Huma, Don't Be a "Pakistani Good Wife"

6 years ago

Editor's note: After this post was published, the New York Times reported that Huma Abedin is pregnant. More updates below.

Now that we’ve all stopped laughing about Weinergate, inquiring minds want to know: what will happen between Rep. Anthony Weiner and his wife? In case you haven’t heard, his missus is, as CNN reports, Not a Typical Congressional Wife, but Huma Abedin, a 30-something Pakistani-Indian American and chief aide to Hillary Clinton.

Which adds an interesting cultural twist to The Good Wife phenomenon. How will Abedin, who is Muslim, react to her husband’s sexting scandal? And if she chooses to stand by her man, will she be perceived as politically calculated like Hillary, or will she be dismissed as a traditional Muslim woman?

Huma is gorgeous, and glamorous enough in her own right, that she has been featured in Vogue twice -- in 2007 and again, in September of 2010, when photos of her wedding to Weiner were spotlighted.

As Shirin Sadeghi writes in her Huffington Post piece Huma Abedin: Weiner’s Good South Asian Wife?

“Even though her boss, a white woman, stood by a cheating husband, if Abedin were to do it, it would be the South Asian wife in her -- that traditional notion of a woman who will put up with anything simply because society demands it of her -- that will have compelled her to stay, so this argument goes.”

Miral Sattar, of the popular South Asian wedding planning site, Divanee, tweeted:

Abedin is practically a newlywed herself, having married Weiner less than a year ago, in a ceremony at a castle. The officiant of their wedding was none other than former President Bill Clinton.

And why hasn’t Huma spoken up about this? Unlike Maria Shriver, who was reported to be at dinner with Oprah when news broke about Arnold’s cheating ways, Huma has been absent from the dog and pony show. Razib Khan at Sepia Mutiny blogged “Where is Huma?”

Some commenters are saying that the Weiner-Abedin marriage doesn’t bode well for Jewish-Muslim relations. Or like one commenter at Sepia Mutiny surmises, that her elders are probably shaking their heads:

"Huma is at her mom's house, somewhere in New Jersey, eating a pint of ice-cream, slowly sobbing into a wad of tissue.
Her mom is trying to be supportive, and holding back from saying 'I told ya so!'"

Unlike her (soon to be ex?) husband, Abedin has a record of being extremely private, always perfectly composed and elegant. While she's been travelling with Clinton, instead of standing at the podium next to her tearful husband, ABC's Claire Shipman reports that Abedin remains committed to her marriage. But what exactly will that look like? Huma Abedin has a strong presence – even an aura – about her, and while she I doubt she will make a big public spectacle of herself, I don’t think she’s going to be pushed around, either.

Update: 6/8/11, 10:30 PM

Now that Huma Abedin is reported to be pregnant, the situation takes even more truth-is-stranger-than-fiction complications.

Salon's Joan Walsh takes aim at Weiner's desperate bid to remain in office. She writes in A Pregnancy Changes Everything:

"Dragging her through any more humiliation, while she's pregnant, would be cruelty. He can't do it. Weiner has to resign. He owes it to his family."

Meanwhile, news of the pregnancy seems to be giving birth to another Twitter meme: Run Huma Run!

In many ways, this scandal has gripped public attention because of its combination of factors that make it something that could only happen in this day and age: the technology and social media that made is possible for Weiner's "sexting"; their relation to the Clintons -- the most famous of modern polical couples rocked by a very public (although the slow unfolding of those details now seems comparatively tame) sex scandal. The cultural factor cannot be ignored. If not for Huma herself-- who is obviously very independent and contemporary-- then for the many anonymous, less empowered women who may be watching her for cues.

Race/Ethnicity Section Editor Grace Hwang Lynch blogs at HapaMama and A Year (Almost) Without Shopping.

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