Back in the day, the budding feminist movement of the 60s had a slogan: “the personal is political.” What did it mean?
When women experienced inequality or violence against them, it was often in what was thought of as the personal world. If a woman was physically abused by her husband, that was a family matter (personal). Women were discriminated against in the workplace because they might get married (personal) and pregnant (personal), and they couldn’t be counted on to stay in a job.
Pregnant, single women hid from society because that was a personal tragedy, and in order not to be “ruined,” that is still eligible to be married, a woman was expected to hide this at all costs. In fact, the Florence Crittenton Homes for Unwed Mothers first started because a woman swallowed ground up glass when she found herself pregnant and unmarried.
Sex was personal; therefore, rape was personal. So were relationships between husband and wife. A husband was owed sex by virtue of being married. And no self-respecting woman got raped. That only happened to women who were out at the wrong time or dressed the wrong way. They were asking for it. We just didn’t talk about personal issues in public.
The feminist movement made the claim that if a majority of a group were all affected by similar circumstances, then that was a political situation. The definition of “political” was broadened to include social hierarchies, social situations in which one group held power over another. So, women’s problems weren’t personal anymore if a majority of women were affected by them. They were political. These issues needed to be discussed and social policies and institutions created to deal with them.
But now in 2011, this situation has gotten out of hand. Nothing seems to be personal anymore. It’s time to have some things be personal again.
Like Anthony Weiner’s photographs. By no stretch of the imagination is his wife Huma Abedin helpless or being oppressed by her husband. She is completely empowered to take care of herself, her situation and her baby with or without her husband as she sees fit. As for the women Anthony tweeted, they are empowered to take care of themselves as well. They are consenting adults. They can enjoy their little thrill or seek therapy for being shocked—whatever is appropriate to their experience.
Anthony Weiner is one of the only representatives who will stand up to Republicans. That is why this has even been brought to our attention. Other politicians have done worse and stayed—most of them Republicans. Except, of course, for Winston Churchill, who was wild in his private life. So, let’s stop gossiping about Weiner and be titillated by his pictures in private. Let him do his job in public—and he does a damn fine job!