Amy Davidson: The Kay Summersby Defense





Amy Davidson is a senior editor at The New Yorker.

There are plenty of reasons for women, generally, to be discouraged by both the fact and the coverage of the Petraeus scandal. It began with the comparison of the looks of Paula Broadwell, his lover, and Holly Petraeus, his wife, who are twenty years apart in age—as if older women could have no expectation of fidelity—and an almost gleeful cataloging of Broadwell’s wardrobe, body, and, as a Petraeus associate put it anonymously, the “claws” that she got into the General. (“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.”) She wore tight clothes in Afghanistan; she wore a halter at the Pentagon. As Frank Bruni of the Times noted, the odd detail from her life—“her long-ago coronation as homecoming queen, her six-minute mile”—was “presented not merely as a matter of accomplishment, but as something a bit titillating, perhaps a part of the trap she laid.” Then, before one had time to brood much on the foolishness of powerful men, attention shifted to side-by-side analyses of Broadwell and Jill Kelley, the “Tampa socialite,” whose interactions were described as a “cat-fight.”...




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