The Weiner Saga: Fighting Loss of Privacy With More Loss of Privacy
This post originally appeared at RH Reality Check.
Confession: I'm sort of a prude. I think fidelity is a pretty big deal in my marriage, and would go off the deep end if I found out my husband was having flirtatious chats with other women, especially ones that involved pictures.
I also recognize that people's private lives are private for a reason, and none of my business. How I feel about my marriage has no bearing on what other's do in theirs. Something I may find unforgivable is something that another couple may just see as an issue that needs to be worked through, or maybe no issue at all. So be it -- I'm not them, and I am in no place to judge.
These days, frankly, I don't find myself shocked when I hear that a politician is having an affair. The only reaction I have is, "Why is it so hard to keep them private?"
Politicians have been flirting, entering into physical relations, or paying people besides their spouses to engage in sexual behavior with them since the beginning of time. In the days of the monarchies it was a sign of strength and vigor to bed as many partners as you could. These relationships weren't covered up, they were reveled in as rulers showed their prowess to adoring (or not so adoring) subjects.
These days, no one expects that such things have disappeared, only that politicians be discrete. I'm reminded of a scene in "American President" where Martin Sheen tells Michael Douglas "Mr. President, this is an election year. If you're looking for female companionship, we can make certain arrangements that will ensure total privacy."
The Anthony Weiner scandal isn't a scandal because of what he did, as much as it is a scandal because he did it so poorly. Any 16-year-old kid can tell you that if you send a naughty photo of yourself, it's going to end up on the internet. Weiner forgot the number one rule when it comes to conducting an e-affair: There is no privacy in the digital age.
But it's not the lack of privacy for Weiner that has me angry. He should have expected exactly what fallout occurred, as exposure was completely inevitable.
No, the violation of privacy that has me so angry is that this media frenzy has lead to Weiner's wife and her new pregnancy being dragged into the spotlight, too.
Why did Huma Abedin being pregnant need to be splashed on every paper, tabloid and web page in the country? Was the news released to try and bring some sympathy to Weiner, or as an attempt to put up a barrier to help the story come to a conclusion? Was it meant to explain why they were staying married, so the press would stop badgering them with questions regarding the state of the relationship, or as a potential out in case Weiner does resign, with an "I need to focus on my family now" escape hatch? Was it leaked by friends or colleagues, either well-meaning or otherwise? By Weiner to try and save his career, or by Abedin herself?
Whatever the reason, be it intentional or not, this is the violation of privacy that offends me the most. A woman should never be forced to reveal a pregnancy before she herself wants to tell the world. Especially early on, when the risks of loss are still so high.
There's a general rule of dealing with a pregnancy that every mother tries to adhere to: never tell anyone you are pregnant that you don't want to "untell" later if something happens. Friends, family, strangers -- no one has the right to more information than you are willingly ready to share.
That rule was violated when the story of her pregnancy first ran in the New York Times. Even if Weiner's wife was the one to allow friends to tell newspaper outlets, you can be sure that she had no intention of doing so if this scandal was not occurring.
Whether or not Weiner had his privacy violated when the pictures and emails were released doesn't matter much to me. Some will say that as the relationship involved two consenting adults, it's none of our business. Others will argue that since he lied, and he is a public figure, we had a right to know. Or still others, like me, will simply say, "Really, what did you expect?"
But by forcing Abedin to "confess" to a pregnancy she was not likely planning on discussing in public, at least, not this early, the media truly performed a disgraceful violation of privacy, and should be ashamed.