june 16, 2011 by camille hayes
Well, it’s over. Congressman Crotch Shot is stepping down, giving way at last beneath the weight of the nation’s collective scolding. I haven’t yet been persuaded that his toolish behavior constituted a firing offense; he committed no crimes that we know of, it was mostly the media coverage that made it impossible for him to do his job. The press of course went for the easy kill, focusing on what was personally salacious rather than professionally relevant. And Americans, never ones to miss out on a public shaming, set upon Weiner like pack of self-righteous hyenas. Weiner should lose his seat, they argued, not because he was bad at his job, but because he was a bad man. Yikes! Tough audience.
But of all the-over-the-top moralizing that’s taken place in the wake of the penis Tweet, nothing irritated me more than the chorus of mostly female voices that piped up after news of his wife’s pregnancy broke. A pregnancy, they righteously announced, “changes everything.” Some who’d refrained from calling for his resignation on the grounds that Weinergate was mostly a personal problem, suddenly felt free to denounce him as unfit for office. As if dragging his wife’s uterus into it made the whole tawdry mess more appropriate for public discussion. What does the blue line on a pee stick have to do with Weiner’s service to his constituents in Queens? If Huma Abedin’s pregnancy is relevant at all, it’s as an extremely compelling reason for everyone to shut the hell up and not add to the couple’s burden by hounding the father-to-be into unemployment. Oh, oops. Too late, we already did that.
What really galled me about the “pregnancy changes everything” argument is how snugly it fits into our great cultural tradition of treating pregnant women as if they are somehow disabled. Are they bloated? Undoubtedly! Cranky, tired, even physically vulnerable, all of these things I concede. But pregnant women are not helpless, or unable to make rational choices on their own, and more to the point, it’s none of our damned business either way. Pregnancy is a physical condition, of interest first and foremost to the knocked-up woman in question. Isn’t that the constitutional foundation of reproductive choice, the right to privacy? Why would Abedin—who by all accounts is highly intelligent and capable—suddenly need the blogosphere to rush to her rescue just because she’s expecting? Sorry, lady commentators, but that is some seriously condescending bullshit right there.
Call me paranoid, but I’m a tad suspicious of anything that implies that getting pregnant somehow causes women to become public property, or of general public concern. To my mind, that thinking is of a piece with the line of reasoning that ends in sending pregnant drug addicts to jail for child abuse. So, careful what you wish for, Huma defenders: America would be all too happy to make your pregnancy its business—it’s just looking for an opening.