It should come as no great surprise at this point that sexual indiscretions are a hot-button issue in U.S. politics. From the bizarre to the obscene, we've been inundated with modern-day examples of the age old political sex scandal. And while many Americans continue to relish in every new opportunity for a good Weiner joke, the rest are left wondering: What does this say about us? Is there something to be said for the fact that a John and a Weiner are the best we can come up with here in New York City? Not to mention the fact that we seem more interested in men behaving badly than what they actually bring to public office.
In yet another example of politicians behaving badly, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner is set to resign as a result of a scandal in which he allegedly sexually harassed more than a dozen women, including a former aide. And now, the twist! Filner was not the only one in hot water amid these allegations. While scrutiny over Filner's next move soared over the weekend, the mayor was nowhere to be found. And neither was his press secretary Lena Lewis. That's because she was in Las Vegas drinking out of a penis straw.
Ms. Lewis's behavior is far from shocking. Anyone who has been to a bachelorette party, seen one in passing, or watched an episode of the Real Housewives of Anywhere, knows that the bride-to-be sipping on something shaped like a penis is just the beginning. The question at hand was not whether Lewis was doing something scandalous (she absolutely was not). It's whether or not it was in poor taste considering her boss's current situation, and if what she does on her own time is any of our business in the first place.
The unfortunate fact is that as a public figure, regardless of her intentions, Lewis's behavior is held to a higher standard than the average individual. And as a woman in such a position, her behavior apparently signaled an indifference to the serious issue of sexual harassment playing out in a very public forum. What is unfortunate about this is not the fact that women in public view everywhere are going to have to think twice before picking up the penis straw (in fact, an overall decrease in genital-shaped party favors would probably be for the best) it's the fact that women everywhere are judged not only on their own behavior, but are held accountable for the mistakes of their male colleagues and superiors.
Lewis's penis straw was not the story. It is not even a story. It is, however a reminder of what it means to be a public figure, and moreover what it means to be a woman. While the penis straw was in poor taste, we are putting women's privacy and dignity in peril when we chose to indict them for a man's unrelated mistakes. Just as Huma Abedin should not bear the scrutiny of her husband's mistakes, no woman should be judged for what her boss does behind closed doors. It sets a bad precedent and a dangerous one at that.