Media’s Gender Bias Apparent in High Profile Spectacle

The politician awarded with the scandal of the week goes to the married Congressman Vance McAllister (R-La.) who was caught sharing a kiss with his staff member. He is not the first one to fall short of the very high standard of behavior held for our representatives-in fact, it would be boring to even dwell on it.

Let’s take a closer look at how the administration handled this: he has removed his married district scheduler Melissa Peacock from the payroll. Yet McAllister denies any rumors of him stepping down from his job.

While members of his own party in Congress may be pressuring him to resign from his position, believing he cannot survive the scandal, especially since it is his first term, the double standard is incredibly frustrating. As Hillary Clinton commented on how women in public life are portrayed to the Los Angeles Times, “the double standard is alive and well, and I think in many respects the media is principal propagator of its persistence.”

Here’s some background on McAllister: He ran for office as a conservative Christian, against gay marriage and a supporter of family values. Yet he insists on remaining in office despite violating his own principles, then allows Peacock to bear the responsibility of his decisions. She loses her job, her husband and her reputation. Does that seem fair?

In the media and public spotlight, we should examine the pattern in which the women bear the blame for the men’s actions, in heteronormative relationships. She does not share the same hierarchy of power as the congressman to begin with. Would it be plausible to argue that her gender identity also determines the media’s bias?

Peacock, an attractive young woman practicing cosmetology is a victim of the double standard. In this culture, she is the prime seducer in this situation, damaging a religious man’s reputation. In McAllister’s interviews, he begs for forgiveness before admitting to the mistake. The media’s language crafts the nation’s bias on the matter. Who isn’t willing to forgive a man seeking to reconstruct the public’s trust in him?

No one will directly fault a woman. Consciously, we realize that the congressman must have participated to some extent, but the choice of words that is used to describe Peacock inclines me to believe that we, as a society, are still trapped in the medieval belief that women still have the power to control a man’s mind, make him ruin his life, and it is logical that she should be the one to lose her job and her family. I don’t have many answers, but I believe this high profile spectacle should be enough to raise questions from society on the way we handle the placement of responsibility.