Madam President Doesn't Tweet Naked Photos

When I was ten, my best friend’s mom was the smartest woman I knew. She was a 4’9” spitfire from New York City who wore a great deal of black along with a sophisticated perfume never before sniffed in my staid DC hometown. As a young woman, she’d been one of the early Peace Corps volunteers in Africa, and then written a best-selling memoir about the experience. A decade before I knew her, she had been suddenly widowed with two kids under two. She’d dusted herself off, put her grief aside to focus on her children, and eventually rebuilt her professional life as a speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter’s wife. She used to take me and her daughter to the White House, where we played Spades in the East Wing hallway while she and Rosalind pontificated behind closed doors.

 

So I listened carefully the day she explained why a woman could never be the President of the United States. She looked me square in the face, put her hand on my forearm, and delivered the devastating news with confidence that communicated, “Even though you are ten, you are mature enough to handle this awful reality.” She told me women could not be trusted with the stress and responsibility of international leadership because of how emotional and unglued we get during “that time of the month.”

 

Now I laugh about the memory. I understand she was just echoing the pervasive, sexist wisdom of early 1970s America. I am certain even she came to realize what hogwash it was.

 

But through my tender preteen years, my idol’s words stuck with me. Her logic struck me as illogical. I didn’t know the word “sexism” yet, but I intuitively understood its destructive power.

 

I wish she hadn’t died five years ago, because I’d love to hear her take on Congressman Anthony Weiner, Arnold Schwarzenneger, DSK and other male politicians tripped up by their sexual egos and today’s unblinking media coverage. She’d probably say something as smart and funny as Leslie Bennetts’ recently did in her Daily Beast evisceration “Politics and The Penis”:

 

“Popular culture has always insisted that women couldn’t be trusted in positions of power because their judgment might be addled by raging hormones. Oh, really? We’re the ones who can’t think straight because of sex hormones?”

 

Bennetts - a longtime Vanity Fair smartypants - goes onto explain:

 

“There are so many men whose names have been rendered punchlines by outrageous sex scandals that it’s hard to remember them all, from Clinton to Ensign, Sanford, Hart, Schwarznegger, Spitzer, Craig, McGreevey, Strauss-Kahn, Berlusconi, Weiner -- the list goes on and on. Now try to think of women officials brought down by sexual derangement. But don’t hold your breath; you might expire before you came up with one.