There was a book written years ago called, Swept Away Why Women Fear Their Own Sexuality, by Carol Cassell. The premise was simple: women fear their own sexuality because they do not want to be perceived as sluts. Today, the question seems obsolete in a world where women so readily reveal their sexuality. When did it become okay for our daughters and granddaughters to dress like whores? Two-piece bikinis and high-heel shoes are trampling even the innocence of infancy. However, if we replace sexuality with the word – power – the premise doesn't seem so ludicrous.
Power seems to be the two-edged sword women are compelled to wield. Sometimes, it's a balancing act between not being afraid to go after what you want and not wanting to appear as a bitch. There are edicts given to powerful women while the same attributes applied to a man paint him as nothing short of Superman. Power is a dance we all do everyday. Whenever we decide to push through or hold back or make an unfavorable decision and stand by it, we're dancing with our power. We're telling the world who we are and who we want to be. If we're lucky power has become synonymous with our truth and authenticity, making it impossible for us to live any other way. If not, we'll make concessions, barter or bargain, all in an attempt to manipulate the little parts of ourselves we don't own.
For weeks I've listened as the media describes Maria Shriver as the victim of her husband's infidelity. One tabloid even went so far as to publish a picture of Maria at a poolside location with a headline that read something like, "Look what Arnold's done to her!" Why not just declare the woman an accomplice to Arnold's betrayal and infidelity. Instead, we call our selves rallying behind her by depicting her as a poor causality of Arnold's bad choices. It's easier to negate her power by seeing his drama as something done to her rather as something she's been challenged by and working through.
If she's powerful and has been paying attention, she knows what's best for her and her family. I'm not disputing her pain. I simply believe she’s tough enough to learn her lessons and come through the other side more powerful than before. The power and strength Maria displayed by her gracious gesture toward the other woman came from a position of power, not weakness. If we continue to demonize the male in these situations, we lose our power as well as our ability to control our lives.
We are our choices and, therefore, the consequences of those choices. We can't pretend that we are unconscious when someone chooses to violate our trust and integrity. No matter how humiliating it is, we often recognize when something's not quite right and when it requires our attention. In those situations, when we stand by and for ourselves, we become even more powerful.
The news loop continues to shadow Congressman Weiner; naturally, his wife is yet another causality of a man behaving badly. It's not new. Women have been treading in these waters for centuries. In that time, don't you think we've learned more than we'd like to know about men, their fragilities and egos? There haven’t been any extensive interviews with Huma Abedin talking about her marriage or plans for the future. Huma has not declared anything to America other than what she wants to disclose. There are no tears coming from Ms. Weiner even as her husband struggles to hold back his. She did not appear by his side looking deflated and beaten. My guess, that's not who she is.
I doubt you'll find her condemning the man in public because she appears to be a powerful woman not about to be taken down by the antics of an insecure husband. Her demeanor seems as composed as it's always been. Her situation, no matter how difficult it is, is something she'll have to work out with her husband. I'm thankful she's spared the world the distasteful details. The power both Huma and Maria have displayed is not a surprise to women who recognize it within themselves.
Those of us lucky enough to have been raised by powerful women understand that strength, sometimes, requires both character and the willingness to overcome your fears. If we're faithful we're able to impart power to others. As the media tries their best to characterize Maria Shriver and Huma Adedin, let's be grateful we're able to recognize the power demonstrated by these two women. They're wise enough to know the difference between standing beside your man and knowing when it's best for him to stand on his own.
Cynthia Johnson is a writer and free-lance television producer in Massachusetts.