Infidelity Isn't a Feminist Priority

What Women Really Think
Dec. 14 2009 11:14 AM

Infidelity Isn't a Feminist Priority

Thanks, Phoebe Connelly, for speaking sense on this Jenny Sanford worship train: "It’s troubling to think that ... we’d pick a feminist icon for the simple fact that she left a bad marriage." I'm continually amazed by folks-usually folks who know nothing about feminism or actively hate it-who insist that putting a lock on the genitalia of married men should be feminist priority No. 1, as if a world that still has rape, domestic violence, forced pregnancy, unequal pay, and other major social problems for women should be put the back burner because men cheat. It goes without saying that women cheat, too. I fail to see why feminism should concern itself with the one issue where men and women are pretty much in the same boat and exert a large amount of control over their futures when it happens to them.

Oh sure, I'd be the first to say that cheating isn't a complete equal opportunity offense, or completely apolitical. Men probably still do it more than women, and probably for the most obvious reason, which is that they still have more freedom to leave a bad marriage than women do. But if feminists concentrate on achieving equality for women, the problem of men who feel entitled to cheat on long-suffering, trapped wives will take care of itself, because those women will get to walk away. The feminist achievement of widespread, no-fault divorce probably did more to make men honest than any amount of moralizing ever could. Of course, it didn't stop all cheating for all time, but that's no matter to feminists. Unlike the other major issues that ruin marriages-fights over housework, child care, money, power in the house-cheating is an area where women give as good as they get.

Advertisement

This feminist's perspective on the Sanford debacle is that it was the Sanford marriage and not the cheating that is the real offense against feminist values. The Sanford marriage, from their own statements, seems to be something straight out of feminists' worst nightmares about the anti-feminist agenda for marriage: a loveless, bloodless coupling created out of duty, between a man and a woman who find passionate love across the genders to make about as much sense as passionate love across species. That's why I found Mark Sanford's affair so amusing, because it appears that it was the first time that it occurred to him that a woman could be intellectually stimulating and appealing as a full person, something more than someone to run his house, bear his children, and stand by him to reassure voters of his all-American masculine bona fides . There are no feminist heroes in this situation, but a little feminist gloating seems appropriate.

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The One National Holiday Republicans Hope You Forget

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.

Doublex

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

Politico Wonders Why Gabby Giffords Is So “Ruthless” on Gun Control

Behold
Sept. 23 2014 4:45 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 23 2014 6:40 PM Coalition of the Presentable Don’t believe the official version. Meet America’s real allies in the fight against ISIS.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Outward
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would a Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 8:38 PM “No One in This World” Is One of Kutiman’s Best, Most Impressive Songs
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 23 2014 4:33 PM Who Deserves Those 4 Inches of Airplane Seat Space? An investigation into the economics of reclining.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 23 2014 7:27 PM You’re Fired, Roger Goodell If the commissioner gets the ax, the NFL would still need a better justice system. What would that look like?