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Wed Nov 14, 2012, 02:23 PM

The David Petraeus affair: Why the media's coverage is sexist

Paula Broadwell has predictably been cast as a femme fatale, revealing enduring prejudices against women

POSTED ON NOVEMBER 14, 2012, AT 12:07 PM

Is Paula Broadwell an ambitious, intelligent, and hard-working mother of two who simply made a terrible mistake in having an affair with David Petraeus? Or is she a man-eating, family-busting, long-clawed temptress who brought down the finest military mind of his generation? Many say the media's coverage of the scandal surrounding Petraeus' resignation from the CIA has too often pushed the latter narrative, revealing deep strains of prejudice that have colored the public's perception of the still-unfolding controversy. And with the introduction of another woman, Jill Kelley, the media's portrayal of the episode has only devolved further into a Real Housewives-like burlesque of petty cat-fights and hysterics.

First of all, there's the notion that the affair is somehow Broadwell's fault. How could Petraeus resist? Broadwell with her "form-fitting" clothes, "tight skirts," and "toned arms" in other words, "a shameless self-promoting prom queen" and a "slut" to boot apparently "got her claws" into him. "The anecdotes and chatter that implicitly or explicitly wonder at the spidery wiles she must have used to throw the mighty man off his path are laughably ignorant of history," says Frank Bruni at The New York Times, "which suggests that mighty men are all too ready to tumble, loins first." And it's further evidence that women are "unfairly assigned the role of gatekeepers of sexual morality," says Alison Yarrow at The Daily Beast, "a designation that makes them easy to blame when men fall short."

Then came the idea that Broadwell used sex to climb the ladder. Her biography of Petraeus is titled All In, an inadvertent double entendre that "set the tone for Broadwell's introduction to the world," says Jessica Testa at BuzzFeed. (Indeed, a local ABC affiliate has gotten into trouble for mistakenly broadcasting an image plucked from the internet that had changed the title to All Up In My Snatch.) Broadwell was instantly cast as the "type who'd used a powerful man to get ahead, indifferent to those she'd hurt in the process," says Testa. She's been routinely described as an amateur journalist, unfit to write the biography of an American hero, the implication being she didn't get the job on merit. Never mind that she was her high school valedictorian, thrived at West Point, earned a master's degree from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and served as a military intelligence officer.

The media has, in general, also placed a predictable focus on what Broadwell and Kelley wear, like obsessing over the sleeveless dress Broadwell wore during an interview with Jon Stewart. And this is a typical example of the coverage dedicated to Kelley: "Say what you want about Jill Kelley, but home girl is really working this canary yellow sheath complete with little keyhole and skinny belt... Talk about dressing the part." The attention to their clothes reflects "how we cover our highest-ranked, most powerful women leaders," Jennifer Pozner, founder of Women in Media and News, tells The Daily Beast. "Of course that trickles down to how media cover any woman."



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Reply The David Petraeus affair: Why the media's coverage is sexist (Original post)
DonViejo Nov 2012 OP
frazzled Nov 2012 #1
Filibuster Harry Nov 2012 #2

Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Wed Nov 14, 2012, 02:39 PM

1. Both of them deserve criticism and censure

I (as a woman, and as a thinking person) do, however, think that a few things this article suggests are biased should not really be off limits.

(1) That she's not a particularly qualified journalist. She's not. She did not write her book (although Vernon Loeb is appears to be a co-writer on the cover, he has been described and I believe described himself as a ghost writer). Her interviews have not been particularly professional. Finally, a number of journalists (including Martha Radatz and other war correspondents), have long complained that Petraeus was extremely stingy with his time and had strict rules for keeping away from them and dealing with them. They are now saying that these rules did not apply to Ms. Broadwell, who was given access constantly. And they were not unaware of this.

(2) That she dressed provocatively. Forget the dress she wore on Jon Stewart. The dress she wore on Charlie Rose, to me, was entirely inappropriate: a shocking pink, off-the-shoulder sheath that was, to say the least, distracting. If a male author had come on in a skin-tight muscle shirt and bulging jeans, we'd be raising eyebrows, too.

Now, on to Petraeus. I think he's gotten the razz, too. And he's lost his job and his career is (appropriately) disgraced. He should have resigned of his own accord much earlier, when he first knew he was under investigation. I have never liked Petraeus's self-importance and crass self-promotion, especially the way he shows up with a kazillion medals on his chest all the time. It's inappropriate. He's a skank to have cheated on his wife. He's not all that. He's every bit as responsible as she is.

No respectable author has an affair with her subject. No respectable CIA director has an affair with ANYONE.

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Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Wed Nov 14, 2012, 02:46 PM

2. both are to blame

it takes 2 to tango they say. Both are to blame. Both put their careers and their families in jeopardy.
Regardless of how some journalists write this the story is a sad one. And now their actions have caused more investigations into other lives.

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