It's interesting watching the media's reaction to Jenny Sanford. I think a lot of us are tired of seeing politicians, like Sanford, embarrass their families, and yet seemingly not lose them. (Don't take that the wrong way--it's an emotional impulse, not a judgment of fact.) Hence Jenny Sanford's invocation of respect is being hailed as a breath of fresh air. There's also the fact the she was very talented in her own right, but put much of her energy into her husband's career and her family. Here's Willa Paskin over at Double X:
Now, it's not that this set of characteristics doesn't have a certain appeal (and, not to cast too many partisan stones, a particularly Republican one at that), but in light of last week's events, they also have a stark downside. Because she did the thinking and the babies, now she's a very tough, very smart woman with a killer oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe who is best known, personally and professionally, for having a husband who likes to "spark" on women other than her. Turns out doing it all amounted to doing everything for everyone but herself. And that may be admirable, but, in light of her husband's behavior and Mrs. Sanford's seemingly real and impressive talents, it's some seriously misdirected energy.
I wonder about this. I think to buy into the idea that Jenny Sanford's energy was "misdirected," you have to believe she'd spent her years selflessly slaving on behalf of her family. I guess that would be an apt description, but people are complicated--and altruism almost always is. I'm a nice guy. But I've never done anything kind, for anyone, that I didn't get anything out of. Usually, it's just piece of mind, but it's still something.
My question is why would a woman so willingly throw herself into her husband's life work? There must have been some sort of light there, something that she got out of it. I don't say that to be caustic, or mean. But the narrative of put-upon housewife always leaves me unsatisfied, because while it says a lot about the husband, his proclivities, and his selfishness, it really says nothing about the wife. Who is she? Why would she enter into such an arrangement? What is the trade-off? Where is her agency in it all?
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