The Soapbox: On Anthony Weiner, Kate Middleton & Who Should Have The Right To Privacy
Yesterday was a big day: the Royal Baby! Carlos Danger! New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin publicly “forgiving” him for his latest sexting/Internet affair gaffe! While Kate and Wills were unveiling their new baby, Weiner was doing damage control and responding to claims that he’d been sexting and consorting with women online (under the moniker Carlos Danger) as recently as 2012. This was after Weiner was forced to resign from Congress in 2011 amid a sexting scandal. At a press conference on Tuesday, Weiner sounded almost annoyed, and certainly not particularly contrite about his most recent troubles.
“I said that other texts and photos were likely to come out, and today they have. As I have said in the past, these things that I did were wrong and hurtful to my wife and caused us to go through challenges in our marriage that extended past my resignation from Congress. While some things that have been posted today are true and some are not, there is no question that what I did was wrong. This behavior is behind me. I’ve apologized to Huma and am grateful that she has worked through these issues with me and for her forgiveness. I want to again say that I am very sorry to anyone who was on the receiving end of these messages and the disruption that this has caused. As my wife and I have said, we are focused on moving forward.”
Nevermind that what Weiner’s done in his private life reflects in a monumentally negative way on his ability to build and sustain public trust, Weiner and his fellow be-sex-scandaled New York politician Eliot Spitzer, both seem to think they deserve another go around. Former Governor Spitzer is now running for city comptroller, and argued in a recent campaign commercial, “Everyone, no matter who you are, deserves a fair shot. I’m asking voters to give the same for me.” In the above statement, Weiner, just like Spitzer, seems to be saying “our private lives are our private lives.” Of course, for both Spitzer and Weiner, privacy is gloriously selective: After all, Weiner opted to do a major spread in People magazine on how much of a “family man” he is. And in April, he and Huma appeared on the cover of The New York Times Magazine to discuss their textbook story of marital redemption (you can imagine how the Times feels duped in light of Weiner’s latest exploits). But! When it doesn’t suit him, Weiner wants us all to just shut up about his family and his private life. He seems to think he’s entitled to it.
But bodily privacy isn’t reserved for respected for everyone, especially women, and especially women who are in the public eye, like the Duchess of Cambridge, whose uterus has become public domain of late. Every move Kate’s made for the last several months has seemingly been a matter of global interest. And this past Monday, when she was escorted to the hospital to give birth to her first child, the interest was more amped up than ever. And now that she’s given birth — especially now that she’s given birth — Kate’s body and how it might weather the ravages of pregnancy, are the stuff of magazine covers:
The OK! cover follows the typical celeb-post-baby trope. “So when are you going to get your body back into acceptable shape, anyway?” It holds Kate — and by proxy — all women, to a ridiculous physical standard, one that reduces a woman’s body into performative beauty. Kate and other pregnant women are just baby vessels, after all. And it’s imperative that their vessels get back into tip-top shape, ASAP.
In the coverage of the birth of the royal baby, it’s become pretty clear that the public feels it should be granted an all-access pass to Kate Middleton’s nether regions or boobs. Kate’s body is in the public domain. What she does with it, who she births, whether or not she conducts her “post-baby weight loss” to an adequate degree, are unquestionably up for public debate. But politicians like Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer feel that what they do with their bodies should be forgotten. They feel entitled to claim their bodies for their own. Obviously Kate Middleton and Anthony Weiner are two very different kinds of public figures. Kate is known because of the family she married into, and I’d argue, she’s more entitled to privacy than someone like Anthony Weiner, who has sought out public recognition and glory. And yet, Kate’s body, what she’s done or not done with her hair, the status of her post-pregnancy baby bump, are all up for judgment.
For example, when CNN’s Facebook posted a photograph of the new baby, commenters there felt it was totally okay to have a go at Kate’s post-baby body, writing things like:
“Is she expecting twins? It’s like something still breathing in her belly.”
“Is she pregnant again?”
“Kate still looks pregnant. Is there a second baby?”
“Why she still look preggo?”
“Whose kid is he holding? It’s obvious that skank is still pregnant.”
People feel entitled to comment on her body, and as of yet, Kate hasn’t made a statement publicly asking for the world to chill the fuck out. Weiner, on the other hand, seems to think that he deserves all the privacy in the world. Witness his exasperated tone during Tuesday’s “Carlos Danger”-related press conference:
“I know this was a very public thing that we had happen to us, but by no means does it change the fundamentals of my feelings here, and that is that I want to bring my vision to the people of the city of New York. I hope they’re willing to still continue to give me a second chance, and I hope they realize that in many ways what happened today was something that, frankly, had happened before but it doesn’t represent all that much that is new.”
As you may have noticed, Weiner denies culpability: “This was a very public thing that we had happen to us,” he says, as if he played no part in the destruction of his credibility. As if he’s some kind of victim of the tenuous battle between public and private, when in reality, the Duchess of Cambridge and her uterus are far more sympathetic victims of media scrutiny.