Absolving men of personal responsibility is sexist, disrespectful AND emasculating.
The idea that Hillary Clinton is responsible for her husband's behavior is sexist and reprehensible. It removes Bill Clinton's personal agency and defines her as the controller of his sexual autonomy.
The fact that his infidelity is even part of the conversation about her presidency is a testament to the deeply held sexism in our culture.
A woman is dammed if she leaves an unfaithful husband or damned if she stays, but either way is denigrated for being responsible for not being "enough" somehow to keep her husband sexually satisfied.
The haunting whisper that she’s not "enough" sexually or maritally is the real argument behind holding up her relationship with her husband as reason not to support her. If she had "kept her husband in line," he wouldn’t have ventured outside the marriage.
The pernicious idea that women should be held responsible for men’s negative behaviors in both overt and covert ways is a disservice to both genders. When we pawn men’s responsibilities off on women, we deny men personal agency, for better or worse.
We have to get rid of this idea that women are the "real" civilized people in our society because it hurts everyone.
This is just another way that women internalize the message that once they choose to marry a man, their personal social capital is even more at risk than usual because women are automatically expected to be the last holdouts before a man runs completely amok.
Ironically, while women are unfairly used as scapegoats and reduced to the position of a man’s "better half" appendage, the men who we’re discussing are infantilized — perpetuating the emasculating idea that men are weak and only getting weaker.
This covert dance of misogyny and misandry not only plays out on the national stage but in more intimate, quiet ways in our everyday lives.
Here’s just a small, seemingly benign example from my own life.
The other day, one of my partner’s male friends called my partner out on the carpet for a misunderstanding they had over the phone.
After making a few good hearted jabs at my partner, the male friend looked at me and jokingly said, "Well, what are you going to do about this?"
Up to that point, I had zero involvement in their exchange and was staring happily off into space. Jolted back to the present moment, I made a quip about not being a magician (deeper meaning: "I’m not in control of my partner, nor do I desire that ability") and laughed it off.
The friend’s comment left me thinking about how by virtue of being female, I had automatically been thrust into the dominant position in the exchange while holding no real power or responsibility for my partner’s behavior.
If we look a little deeper, what else was our friend saying if not that I should somehow be "keeping my man in line"?
By virtue of what? My congenital breast and vagina ownership?
Obviously this was a minor exchange but it’s just another example of the mundane ways in which we treat men as though they aren’t personally responsible for managing their own actions, particularly when those actions happen to skew negatively.
Among other things, women are expected to effortlessly hold marriages together, raise children, look great, and smile — all while magically keeping the men in their lives faithful, sexually satisfied, well behaved and civilized.
I prefer to believe that people’s personal responsibilities fall on no one but themselves — and it’s this responsibility that we deny men when any time we reflexively float the idea that a woman is culpable for any of a man’s behavior.
Men are obviously quite capable of relationship management, raising children, looking great, smiling and not grabbing anyone’s pussy without permission.
The idea that they aren’t capable of this, or that when they fail, the responsibility falls on the nearest woman— is just another way we lower our expectations for men and by extension, foist undue responsibility onto women.
It was Bill Clinton’s choice to cheat on his wife, just like it was Donald Trump’s choice to sexually assault and cheat on his first wife, Ivana. Neither Hillary nor Ivana were ever liable for these men's morally reprehensible choices simply by holding the dubious title of "that man’s wife."
We need to stop reflexively expecting women to keep men "under their thumbs" when it comes to their marital dalliances and sexual behavior. Anything else reduces men’s personal accountability and hurts our civilization as a whole.
Civilization is the responsibility of the civilized.
That includes men.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Elizabeth Stone is an author and founder of AttractTheOne.com.