The endless slut-shaming of Weiner's women

Anthony Weiner may be enjoying a second act, but the women he messaged are still being punished

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Published June 25, 2013 3:02PM (EDT)

Anthony Weiner     (AP/Seth Wenig)
Anthony Weiner (AP/Seth Wenig)

The guardians of morality have a lengthy and remarkably selective memory. And what has long been excused in a man can be an enduring badge of shame for a woman. It's been two years since Anthony Weiner's penis went viral and his career took an abrupt detour in light of revelations regarding his explicit online communications with at least six women. His resignation from Congress prompted a gold mine of tabloid headlines and a deluge of moral outrage from the punditsphere, all of which briefly kicked up again when he last month announced his intention to run for mayor of New York City. Yet despite the jokey New York Post headlines and the muttering accusations of sleaziness that he will always bear, Weiner is doing pretty well today. He still has his wife and the son she bore him just months after the scandal broke. He has a viable political career. But as a New York Times story this week has revealed, the women who were on the receiving end of Weiner's attentions have fared differently.

As Michael Barbaro writes, blackjack dealer Lisa Weiss, who two years ago gave Radar her innuendo-laden exchanges with Weiner, says that casino customers taunt her with dirty talk, colleagues shun her, and strangers send her angry emails. "I cannot tell you the devastation," she says. "I obsess about it, every day ... I thought I could control it." Former adult star Ginger Lee, meanwhile, says, "Every new headline and news story about him reminds reporters and bloggers that we exist, and the cycle starts all over." "There will be a new flare-up of jokes, inaccurate statements and hurtful remarks," she adds. Former teacher and fitness instructor Traci Nobles says she was forced to quit her job after her involvement with Weiner became public. And Gennette Cordova, the college student who received that notorious, unsolicited bulge photograph, has had reporters show up, "unannounced, at her office, asking her about Mr. Weiner."

The Times story is a vivid example of what happens when a woman is dragged into the spotlight because of a prominent man. Some of the women Weiner corresponded with say their online relationship was consensual. Cordova has maintained Weiner's overture to her was an "unwanted advance." Yet none of the women broke the law or broke a marriage vow -- none did anything, in short, that makes their behavior worthy of enduring harassment or shunning. Yet even in the Times comments, among the readers sympathetic to the notion that "the double standard is alive and well," you'll find plenty of vitriol for those "too sensitive" women who were "equally stupid" as Weiner, women who need to accept that "You play, you pay," and that "No one on either side is a victim here, except of their own lack of self control."

And if ever falling prey to a lack of self-control were a capital offense, there'd be very few people left to carry on the human race. What is chilling about the Times piece on the women who found themselves in Weiner's orbit is that it reveals a seemingly bottomless public appetite for shame. It suggests that we live in a country chock-full of self-appointed judges, who eagerly seize upon what they perceive as their permission to be bullies. And that it just never ends. In a statement Tuesday, Anthony Weiner said, "I have deep regret for the women’s lives who were turned upside down by their unwitting involvement in all of this. One of the reasons I had been so reluctant to speak about them is that they're entitled to their privacy and I want to reiterate that sense of apology, and I’ve never talked about the private exchanges that we’ve had and I never will, because I think that they’ve already been put through enough." But while Weiner may be through discussing them as he strives toward his political goals, it's clear the women he's left behind are still being punished, every day.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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