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May 21, 2011

Two Sex-Scandals: Focusing in on the Problem

Given the increasing hullaballoo surrounding this week’s two sex-scandal stories, this image of Schwarzenegger and soon-to-be ex-wife, Maria Shriver, strikes me as paradigmatic of how these scenarios seem to play out: focus in on brooding, somber (occasionally apologetic) male politician; blurry, out-of-focus female victim in the foreground.  While the impetus behind these stories is supposedly exposing  the men that “done them wrong,” it’s often the women who suffer most from the media backlash.

This New York Times article from Wednesday makes the point well, both the Schwarzenegger scandal and the Strauss-Kahn case “raise similar questions about imbalances of power” when it comes to sexual indiscretion and assault.  With teams of high-powered attorneys and publicists at their disposal, both men have the means to launch vigorous counterattacks, circulating rumors and exposing the women’s lives to excrutiating public scrutiny.

It’s unsurprising that women are hesitant to come forward regarding sexual assault when such a media circus is bound to ensue, and/or when it doesn’t seem to have much impact.  As Michael’s post earlier this week points out, Schwarzenegger’s infidelity and aggressive sexuality are nothing new – the man won the gubernatorial race despite exposés regarding his mistreatment of women by both the LA Times and Premiere Magazine.  The only real news this time is living, breathing, incontrovertible evidence.

With known-philanderer (and consequent hypocrite) Newt Gingrich eying the White House, what become increasingly clear are the cultural denial and double-standards we hold regarding men in positions of power.

–Cate Blouke

(photo 1: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello. photo 2: Jonathan Alcorn for The New York Times. caption: In California on Wednesday, Mildred Patricia Baena had some presumably unwanted visitors outside her home.)

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