The ‘opt-out’ Generation

You’ve undoubtably heard about the resignation of NY governer Eliot Spitzer by now.   Elected official pays high end prostitute for ‘time’, gets caught, official resigns, wife stays by his side.

Every time a scandal like this breaks, I think ‘WHY IS SHE STAYING WITH HIM?!’  Why, as a culture, do we admire the stoicism of political wives who’s husbands have acted like damned fools?  If the tables were turned and she cheated on him in any capacity (prostitutes or otherwise), would they have had a nasty bitter divorce or would they have stayed together? 

Slate has some interesting commentary on how women at the top of their game (and the top of their class at Harvard Law School) turn into high society stay-at-home moms dependent on their husbands.  Check it out:

What happened? Like all revolutionaries, the opt-out revolutionaries often wind up bleeding on the barricades. Sure, all marriages don’t end in the arms of an international prostitution ring. Indeed, in the Spitzers’ social class, the divorce rate is far from the 50 percent we so often read about. However, the rate of divorce, prostitution, online pornography, and the rest isn’t negligible, either. And even if the marriage does not break up, women’s decisions to make their social position completely dependent on the ambition, discipline, judgment, and steadiness of another human being is not only an act of extreme self-abnegation, it risks the very dramatic fall we have just witnessed in the Spitzer matter. Does anyone think that even as well-heeled a divorcée as Mrs. Spitzer would be the same force in philanthropic Upper East Side circles as the governor’s wife?


~ by fluvial on March 13, 2008.

10 Responses to “The ‘opt-out’ Generation”

  1. Here’s an odd thought that I will probably say badly – so please bear with me:

    If Mrs. Spitzer is married to her husband and planning on continuing to be married to him primarily for social position and presumedley wealth, how different is she from “Kristen?” It sounds like a similar exchange to me.

    These do not seem to me to be marriage made in heaven, but rather ones made in boardrooms and the back rooms at society events.

  2. I completely agree with you. What both women have in common is ‘disempowerment’.

    I have so many thoughts about the causes and blame for things like this but it’d likely turn into a rant and I’m not sure I want to go there. 🙂

    This kind of thing just makes me so sad/angry because at the end of the day, the men are rallied behind while women are left to weather the scandal alone. (not always but that’s the way it seems at least)

  3. Ahh, but how much social power does Mrs. Spitzer gain by sticking with her whore chasing husband? How much would she loose as the divorcée of the same?

    She already had the money, but being half of a “Power Couple” gave her other benefits that money alone can’t buy. I wonder what her motive actually are…

  4. For sure. There’s definitely more status in being the wealthy WIFE in a power couple than being just as wealthy as a divorcee. Sad but true.

  5. I’m really struggling with this article Fluvial. I see the feminist view point of the article you are referring to; which to me really turns into a classist anti family rant. (not your post)

    I’m familiar with the Feminist movement. I was a serious student of it. To the point that I nearly had a degree in it (alas, I was on the verge of being a professional student and needed to graduate). 🙂

    Here’s my rub. I feel that this article of “Opting Out” is really an attack on all women who want a family. As I got older and established myself in corporate America, I began to see the social injustices of women in the workforce first hand yes. But, in Feminism I feel there isn’t any room for motherhood. The mantra for Feminism is to gain equal pay, opportunity and success. This is at the expense of motherhood. You can’t be a mother and a mogul both full time. At least to young children anyway and that is where the “Opting Out” comes in.

    Feminism sees motherhood as “selling out”. Why would you want to be just a mom?! In the past women didn’t have a choice to have a career. Now many have that opportunity to go to school, have a career and then they want more.

    Women want to do the right thing and take care of their family. To take full responsibility it means that you have to stay home for awhile and raise your kids. Then when you want to come back into the workforce people say well what have you been doing all this time? You’re just a mom. If only all the crap that moms have to deal with was recognized just a little.

    I saw a woman older than me require medication to control her anxiety because she could not be both a full time working woman and a mother to young children. It was very sad.

    I found that in the industry that I was working in, it was all or nothing. The company comes first and the family a distant second.

    It’s disheartening to see that the prostitute is pitied, but the wife who adhered to her commitments and responsibilities is attacked. To deem her responsible actions to her family as martyrdom is irresponsible. I don’t agree with what her husband did. Marriage and family is about a covenant and commitment. Her husband defied both. His own hedonism, narcissism and hunger for power has put him where he is.

    But why she stood at that podium with him is a really complicated matter. She’s a smart cookie and to suggest that she’s only in it for social status is just stupid and another way to attack the victim.

    The prostitute is engaging in illegal activity and subjugating herself for money. Instead of pity, she needs someone to love her and teach her that money will not make her happy. I understand that she was also pursuing a career in acting and music. Now I don’t believe all actors and musicians are like this, but I see it all the time on reality shows that girls from rough backgrounds try to get famous because they think that will make them happy and feel loved. The old problems will only follow her.

    Fluvial, I respect your opinion and appreciate your motives to fire up women to stand up for themselves. I hope that you can understand where I am coming from too. 😀

  6. Fashion Sensei,

    Can you describe another plausible motive for her not remonstrating her husband publically and shortly thereafter leaving him and taking the kids with her?

    It seems strange that while less “well pedigreed” would break up over this, the “Power Couples” of the world seem not to. Instead the wives parlay the situation into wealth, power or social status.

    What message does that send to their daughters?

    That Mrs. Spitzer is the worst wronged victim in this sordid fiasco is without doubt. Yet I believe that it is not “attacking the victim” to question why she did not do what would be expected by society. It does no one any favors to look away as a victim goes back for more.

  7. Ack! This is getting intense. I probably should not have posted this because I wanted this blog to be mostly fun and nerdy stuff. Fashion Sensei…I think I wrote this entry in haste and if you can believe it, I think we’re coming from the same place.

    Here’s my take on feminism: I think women in my mother’s generation shattered gender walls and changed the world to give their daughters choices. The choice to work, the choice to stay home with children, the choice to do both. What drives me nuts is women attacking other women for choices they’ve made. I would never ever attack a woman or think less of her because she chose to stay home and raise a family. In my own life, I’m structuring my career so that in 5, 10 however many years, if I can stay home with my kids, I will have the freedom to do that.

    What I was trying to get at in my post is our culture in general. Why is Mrs. Spitzer EXPECTED to stay with her philandering husband and admired for doing so? Why is her status elevated for staying with someone who broke vows than if she went off on her own? (Mary Tyler Moore theme song is running through my head)

    As far as feeling sorry for the prostitute, you’re totally right in that she was participating in an illegal act and therefore it’s hard to feel sorry for her. I’m looking a bit deeper than that though. What drove her to choose that life? My guess is that she had a horrible childhood and was raised on the margins of society. That being said, none of us have had a perfect childhood and we make it ok so yeah, nothing was stopping her from choosing a better path and she chose wrong.

    So, in short, I did not mean to attack Mrs. Spitzer. Shoot, the woman was top of her class at Harvard Law School so she clearly knows a thing or two.

    Does that clear things up? I totally value your opinions Fashion Sensei so I hope I haven’t offended you forever! 🙂

  8. Fluvial, you’re so sweet. I was in no way offended. I really welcome the discourse and I also really respect what jonolan is saying as well.

    I agree with you in that I know of no other profession where a woman would literally “stand by her man” while he made such a declaration. It really sort of blows my mind. I hate that she has to stand up there and be humiliated again. My only guess as to why she did it was because of the whirlwind of circumstances. I think word came out and within hours he was holding a press conference to step down.

    I’m not sure that she is expected to stand by him at least now anyway. There have been several comments on TV stating that she has been standing by him “at least for now”.

    Jonolan, I know so many woman who are in a lower class than Mrs. Spitzer who stay for some of the craziest reasons. So I do not think that she is staying to maintain her perceived social class. She has been married for many years and I think she is in shock. It’s hard to stop loving someone so quickly. This is by no means an apology to her husband. As I mentioned earlier I think that he is rotten.

    Fluvial I’m glad that you wrote this and I appreciate our discourse. 😀

    Have a great weekend ladies!

  9. You may have a telling point there, Fashion Sensei. It’s easy – for me at least – to forget what a rapidly progressing catastrophe this has been. She probably didn’t have enough time to process the situation, much less her emotions, when she stood up next to that podium.

  10. Jonolan, I just noticed that they comment I wrote last week didn’t make it up. That may have had something to do with the fact that I went to your blog and became engrossed with it, that I forgot I was cooking and my food started burning. 😀

    Anyway, I enjoyed this thread and the stimulating opinions.

    Have a great day!

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