Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Separate but Not Equal

by Karen D. Swim

Yesterday in Michigan, the Wayne County prosecutor, Kym Worthy filed charges against current mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick and his former chief of staff, Christine Beatty. As I watched the prosecutor deliver the news via live press conference, I was struck by her steely eyed determination to keep the focus on the process of Law.

Her rousing delivery took a stand for the freedom of the press (hooray!), truth, accountability and the justice system. Kym Worthy never wavered from doing the right thing. Amidst public and I’m sure private pressure to make a decision, she and her staff plowed through thousands of documents and took 59 days to thoroughly investigate prior to deciding to move forward with charges.

All of this is of course troubling but the gender issues are equally troubling to me. Beatty, a childhood friend of the mayor resigned as Chief of Staff soon after her affair with the mayor (and the steamy text messages) went public. The mayor referred to her only once and not by name, but as “the former Chief of Staff.” Sound familiar?

Beatty was married at the time of her torrid affair with the mayor and like the mayor she has children. We have been repeatedly asked to have sympathy for his wife and children while no one has offered he same for Beatty’s family. The mayor’s attorneys argue that he should not resign until he is proven guilty in a court of law. Beatty apparently did not deserve the same treatment.

Beatty had an affair with her boss. Yet in an eerie parallel to the Monica Lewinsky case, she is vilified while he is free to continue his job. To date, Lewinsky has not been able to shake her infamy. Does the same fate await Beatty?

Interestingly enough if you are not a woman in power, your role in a scandal is viewed quite differently. The woman at the center of the Eliot Spitzer case, Ashley Dupree aka "Kristen" is gaining her fifteen minutes of fame. The aspiring singer has had her song , What We Want downloaded about 400,000 times for $0.98 each. She has also received offers to pose for Hustler and Penthouse. I suppose if you are a prostitute, a scandal helps rather than hurts your career?

However, being in a sex trade is not an advantage if you are the victim of foul play. Exotic dancer, Tamara Greene was gunned down in Detroit. Greene was at the center of a scandal with the Mayor of Detroit, and 5 years ago was shot to death. Police officers that tried to solve her murder were reassigned or ousted from the force. To date, her murder remains unsolved. Apparently, the flowing robes of justice did not apply to Miss Greene.

I do not blame these inequities on men. We all share in the responsibility to acknowledge the problem and do something about it. Women too are guilty of judging their own gender by a different standard. Isn’t it time to put an end to these double standards?

Image taken from wxyz.com, read full story here


Valerie Gonyea said...

Hi Karen,

You are so right about this and particularly your last point about women being our own worst enemies. It's like somehow we (women) have been brainwashed on a subcutaneous level to go along with the archaic judgments you describe. The funny thing is that if you were to ask a woman if a particular person involved in a scandal should be held to a different standard then her male counterpart, the intellectual brain would say "of course not!".

I believe that these experiences provide an opportunity for personal transformation. I have always felt compassion for Monica Lewinski. I shudder when I think about what her life has been like as she has walked through this world. I suspect (hope?) that she has become extraordinarily strong and a woman with a few things to say from which we could all learn. I also suspect that she is now surrounded by a wonderful network of truly supportive people who see her for who she is and not the events that occurred in the White House.

Probably one of the most successful stories I can think of is Vanessa White. The young, newly-crowned Miss America who was photographed with another women and it became a huge scandal in the 80s (or was it the 70s?). Now look at her today, a strong, intelligent actor/singer who has overcome it all. I suspect that Christine Beatty will come out of this experience knowing EXACTLY who her friends are and she can begin to rebuild her life on that, far firmer, foundation. I wish her the very best. Thanks for writing about this.

Words For Hire said...

@ Valerie, great points. Vanessa Williams is a shining example of someone who not only overcame a scandal but truly triumphed in the end. Sadly, Monica Lewinsky according to recent reports has not been able to shake the Clinton legacy. No one will hire her in spite of advanced degrees and a move out of the US. When women like you and I are talking about these issues I have to believe that things will change. Thanks for your insight Valerie!


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