You’re Only Accountable for You, Brave Girls

People are not responsible for the actions of others.

We are all responsible for ourselves and our own actions, and I don’t know about you but that’s more than plenty of responsibility for me to manage.

In the last few days I’ve watched Melania Trump and Hillary Clinton be questioned about the behavior of their spouses. And regardless of the answers they gave, why are we asking these women to comment on the behavior of their cheating husbands?

Are we just that stinking nosey? Do we think they owe us an answer because they are public figures? Are we hoping they’ll break down and we’ll witness emotion from them? Are we thinking they’ll cry or show anger and that will justify the feelings we have that we project onto them?

Are we hoping they will defend their husbands so that we can then throw in their faces how silly they are? Are we hoping they’ll say “I hate what he did” and thinking that if they say that, it suddenly changes everything?

When we ask women to comment on the behavior of their spouses, we are asking them to account for their spouse’s behavior. Let me say that another way. When we ask women about the behavior of their spouses, we are asking them to be accountable for the behavior of their spouses.

“To be accountable means to be subject to giving an account or having the obligation to report, explain or justify something.”

Asking any woman to be accountable for a counterpart’s behavior (or vice versa) is just not acceptable in any way, shape or form. The questions alone imply she is accountable, and force her into justification in some way – and that’s really seriously wrong. And just mean, too. We are asking the person who was wronged to publicly comment on behavior she had nothing to do with – and we’re also asking her to defend her own response.

Watching both interviews, I just wanted one of them to say “You know what? Your question is total BS. Ask me a question about me. Ask me about something I did or that I contributed to or that I control. Ask him about his behavior.”

But you know what would happen if one of them did that? We’d call her a bitch. And we’d call her angry. Or we’d call her bitter. Or we’d wonder if she was a little overly emotional and unstable. And we might even say and think things like “well, no wonder.”

We don’t just expect the wronged women to make excuses. We expect them to do it politely. We don’t just expect the wronged women to make justifications. We expect them to do it with poise. We don’t just expect the wronged women to deny allegations where there is clearly proof. We expect them to do it publicly with a grace and a calm that implies “no one would ever do that to me.”

And if they don’t, we think something is wrong with them.

If they don’t, we think something is wrong with the person who was wronged.

I guess these interviews are just life in politics. Both of these women are choosing to be a part in that, and for that participation – and that participation alone – they are accountable. And yet part of me wonders if they would behave differently if even one woman before them had stood up in an interview and said “Your questions are about my husband’s behavior. Ask me about me.” Part of me wonders if they would have the courage to behave differently if more of us would respond to news outlets and say “Your questions are about her husband’s behavior. Ask her about her or I won’t read that.”

We expect a lot more of these women than we should, and than we have a right to. We don’t just expect these wronged women to deny allegations where there is clearly proof. The absolute most awful thing we do is ask them to watch and listen while we spin tales of decades-long love where they overcame obstacles together and they triumphed above all. We expect the wronged women to perpetuate lies about love.

These women know better than anyone that a story that includes a chapter where someone cheated is no love story. Maybe there’s a relationship story there, but there is no love story and there never was.

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