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Women Cheat Too

The infidelities of Helen Chenoweth and Katherine Bryson

It’s amazing that Americans have not grown tired of hearing about cheating politicians. While there are many stories spanning the course of two centuries, the narrative is almost always the same – older man in position of power seduces young woman just starting her career. It’s common, almost normal, but why? Don’t female politicians cheat too?

The answer is absolutely a yes, but there are numerous reasons that make infidelity and female politicians a rare occurrence. While men tend to cheat opportunistically, not caring who the female is or where the liaison takes place, women are far more selective, taking time to pick the right partner and situation. Furthermore, despite the fact that women make up 51 percent of the nation’s populations, they hold less than 20 percent of the seats in the Congress, Senate, and House of Representatives, and although it may change soon, there still had not been a female U.S. President. We don’t hear about women politicians cheating because, by numbers alone, there are far fewer of them to engage in the act.

Women who do make it to positions of power have often worked harder than their male counterparts to get there, and don’t dare to jeopardize what they have earned. Many of these women have also discovered a harsh truth – power, experience, and age may be admired greatly in men, but they are traits that our culture does not value in women. As a result, the chance to cheat is not as readily available to women in power as it is to men.

However, this does not mean that women politicians do not commit infidelities. There are probably many cases that have never been discovered, but two that made mainstream news are the stories of Helen Chenoweth and Katherine Bryson.

In 1998 the whole country was talking about President Bill Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, and members of the Republican Party, including Idaho Representative Helen Chenoweth, were calling for his resignation. Journalists were digging into everyone’s private lives, and only days after Chenoweth aired a national commercial asking Clinton to step down, the Idaho Statesmen reported that she had engaged in a six-year affair with a married business partner in the 1980’s.

Chenoweth admitted it was true, and declared that her case was different because “God has forgiven.” While the story reeked of hypocrisy, Chenoweth went on to serve another term, proving that honesty really is the best policy – even when it comes a few days late.

While Chenoweth’s infidelity was largely swept under the rug, unable to compete with other scandalous news of the time, Utah Representative Katherine Bryson had quite a different experience. In 2003 her husband, Kay Bryson, caught her on videotape with another man in the Bryson family condo. When Kay threatened to send the tape around Washington, Katherine went to the police, claiming that Kay had abused his power as Utah’s Country Attorney by asking the Sherriff’s Department to install a camera in the first place. A judge disagreed.

Kay and Katherine’s bitter divorce lasted over a year, and was often featured in local Utah news. The couple exchanged many jabs, threats, and acquisitions, which effectively ended both of their political careers.

As more women are elected to office, more will have affairs that make national news. Until then, Chenoweth and Bryson live in infamy.