Judith Warner had an interesting post last week in her blog comparing public reaction to Hillary Clinton as a "cuckold", or "cuckquean", to the French reaction to their new President, Nicholas Sarkozy, a modern-day "cuckold," and his unfaithful first lady, Cécilia.
As she writes:
"In case you missed it, Sarkozy last year greatly entertained France by running a campaign in which his wife was almost entirely absent. Cécilia, a former model whom Nicholas first eyed, in his previous incarnation as mayor of the city of Neuilly, while administering the vows that consecrated her last marriage, left him in 2005, eventually showing up – and being photographed – with her lover in New York City."
"The Sarkozys ultimately reunited. But life together remained rocky. Cécilia made major headlines once again last May when she pulled a no-show on the night of her husband’s final run-off race against his Socialist rival, Ségolène Royal.
She was rumored not to have voted at all."
"Yet by summer, in the press at least, all was forgotten. When I was there, every major magazine featured glowing profiles of the new first lady. They praised her charm, her fashion sense, her break-the-mold modernity."
She writes that for Sarkozy, "perhaps one of his boldest, cleverest and most successful [gestures] has been the fact that, by keeping his head high, standing by his woman and steadfastly, defiantly, professing his love and desire. . .he has transcended the old role of cuckold. He has instead been something more like a political wife."
In contrast, Warner writes that Clinton, "[a formidable woman of real power and prestige. . .emerged from the Monica affair much more cuckold than cuckquean. Her husband’s perfidy did, in a sense, disturb the natural order of things; in the post-feminist age, women like Hillary are not supposed to be subject to such indignities. Hillary has never been, as she herself once put it, 'some little woman standing by my man.' Perhaps that’s what made the spectacle of her public humiliation so unique and so unsettling and, ultimately, so unforgivable for the many women who came away from it all despising her."
First of all, Warner is wrong that Hillary Clinton came out of her husband's public admission of his affair even more despised. On the contrary, many women seemed to become more sympathetic to her. Indeed, she did win the election for NY senator on the wave of new sympathy coming out of the Lewinsky affair.
Warner asks an interesting question: "Could such public forgiving and forgetting of a wanton political wife [Sarkozy] ever have happened here? And could Americans, like the French, ever elect a cuckold?"
Warner asks an interesting question, as Hillary Clinton is asking us to elect a cuckquean (the female version of the word cuckold) to the presidency.
But Warner should have asked an even more interesting one. Why is Sarkozy a more sympathetic cuckold than Hillary?
Society is more accepting of a powerful man who isn't afraid to show his soft, metrosexual, feminine side, than of a powerful woman who isn't prone to showing her feminine side, who appears "too masculine." That's why people still despise Hillary even though she's been "cuckolded." It's not that she comes out of this looking like a "cuckold," as Warner writes, and that no one likes a cuckold. It's just that she wasn't humiliated enough by her husband's infidelity. She gained power by it--she became a Senator, she got her public voice back, and her own career. Those who despise her would have liked her to have been humiliated, brought low, even further. It's Hillary's power, power that she retained, even strengthened, as a cuckold, not her humiliation, that make people dislike her.