Sympathy for the Wives of the Devilish

Poor Mrs. Weinstein, Mrs. Harvey Weinstein that is, estranged wife of the man who’s the King of the Hill atop a long list of sinners knocked off their thrones for having treated the females in their employ as slave owners once treated chattel on their plantations and lordlings once treated their serfs. Abuse, rape, harassment, and the death of careers were just part of the story, but Harvey’s wife, Georgina Chapman, is the one for whom Vogue would prefer you feel sorry. There she is, in the latest issue, alone in the world except for her beauty, her friends, her fabulous houses, her clothing line, and the huge divorce settlement she will be getting, if her husband has anything left.

Feel sorry, too, for Mrs. Anthony Weiner, née Huma Abedin, closest of aides to Hillary Clinton, who shares with Georgina the mortification of having been wed to a colossal embarrassment—hers had a habit of sexting over the Internet earned him almost two years in jail. Her own appearance in Vogue, in 2016, celebrated her as the glamorous aide to the plain but still fabulous Hillary Clinton, who once in the White House would bestow on Huma a fabulous job. But the White House—and job—would sadly elude her, and Vogue feels her pain. Editor Anna Wintour, Clinton fangirl and bundler, was packing her bags to become Madam Ambassador to the Court of St. James when Trump popped the bubble. So now they find themselves linked in a chain of misfortune—leaving them all feeling sorry indeed.

Raising money for Clinton was not the only index of Wintour’s ambition. In her magazine’s pages, she took care to showcase political women, always on the liberal side. Lots of feminist Democrats, no matter how boring and commonplace; no Republicans, not even the ones who were powerful, breakers of barriers, war veterans, or just good-looking. It’s as if Vogue, like the Democrats, wants to preserve the caricature of Republicans as older white men who want women barefoot and chained to the kitchen. Or perhaps it’s the old feminist line that women who don’t think the right way really aren’t “women” at all.

The tradition of feminists dissing their “sisters” is one that goes back years. Gloria Steinem called Republican women “female impersonators,” Madeleine Albright and Steinem assailed younger women for going with Bernie, and when Hillary lost, she and her friends assailed white women who voted against her. In Clinton’s world (and in Vogue’s) sympathy went to the numerous women who claimed that Trump groped them. None went to the women who said they were groped by Bill Clinton, who were slandered by Democrats of both sexes as trash. The two sets of standards used in the cases of women were also applied to the men. When Trump chased and groped women, he was rightly assailed as a lout and a lecher, but when Bill Clinton did the same things, he was a man of the world, a sophisticate, and a free spirit whose search for “connections” just showed his life force. When feminists pretended to chide him, they did so in ways that did him a favor, that sidestepped the worst parts of his bad behavior, and let him emerge almost unscathed.

What Vogue did in the cases of Weinstein and Clinton and Weiner was to skirt the criminal aspects of their transgressions and play up the pain of their wives. The story on Chapman in the latest issue could be modeled on the one on Hillary in 1998, when impeachment was raging, which countered her pain with a flattering photo shoot on the cover and pages of egregiously saccharine prose. This month’s issue has gorgeous shots of the wistful and stricken Georgina, a tear-jerking story, and an editor’s letter from Wintour about the unfairness and cruelty of life. The women come off as greatly mistreated. The men come off badly; Weinstein more so than Clinton, whose wife stayed with him.

But this sort of treatment actually does the men a favor, framing the problem in terms of the pain that their misdeeds brought to their wives. If you’re focused on feeling sorry for Hillary, you’re not thinking Bill Clinton molested the help, toyed with an intern, lied under oath, and may have been guilty of rape. If you focus on the grief he caused poor Georgina, you aren’t thinking that Harvey Weinstein’s charged with rape, a man who abused and threatened hundreds of women and destroyed the careers of many others. It saves the left from confronting the worst of their actions and from having to face a tough question: How could it be that these men so supportive of feminist policies turned out to be the most egregious abusers of all?

Cry if you want for Georgina (and Huma and Hillary) but remember: They will be fine. They have support, friends, and money; they will still be invited to all the best places; people will throw things their way. For their husbands’ victims, the damage was far worse, the scars were long lasting, and the network of friends far less powerful. “People think you’re beautiful, you’re thin, you’re rich, you’re photographed on the red carpet,” Abedin told Vogue, explaining why (outside of Vogue) she and her new friend Georgina Chapman were not seen as tragic victims. Sure enough, there was Huma in all the papers earlier this month, photographed at the Met Gala, in chandelier drop earrings and an off-the-shoulder gold gown. Next year, her friend will be back, and she too will be stunning. Weinstein’s real victims do not have those options. Vogue, if it really does care about women, could throw some attention their way.

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