Remember the way it use to be? Shamed politician stands at podium, admitting affair, acknowledging homosexuality, while his disgraced wife stands loyally by his side. Anyone who didn’t know what the word humiliation really meant needed only to see pictures of Eliot Spitzer’s wife standing by her husband’s side as he confessed his involvement with a prostitution ring last year. A little piece of that woman died with each word her husband uttered.
Is it not ironic that the wife of a politician plays such a huge role in making her husband’s public image a moral one? But if he does anything to damage how people perceive him, does he take his wife down, too? Eliot Spitzer made his wife the pity of the world, a sorry and tragic character. It was painful just to watch that press conference.
But Spitzer’s wife was not the one paying to traffick prostitutes across state lines. The wife of a politician must always put protecting her husband’s image over everything else. But no one is giving her that same security.
Well that is no longer the case. Today’s politician’s wives are no longer playing the part of victim in their husband’s charades. If anything, wives are ‘outing’ their husbands before even they get the chance to, sparing themselves of the looming humiliation by exposing their husbands for who they really are. They are providing themselves with security and protecting their own futures.
Look at Veronica Lario, Silvio Berlusconi’s wife. Earlier this year, she bluntly announced to the press that she could no longer put up with her husband’s “infatuation with young women,” and wanted a divorce. Berlusconi, Italy’s current Prime Minister and one of the richest men in the world, is now entangled in a sex scandal with a cocaine dealing businessman accused of supplying Berlusconi with girls at his private residences in Rome and Sardegna.
Many Italian women credit Lario with igniting a new “feminist” fervor in Italy where women are culturally encouraged to guard their men and their family’s honor. No public hanging of dirty, private family matters, per favore. But Veronica Lario opted for telling the world what being married to Silvio Berlusconi was really like- and the $65 million a year in alimony she is currently seeking.
Women have had enough of society’s rules which allow and condone men to be promiscuous while they are supposed to act oblivious to their husband’s cavorting. Women are forced to be responsible for men, especially men who are public figures. The most important role a politician’s wife plays is that of loving, fiercely loyal spouse, and it is a role that has to be played very convincingly. After all, if the wife has seemingly forgiven her husband, the public will eventually follow her lead, right?
But while Lario is getting her revenge on Berlusconi financially, the political wife who is really coming into her own is Jenny Sanford.
When it came to light that South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford was actually having an affair with an Argentinean woman in Buenos Aires, and not hiking in the Appalachian Mountains, his wife Jenny Sanford opted out of standing by him at the press conference.
Now it turns out that Mark Sanford has run up 37 counts of ethic charges for his “improper use of campaign contributions,” and “unreported use” of friends’ private planes. He even openly referred to the other woman, Maria Belen Chapur, as his soul mate.
Jenny Sanford, a Georgetown University graduate and former investment banker, is having none of this. As her husband’s political future falls to pieces, his wife is building a brand.
I recently read this article in the New York Times that says Jenny Sanford is writing a book (of course!) on her experience dealing with her husband’s infidelity. She also trademarked her name to sell clothing and other merchandise. Sanford even has her own website with press releases and pictures. To top it all off, Jenny Sanford endorsed State Representative Nikki Haley to succeed her husband as South Carolina’s Governor. The NY Times labels Mrs. Sanford as, “the reluctant poster woman for not standing by her man.”
More like poster woman for not standing by her man and coming into her own! Jenny Sanford is becoming Jenny Sanford INC. Sources cited in the article say that Sanford “has moved from promoting him [Mark Sanford] as a loyal spouse to using those same talents on behalf of herself.”
What would Jackie Kennedy have said?
Who cares? It is about time women stop doing their politician husbands the favor of abetting them in their illicit affairs, covering up their homosexuality, etc. What we learn from women like Veronica Lario and in particular Jenny Sanford is that you do not have to pay the price for your husband destroying his political ambitions. Politician’s wives have already sacrificed enough dignity by pretending to play dumb in the first place, for even a second let alone years.
Women like Sanford show us what it means to be a political wife in this day and age. More importantly, they remind us to be our own person when playing the “committed till death” role of wife comes to a close. They remind us that when your husband ruins his career, instead of falling with him, build your own empire instead.
That is the best revenge.
*This post of mine was also published on The Huffington Post.