in a worse light (if that is possible). While I am fairly confident Spitzer would never want HIS daughters to become prostitutes, his actions suggest that he believes it is an acceptable career choice for somebody ELSE’S daughter.

  • black dog barking

    As Mr Vonnegut noted in Mother Night, “…you are who you pretend to be”. I’m sure Mr Spitzer can be a wonderful dad to those beautiful girls and a good husband to his wife AND spend piles of discretionary cash on exotic specialized personal services. I would imagine his internal body chemistry is demonstrably different in his different roles but from our vantage, the camera’s lens, it is the same man. Whatever Mr Spitzer accomplished in other areas of his life, his physical presence will always carry a hint of his dalliance. That’s the way *we* are.
    Good point up there about career choices w/r/t his daughters.

  • itwasntme

    As a woman over 60, I have to say all the fuss over his use of prostitutes could have been avoided by his wife. Here’s how. She (if she wanted her marriage and family life to continue as before) should have come out to meet the press, by herself, and simply say “boys will be boys.” The end.
    To her daughters, it would have been a great teaching moment: teaching her girls that a man’s sexuality is often very complicated, and that a man may stray from time to time, but that it can mean very little with regard to herself (the wife) or his children.
    Then Mr. Spitzer could have bought his wife something very, very expensive and showy, and she could have worn it publicly at their next public outing, which should have been soon after the so-called “betrayal.”
    The high-priced chippies he frequented reflect well on Mrs. Spitzer: unlike the relationship between The Prince of Wales and Camilla, which was a true betrayal of his wife Diana. The Prince did the unforgivable: he actually loved somebody else. Mr. Spitzer did NOT do the unforgivable, but merely sought rather tame, tho expensive, sexual novelty.
    Mr. Spitzer did not seek underage sex, homosexual sex or highly perverted sex. Pretty tame actually. I wish America would get over it.

  • Veronica

    Wouldn’t that be teaching your daughters to have very low expectations for your husband and to expect to be insulted and humiliated?

  • itwasntme

    No, it would be teaching your daughters to have realistic expectations about very many men. And as I mentioned, it’s only an insult or humiliation if it means anything important in your marriage. Believe it or not, there might be some things a wife would prefer not to do for her husband sexually. A wife does not own her husband’s sexuality, so he should be free to get that elsewhere, and without that signaling the distruction of a family. The family unit is a long-term institution based on love and agreement to raise children, a financial institution, and an agreement between spouses to “have each other’s backs.” Sex is one of the components of marriage, but hardly the most important thing.

  • tina

    The Thai hookers he would likely visit on such a trip would be about the age of his daughters.
    Don’t tell me that f**king girls the age of your own daughters in paid transactions leaves any room for you to be a nice guy. It doesn’t.
    I feel really sorry for these girls (his daughters), doomed to be brittle, hostile, upper society women on a cocktail of sedatives, married to men who will never be faithful to them in favor of buying sex with teenagers. Like their mother. The hookers themselves have no future at all after about oh, age 26–but nobody cares or worries about them.
    Sorry itwasntme, you need to step back and get a little perspective before you say “it’s nothing”. In this scenario everybody loses but the rich old man–his daughters, his wife, his hookers are all negatively affected in a huge way.
    And if any of these females chooses to cross him, they’ll get tossed out of the country club to live in poverty. It all boils down to who controls the checkbook. Horrific and sad.
    I for one will say this picture gives me the creeps.

  • Karen

    Yikes. Some harsh comments. No doubt I would be far angrier about Spitzer’s behavior if he were my husband, but otherwise, I’m of the “move along, nothing to see here” school.
    I guess there wasn’t a requirement to use the photo for illustrative purposes; the exploitation I see is on the part of the New York Times.

  • quax

    as a husband and father I could not disagree more with you. It is one thing to engage in an open marriage and to set these low expectations early on but there is no indication that this was the case with the Spitzer marriage.
    To imply that it is in the very nature of men that they can not control their sexuality is insulting.
    It reminds me of my mother in law who is just a bit younger than you. She is convinced that the penis does the thinking for a man and she is already starting to objectify my 3 year old boy in this regard. To say that I am disgusted by this attitude is to put it mildly.

  • Denise B.

    Well, itwasntme, it seems to have worked for some, e.g., JBKOnassis.
    I do wonder, though, if husbands would understand that women’s sexuality is “often very complicated”, and therefore a man might turn an eye both blind and loving on his wife’s adultery.
    Let’s start with Mr. Spitzer!

  • Johanna

    It wasn’t me also thinks a man can be counted on not to fall in love with the women he is seeing on the side. Not so. I bet most second marriages start that way. It’s a delusion to think that a man doing this will still stay with his wife and still stay in love with her. In fact, it puts the whole family in peril, and not just because of the wife’s non acceptance of it. The Clintons always portrayed Bill’s behavior as completely consistent with a good marriage and family, their worshipers now insist that we should all think this way.

  • Daniel E. Fall

    Spitzer is a moron and will be remembered for his actions in the dark.
    When I see the picture, I see a family. I don’t see two cameras, I don’t see sad girls. I don’t see a terrible future for them.
    I am a man. I have no plans to chase hookers or other women and it sure as hell isn’t acceptable and the ‘norm’ to expect from men.
    To be blunt, I’m not sure I’d spend more than 5 seconds looking at the picture without comment and move on, but seeing all these comments, I had to share my genuine unconcern.
    I don’t see how itwasn’tme is willing to justify his actions so quickly, nor do I see how Tina is creeped out by a picture of a family for the mischievous, criminal behavior of the father and willing to suggest the father holds the purse strings. If you have any knowledge of the law, Mrs. Spitzer could sue Mr. Spitzer for at fault divorce in NY and basically get about 80% of his checkbook. If she stays in the marriage, she certainly has a lot of power of her own for not suing him. And don’t bother with the rebuttals on prenups, etc. She could cash in on his criminality.

  • Anne

    “As a woman over 60, I have to say all the fuss over his use of prostitutes could have been avoided by his wife. Here’s how. She (if she wanted her marriage and family life to continue as before) should have come out to meet the press, by herself, and simply say “boys will be boys.” The end.”
    The lamest excuse ever; “boys will be boys”, and let them get away with it. Why? Because he is a man. The world is never going to change if men and boys are excused all the time for their behavior. But women are being told how to act, what not to wear and not get drunk all the time, because they might get raped. How is that fair?
    I feel sorry for his wife and his daughters.

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