According to Richard Cohen of The Washington Post, Tiger Woods has given men a bad name by his philandering ways. As if men needed Tiger Woods for that. Cohen himself writes that men are conditioned to “spread their seed around” while women are conditioned to mate with the alpha male and mother the resultant children. “This is the way it is and this is the way it’s always been,” he says in his December 14th column.
He even goes so far as to say that the reason the Glass Ceiling hasn’t been broken is because women have different priorities. In other words, it’s not sexism that keeps women from succeeding; it’s their own choices.
Echidne of the Snakes, one of my favorite bloggers, begs to differ: “It could be that our biological inheritance explains the dearth of female Tiger Woodses. But I’m pretty sure that a culture which condones the male type (nudge-nudge) and disapproves of the female type has a role to play, too. And so do writers like Richard.”
I have a bit different take on the problem. I think the reason there are more men than women behaving badly is because men start to believe their own press. When someone like Tiger Woods achieves the level of prestige and power that he has, he thinks he is untouchable. Women rarely achieve that status because women aren’t accorded the same power that men are. Women know that they have to behave themselves. Even Madonna has limited her liaisons to the times when she has been single. And would Oprah have the same respect if she didn’t have “Steady Stedman” in the wings? What if she were caught cheating on the guy? Would people say, “That’s just the way women are”?
So even when women do have prestige and power, they are not given the “free pass” that men in similar situations are given to “whore around.” Notwithstanding the fact that Tiger is being censured by men and women alike, there are still those who are not particularly surprised or upset by his behavior. It’s almost expected.
This brings to mind another powerful person who was caught with his pants down (so to speak): Bill Clinton. But even with Clinton, people weren’t so much surprised at his behavior as they were at the fact that he allowed himself to get caught. Then again, there were plenty of people gunning for him at the time, just daring him to do something stupid. Unfortunately, he obliged.
I’m not of the school of thought that thinks that women are more moral than men are. It’s just that they are more afraid of getting caught. Because they know that society won’t give them a break. Women who dare to act like Tiger are looked down on, lose their jobs, have their children taken away from them and are generally thought of as “whores” (whereas men are “studs”).
The worst adjective applied to the Tiger Woodses and Bill Clintons of the world is that they were stupid. A similarly-behaving woman would be branded as immoral. I’m not saying that women should be as unfaithful as men (and statistics show that they almost are) but that they shouldn’t be condemned for behavior that in men is only snickered at.