Women and Double Standards (II)

By Deauwand Myers (Korea Times)

Man is evil… Man is a flower that should be burnt, … Man…is not a temple but an outhouse, I say aloud …Let man never again raise his eyes, …Never… I say those things aloud. I beg the Lord not to hear. – From “After Auschwitz,” by Anne Sexton.

There’s a compelling list of female rulers throughout human history. For example: Queen Amina of Nigeria, Cleopatra of Egypt, Empress Wu of China and Queen Elizabeth I.

More recently, we’ve seen the shortlist of female heads of state endure trials their male counterparts have rarely contended with.

Lawyer and former first lady of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, ended her two terms as president in scandal and political disarray. She was indicted twice, the second time on fraud and corruption charges involving huge public works projects contracted to her political allies, and for manipulating Argentina’s Central Bank to augment the peso’s value. Former male Argentinean presidents were known to do such things (and were rarely indicted).

South America’s largest country and economy, Brazil, recently impeached Dilma Rousseff, its first female president. The charge: Ms. Rousseff allegedly manipulated the federal budget in an effort to conceal the nation’s burgeoning economic troubles, obfuscating the problematic nature of Brazil’s fiscal health. Rousseff, and parties outside the government, assert that the kind of governmental accounting she’s been accused of orchestrating is de rigueur, practiced by preceding Brazilian presidential administrations.

(Tangentially, this kind of governmental accounting was quite often used by George W. Bush, the two-term failed Republican president of the United States, and President Obama’s predecessor. The annual federal budget never included the huge expenditures accrued in executing the disastrous and costly Iraq War, and the preceding Afghanistan War; instead, these massive costs were called “supplemental.” The total cost of the Iraq War alone ― a lost war of lies, and a war of choice _ will most likely cost the American taxpayers $6 trillion dollars or more ― that’s trillion, with a “t”).

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, defeated Democratic presidential candidate in the 2016 American presidential election, suffered from a lack of trust, as perceived by many in the voting population, even though, empirically, she told the truth more often than both her primary challenger and the Republican presidential nominee, the mercurial, breathtakingly ill-informed and exceedingly dishonest Donald Trump.

Most recently, of course, there’s the firestorm of controversy surrounding impeached President Park Geun-hye’s dealings with her shadowy, cultish best friend, Choi Soon-sil. South Korea has had a long, sad list of violent, venal and corrupt presidents, many of whom ostensibly served as dictators, ruling by military fiat, all the while lining their pockets and the pockets of their families and political patrons.

President Park’s behavior, if found to be true (and there’s a mounting pile of evidence suggesting as much), will prove to be one of the more bizarre political scandals in modern, advanced democracies. Instead of the usual graft, Park used her presidential power to financially benefit her confidant.

For decades, Choi, like her father (long since deceased) used pseudo-religion as a psychological and emotional balm to soothe Park Geun-hye’s young, traumatized mind, having experienced the unintended assassination of her mother, and later, her dictator/president father, Park Chung-hee.

Men do not have a monopoly on corruption, violence, political obfuscation or incompetence. Women are not universally paragons of virtue. Everyone should be equally reproached for misdeeds.

The problem is this: these women’s male counterparts weren’t scrutinized as much as they were for similar behaviors.

Worse, all too often the question is asked: “Will this scandal be the end of women as heads of state in country X?” The question has been asked of President Park in the Korean media.

This kind of generalizing of marginalized or underrepresented members of society goes on everywhere:

If a movie starring a female actor, or a non-white actor, fails to be successful, the question is similarly asked, “Will female/racial minorities star in future movies?”

Meanwhile, white male actors can make flop after flop (Kevin Costner), and the question is never asked, “Will white men star in future movies?”

The same is true in politics. After Clinton’s loss, will American women run again for president? Can there ever be another female head of state in Korea? Brazil? Argentina?

It seems the inexhaustible supply of goodwill and second chances is only afforded to men. Hoover, Nixon, and Bush II were abject failures. Yet, we will never ask if a man will run for American president again. The same for Korea. Male president after male president has performed terribly, yet Korean men will surely run and win future presidencies here.

This kind of lame, sexist hypocrisy ought to be called out for what it is: nonsense.

Deauwand Myers holds a master’s degree in English literature and literary theory, and is an English professor outside Seoul. He can be reached at deauwand@hotmail.com