Time to set some boundaries.
Public figures are not public property. And while they live their lives in the public eye, there are still things that are none of the public’s business. Every human being deserves some degree of privacy, and there is nothing more private than family.
This includes the relationship between spouses. Most of what goes on between a husband and a wife is their business, and no one else’s.
Remember what defenders of President Bill Clinton said in the late 1990s after he acknowledged an improper “relationship” with a former White House intern? The Democrats’ talking point was: “If Hillary Clinton doesn’t have a problem with it, why should voters?”
But that was before the #MeToo movement, which doesn’t know when to quit.
Sean Penn would probably agree with that last part. During a recent interview on NBC’s “Today,” the actor said that much of the #MeToo movement is “too black and white,” and that “it’s really good to just slow down.”
Others’ marriages are none of our business
Now what should go without saying must be said: It is none of your business, none of my business and certainly none of the business of the women on ABC’s “The View” whether Julie Chen Moonves — a co-host of CBS’ rival show, “The Talk” — is standing by her husband, Les Moonves, the disgraced former chairman and CEO of CBS Corp.
Media observers noticed when Chen Moonves — who has long identified herself simply as “Julie Chen” — recently used her full name in an apparent show of marital solidarity. Some wondered whether the co-host could still do her job.
“I think it’s going to be hard for her to go back to ‘The Talk,’ ” said Joy Behar, co-host of “The View.” “What topics can they do? They can’t talk about the #MeToo movement without her coming clean about her husband.”
Foul-mouthed comedian Kathy Griffin was more blunt. In a tweet, she shared a message that she claimed to have recently sent Chen Moonves. It went like this: “F— you and your misogynistic husband. You two deserve each other. …Bye b–ch.”
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Now Chen Moonves has quit her job at “The Talk,” saying in a video statement that right now, she needs to “spend more time at home with my husband and our young son.”
The departure should please those who thought it was inappropriate for a woman to participate in a talk show aimed at women when her husband is accused of assaulting women.
Notice I said that it is her husband, the former network chief, who faces accusations. Not her. Chen Moonves is her own person, with her own life and career.
Why should she be punished, or pressured to do anything, because of what her husband stands accused of? Shouldn’t she be allowed to have a zone of privacy around her marriage — and be able to separate her private life from her public one?
Should women be defined by their husbands?
That might be too much to ask when you’re the one accused of misconduct. Consider the spectacle surrounding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who stands accused of an act of sexual misconduct that allegedly took place more than 30 years ago. Even if Kavanaugh is innocent, he cannot hope to have a protective barrier of privacy around his family.
But, again, what misconduct has Chen Moonves been accused of?
Finally, I have to wonder: Is this where the feminist movement has taken us after more than half a century? I have two daughters. I always thought those who wanted to empower women, push for equal rights, battle wage inequality, and ensure that girls have the same opportunities as boys also believed that women shouldn’t be defined by their husbands.
Now some of those same people are eager to hold a woman accountable for her husband’s behavior. Gosh, that was a short ride.
I’ve been married for 15 years this week, and there are still times when I feel like I don’t understand the rules. Now it seems the rest of society doesn’t either.
We have enough respect for the martial bond to not compel a wife to testify against her husband in a court of law. But we reserve the right to bully, in the court of public opinion, a wife who stands by her husband?
Let’s give women like Julie Chen Moonves some space. Most of us don’t have any idea what they’re going through.
Besides, Americans have bigger problems. We’re a mess. Social skills are out the window. We’re in each other’s faces. We impugn each other’s motives, think ourselves superior to everyone else, and put tremendous stock in our own opinion while dismissing opposing ones.
No wonder we so often step over the line. More and more these days, as we’re reminded by the case of Julie Chen Moonves, we don’t even know where the line is.
Ruben Navarrette Jr., a member of the USA TODAY Board of Contributors, is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group and host of a daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation.” Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette
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