Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sympathy for the Other Woman

Lorraine
Why do I feel sympathy for the women caught up in sex scandals? Because they never get over it. It will be a long time for the woman to have a second act. Arnold Schwarzenegger will have a movie career apparently. Patty Baena will always be "that woman." I hope the boy can have some kind of meaningful relationship with his father.


Here I am going to talk about not only Mildred Patricia Baena, the mother of one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's children--the love child in the earlier blog post ('Love child' is preferable to 'adopted child'--but also the woman who was allegedly sexually assaulted by Dominque Strauss-Kahn the other day in New York City. Strauss-Kahn is the former (as of yesterday) managing director of the International Monetary Fund and a worldwide wealthy bigshot who had possibly been on track to be the president of France.

Maria Shriver, the betrayed wife and mother, can go on Oprah and the love child in her home is not even mentioned (though news is leaking out), and Ms. Shriver has a cadre of friends and supporters in high places who will protect her privacy, Ms. Baena, on the other hand, apparently has not even felt free to return to her home. According to news reports, it is on a normally quiet cul de sac, now crowded with a maelstrom of television cameras, reporters and onlookers. Her neighbors have complained about the crowd, police have been called to the scene. In some quarters, she is being portrayed as a seductress who wanted only to have a powerful man's son.

I say, let's give her a break. I don't know the woman or her character, but she did work in the Shriver/Schwarzenegger household for twenty years, which means two things: that she was a good employee, but which also makes it more, rather than less, creepy for Maria and her four children. That I get, along the order of HOW COULD YOU? I can imagine yelling at the Sperminator, if I'd been the betrayed wife.

I am not saying Ms. Baena is blameless in the sexual encounter, but to me this smacks a bit of the Sally Hemings story--a slave in the household of Thomas Jefferson who bore him possibly five children. (The clear evidence is that she bore two of Jefferson's children; for the other three there is no clear known DNA connection, or family lore that names Jefferson the father.)

For Ms. Baena, the job with the Schwarzeneggers' was probably a good job, the best she could get. Yes, should could have left when he made his advances, if it came down that way. But if you are just scraping by, it is not always easy to rearrange your life. You do not have resources to fall back onto. Women who work in households from time immemorial have been subject to the advances of their male employers.

Hemings herself was Jefferson's wife's half sister; she came with Martha Wayles Skelton from her father's household when she married Jefferson. Schwarzenegger's reputation as a sexual assaulter came into the spotlight when he was running for governor, and several women stepped forward and said he had groped them, or assaulted them, in the past when he was only a movie star; Maria defended him and that was good enough for the voters. Why should we not suspect that he decided that their maid was fair game? After all, he was a big and powerful guy--and he'd done it in the past to women who didn't have the kind of power and riches that he has.

As for the hotel maid who was assaulted in the Sofitel Hotel (the defense is saying that the alleged blow job was consensual, and to that I say, yeah, right...), her life too is upended; apparently some reports in France have published her name, and when this goes to trial, one can bet that her past history, whatever it is, will be fair game for the defense. I don't know much about her except what I've read in a few reports: she was granted political asylum from Guinea, she is a single mother in her thirties who supported herself and her son with her job at the hotel; she reported the incident as soon as she ran from the room to other hotel employees who called 911.

Yet if there is a trial, and there is likely to be one, her past and reputation will be pried apart and every sexual encounter they can drum up will be used against her. And her name will be public,  just as was the woman who was allegedly raped by Willliam Kennedy Smith, Patty Bowman. In a rape trial, the woman is raped twice: once during the act; the second at trial. A few movies have portrayed that quite effectively: Lipstick and The Accused are two of the best.

Personally, I am torn about the press not publishing the names of women who were raped, because by keeping them out of the paper, we continue to make the crime of being raped more shameful to the victim than say, having your purse snatched or being assaulted in a non-sexual manner. However, not publishing their names at the very least does afford the women some privacy. However, since the press undoubtedly knows the name of the woman in the Strauss-Kahn case, they are already building a profile of her for the future. It's a difficult question. I know I am veering off subject today of being a first/birth mother, but rape cases and what happens to the women in sex scandals kinda makes me nuts. (And the privacy issue, well, that reminds me of another one. Anyone care to venture which one?)

As for myself, I was raped by someone I dated briefly when I wanted to end our relationship, such as it was. I did not report it to the police, I knew I could never build a case. I just wanted him out of my life. And he was. After.--lorraine

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yuK4m3UzRk

19 comments :

  1. Thank you, Lorraine. It is important to remember the extreme power differential between the two principal players in this drama. Of course, only they can really know what the dynamic was between them. Though Arnold certainly looks like scum for his part in this and has hurt so many people in the process.

    I agree with you about the legal system. Many, many women do not report rapes because they know that as the victim she is the one who will really be on trial. It is this way not only with rape cases but with other cases in our legal system. It is simply dreadful and since women have less power in society in general, it is like being discriminated against twice.

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  2. I too feel sympathy for the mother of the love child in this. For a lot of reasons. I found myself bristling at some of the birth control comments, I certainly am not the only woman who has gotten pregnant while using birth control. It is pretty hard to fool mother nature. See adoption for example.

    I am having a hard time getting worked up by this and finding the media frenzy just silly. We have this exact same situation in my own family and do you just breeze through it? No. It is difficult and there is adjustment and public and permanent proof of the betrayal. (This is from my father) and the child bears the brunt. Of my father's 4 children only one was born in wedlock.

    At the same time it does not make me reach for my smelling salts. Perhaps because as an adoptee, complicated family situations are par for the course.

    Joy

    Life is messy.

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  3. I often wonder if women can't just realize something simple. As long as we allow men to be jerks, they will be. Men like Arnold, George, Bill, and thousands of others over the last century have don't nothing but cause grief to the women of the world. Between the deliberate belittling, using, treatments, it is unlikely that women who do not bother to work together, place the blame squarely on the man it belongs with, will ever realize their true power and potential.

    Just one more woman that will get run over in the powerful man's machine of bull!

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  4. Sure is messy and it's often women who get to deal with the mess while men walk away or apologise in public and say it wasn't a relationship they had.Bill was a hard dog to keep on the porch, no wonder, he was an adoptee and a man with power.

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  5. Interesting I have been following the DSK case as well, and Jean-François Kahn, a journalist has landed himself in hotwater for refusing to believe his friend, DSK was in the wrong with this explanation:


    "Parce qu'il n'y a pas si longtemps, les femmes de
    chambre/de ménage, bref, les « domestiques » étaient à disposition des hommes de la famille. Adolescent, on s'exerçait sur elles. Plus tard, on pouvait continuer de la « trousser » entre deux portes."

    Which roughly means, "Oh, not so long ago the female servants of the household were available to the male family members. Teenage boys could force themselves on them and then continue small trysts behind the scenes"

    He goes on to mention that this "attention" is a compliment. He has since apologized.

    It reminds me of an oldie that is often played on the radio, I don't know the singer but it is v. famous.

    "If her daddy's rich, take her out for meal, if her daddy's poor just do what you feel"

    And yes, they have named her and posted her facebook photo.

    And Jezebel of all websites posted an article recently from an American man who claimed that American women are just too uptight and after a year in France, thinks the Frenchmen have it right.

    Personally, I felt like I was travelling in a Muslim country when I was in Paris. If I was out with my teenage son, I was fine, when I wandered the streets by myself, however briefly I was treated like a piece of meat. Including just picking up take-out where the restaurant cashier felt brazen enough to rub my arm and ask if I was "travelling with my family"

    You know French women only got the vote in 1948?

    Okay, oops, digression, but women continue to be vulnerable worldwide.

    As dashing as you found Jane's father, you were also not on a level playing field a girl just out of college and a middle-aged man who had already built the career you coveted. 36 is very different than 22.

    My father whose most recent child (that I know of) was more than 20 years the senior of his mistress. He had the audacity to tell me she 'tricked him' with the intent to 'trap' him. I reminded him that he was responsible for his own fertility and should have had a vasectomy.

    That was the beginning of the end of our relationship. His raised son has suffered a lot, he is afraid of being in relationships with women in fear that he will repeat his father's mistakes, after all the woman our father most keenly betrayed is well, besides my own mother, my brothers.


    Joy

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  6. Sexual assault of an employee in a servile position is long standing. The first novel in the English language, "Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded" by Samuel Richardson is the story of a housemaid hounded by Mr. B, her employer's son. She outwits him even when he jumps out of her closet dressed in women's clothing and retains her virtue. Eventually he proposes marriage and she discovers his good side.

    Then there is Thomas Hardy's tragic story of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, who is seduced by the the son of her employer. Tess keeps her baby, named Sorrow, who dies in infancy. Eventually she kills her seducer and is hanged.

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  7. Jane,
    The Hardy book (and subsequent movie and recent TV adaptation) have always made me weep buckets! Oddly enough, it was the first movie I saw with my husband.

    Joy, I know that Patrick's established place in the career of my choice, when all women faced incredible discrimination in the newsroom, certainly put us on a different playing field, but you know, I can't think of him as a cad who used that to get me into bed, and then left me high and dry with child. He was in a very unhappy marriage with a wife who did not appreciate or understand his career, and the late hours it often demanded. And to those of us who love daily journalism, it is a calling, not merely a job with long hours and so-so pay.

    For all his failings, and I see them quite clearly now, Patrick did the best he could in a very different time with conflicting pressures and deep misgivings. I can't really blame him for anything but not listening to me when I said we should not have sex right now! Wrong time of month!

    If I ever get this second memoir published, you'll read about how our relationship continued...for the next 12 years or so. Oh boy, I didn't intend to let that out this morning. It's just that in my own case, I cannot paint Jane's father as the bad guy--until he didn't have the guts to meet her.

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  8. Joy: I had a fine time in France scooting around myself when I was in my thirties; it was Italy--Milan especially--that was so terrible I never wanted to go back. My then husband got sick and had to stay at the hotel for a couple of days; I have to say being in Milan by myself and trying to see the city was the worst travel experience of my entire life. I never wanted to go back to Italy for any reason.

    When my husband and I did exchange our house for an apartment in Rome a decade ago, I was a much older woman and did not have the same trouble when I was out by myself. I was older and I hope the men have wised up some. Following single women around doesn't lead to sex!

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  9. I do not feel sorry for cheaters period. They are making a choice to hurt and betray other people with one of the cruelest forms of betrayal there ever was. The fallout to the innocent parties far extends the affair and can last a lifetime.
    No one forces cheaters to cheat, but the innocents are forced to live with the pain forever. This is especially horrid for the children. Nope, cheaters are not victims ever.

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  10. You CANNOT make comparisons to Thomas Jefferson and Arnie. For God's sake, we are talking a slave owner from the 1700's versus a modern day actor/Governor. There is NO comparison.

    Ms. Baena was a married woman who had an affair with her married employer & got pregnant.If there was force or abuse, we would have heard about this YEARS ago.

    We also cannot compare an alleged sexual assault (Strauss-Kahn case) to this. No sexual assault has been mentioned in the Arnold case. (I must admit I have to scratch my head at the idea of a "forced blow job")

    Im all for standing up for women who were sexually abused or rape, as I myself was raped at the age of 15, but I feel to make these comparisons in this case is wrong.

    I feel bad for Ms. Baena's invasion of privacy at this time, and for what her son is going through and will continue to go through. She is a victim of our society, who loves a good soap opera.

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  11. I too find the comparisons between Jefferson and Schwarzenegger, and the Strauss-Kahn and Schwarzenegger case to be offensive, for the same reasons as Linda.
    Enough with the special pleading already.

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  12. We don't really know what went on and it is foolish to speculate. Linda's comment seems the most sensible so far. Adultery hurts when children are involved. Adult actions, no matter how romantically construed, have consequences far beyond themselves, and when children are involved, are not easily excusable.

    It is easy to gawk at celebrity misfortune and misbehavior, and put our own bias and spin on it, but these are human beings in a bad situation as old as human kind, and much more complex than just "men taking advantage of women." We don't know what went on. Why not leave it at that?

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  13. I didn't read it that way, I read it as a broader conversation about women and their role in society and power struggles.

    I must remark though that I think it is so curious that the two anons, who are *surprise* of the same mind on this topic, that it is one that you shouldn't be discussing and frequent this blog...Whosoever could they be? ;)

    I wonder why they feel burdened with the task of telling you what you should and should not blog about. What a bizarre sense of entitlement to believe that you need their coaching.

    I can't help but wonder if these women know of the knitting craze that has swept the western world as of late. You can make all sorts of things, hats, socks, scarves are super easy and then give them to homeless shelters to keep people warm.

    I appreciate all you do to support unsealing records for adoptees Lorraine, I think it is wonderful and productive. I wish all people could find something useful to do with their lives.

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  14. It is impossible to know what the relationship was like between Jefferson and Hemings. As I recall to the best of anyone's knowledge, she was a quadroon, had been raised in the Jefferson household, was his wife's half sister, accompanied Jefferson's daughter, Polly, to Paris when he was ambassador there, and technically had the ability to leave his household while there as France did not have slaves. Despite the obvious difference in their status, it is entirely possible that the relationship was not that of a sexual assault, but a real relationship with affection and benefits for both parties, and the same is likely to be true of Patty Baena and Schwarzenegger, as their relationship went on for more than a decade, and he certainly took care of her, and their son, in decent fashion.

    What I am saying is that the Schwarzenegger/Baena case and the Jefferson/Hemings situation, as well as the Thurmond case, bring up the age old practice of powerful men having sex with women who were in a difficult position beneath them. We can all say that Banae could have left his employ, but who of us has been in the position of being a Hispanic housekeeper?

    And yes, certainly my sensiblity about these cases is colored by the fact that my daughter was the product of a relationship with an older, more powerful man in my chosen field. All I am saying that is I for one am not going to add to the criticism and censure of Patty Baena because her MySpace photograph makes her seem like a fun person.

    As for Schwarzenegger, well, so it was; the groping and assault claims that came out during his campaign to me bespeak of his attitude towards women beneath him in statute and social class--script girls and women who brought stuff to him in his trailer on the set were assaulted by him.

    Given his actions, his marriage to someone from a high-ranking social class (the Kennedys) is not at all surprising, but expected. I just wondered what she saw in him.

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  15. Oh man, if Strauss-Kahn is proven to be guilty (which I think he is) of the alleged crime, he has put himself into a quite different category from Arnie. And the unnamed hotel maid he sexually assaulted is in an entirely different situation from that of Patty Beama.
    Consensual sex is not a crime and agreeing to it because you are afraid that if you don't you might lose your job, as Ms. Baema may have been, is not at all the same as being sexually assaulted or raped.
    Let's remember that not all men in 'powerful' positions are sexually exploitive, just as not all men in 'ordinary' jobs are philanderers and rapists either, although some in both categories will be. Both my grandfathers were big-time 'womanizers'. My father and uncles were not. Of course, social mores were different then, but my father and uncles had learned from observing the collateral damage (of course they too had experienced the fall-out on a personal level) that the price was too high, and most of it came at other people's expense.
    I think it will be hard for all the members of Arnie's family, including his son by Ms. Baema who used to accompany the Shriver children on holidays.

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  16. Robin: "I agree with you about the legal system. Many, many women do not report rapes because they know that as the victim she is the one who will really be on trial. It is this way not only with rape cases but with other cases in our legal system. It is simply dreadful and since women have less power in society in general, it is like being discriminated against twice."

    This was absolutely my experience when I filed a sexual harassment complaint at work. The only one who suffered for this complaint was me, and I felt like I was being re-victimized and re-traumatized by the investigation and by how I was treated during and after it, and I was not the one guilty of ANY wrongdoing. Before this experience, I always thought reporting was the right thing to do and I still do, but I can certainly understand why some women decline to do so.

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  17. I specifically didn't mention Strauss-Kahn in my last comment, because yes, his out and out assault is totally different from the other situations, but it is an example of the most egregious kind of a powerful man thinking he can have sex with the helpless maid no one will believe.

    I find it hard to write "alleged" when it comes to DSKahn. Yeah, right, the maid was looking to give a blow job to a fat 60-something Frenchman that day. Yeah, right.

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  18. Forgive me, but if we're speaking of having no sympathy for anyone in this mess? I have none for Arnold but I also have none for Maria Shriver. I find it difficult to believe she was ignorant of Arnie and his peccadilloes. She knew yet chose to look the other way until it was inconvenient to do so. She rode the political machine all the way to the governorship. Now she's on the major networks crying into her high-priced wine. That's a bit too rehearsed, IMO.

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  19. Thought I should clarify my last post as I worried it would sound overly harsh. I'm not saying Maria Shriver deserved to be treated with such disrespect by her husband. She did not. No spouse - man or woman - deserves that.

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