It’s impossible to ignore the media coverage over the last several days about General David Petraeus resigning from his job heading the CIA. We invited Lisa McIntire to offer some insight into how the media has portrayed women in this very public affair.
We know this story: the powerful man felled by the scheming seductress. So when news started to break about General David Petraeus’s affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell, reports of the scandal immediately adhered to familiar lines about the hot home wrecker and her hapless victim.
Consider the quotes that Business Insider happily prints from a pseudonymous friend of Petraeus: “You’re a 60 year-old man and an attractive woman almost half your age makes herself available to you — that would be a test for anyone.”
Really, how could a four-star general who survived a gun shot to the chest and lived in some of the world’s worst war zones possibly be expected to resist an “available” woman? As Business Insider concludes, “The General fell victim to the one thing that can destroy a military leader’s reputation faster than death: Seduction.”
That’s right: Petraeus is the victim. At no point was he a rational human adult with free will because, merciful heavens, an attractive woman showed up.
The Washington Post takes pains to note that “Former aides say Broadwell’s attire — usually tight shirts and pants — prompted complaints in Afghanistan, where Western-style attire can offend local sensibilities. Her form-fitting clothes made a lasting impression on longtime Afghan hands.”
So where do we line up for the public stoning? Remember: it’s Broadwell’s sartorial judgment on trial here, not Petraeus’s conduct.
And an ABC News article emphasizes where the blame lies: this obviously crazy lady with her obviously crazy feelings.
“People close to the general had previously suspected Broadwell’s feelings for him had crossed a professional line. They found the biographer, who spent a year embedded with Petraeus in Afghanistan, to be embarrassing and far too ‘gushy’ about him.”
It’s heartbreaking to consider how the four-star general was literally powerless in this situation: an IED of gushiness.
Let me be clear here: this next quote from a Daily Beast article was, in fact, written in the year 2012 and not in a 1940s film noir: “The besotted Broadwell may have viewed the curvaceous Kelley as a threat. Broadwell may be able to run a six-minute mile with Petraeus, but Kelley looks like a woman who lets the guys do all the running—and in her direction.”
Let that soak in, then prepare yourself for this: “it remains pitifully ironic that Petraeus could come to such grief over a little sex under a desk in a war zone where thousands of people were and are earnestly seeking to blow other people to bloody bits. Shoot but don’t schtup? And just because Broadwell performed the literary equivalent of sex under a desk does not mean that any actual sex is anybody’s business.”
Case closed, I guess?
So many more details are emerging about this story — another general! a shirtless FBI agent! a Tampa socialite! — that it will remain difficult to keep our focus on what’s truly important: blaming the harlot who brought down a general.