Over the years, as a parade of powerful male figures (mostly politicians),have been caught with women who were usually younger and always less powerful than they, the question has often been raised: Why don’t women gamble their political and personal futures like this? Is it because powerful women don’t cheat? Or is it just that they don’t get caught? Is it because the May-December equation sizzles only when he’s December? Or because there are not yet enough women out there yet with real clout?
At first blush, it almost feels appropriate to cheer. In this moment when the culture seems to be flirting with a change in the balance of power between the sexes. Yet any attempt to paint these similarities as a perverse sort of victory — women are every bit as unfaithful and hypocritical as men! — quickly runs up against the more important differences. There is much stricter standards, more rigid labels and stereotyped judgments we apply to women.
It is a familiar tendency, reducing women to archetypes with little room for gray. Harlot or heroine. Pushover or pushy. We take a binary view of most stories of sex and power, whether the woman is the villain or the victim.
We accept complexity in male leaders far more readily than we accept it in women — perhaps because we have fewer examples to draw from.