Petraeus Escándalo Boils Down to El Hombre Propone y la Mujer Dispone

When I read on Twitter that Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director David Petraeus resigned days after the re-election of Barack Obama, I assumed the decorated retired Army general had done so because he no longer wanted to serve under this President.

Is it because this straightest of arrows perhaps knew something about the security failure behind the Benghazi attack where four Americans were killed including the Ambassador?

(although Congressional testimony continues, investigations have concluded that despite the Ambassador's concerns about security, there was not neglect on behalf of the Administration that resulted in these tragic deaths)


Petraeus resigned because he got tangled in un lío de faldas.


The "skirt problem" unraveled his storied career. The West Point grad, a four star Army general, the commander of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the man who is credited with revolutionizing the armed forces away from conventional warfare to one based on counter-terrorism, gambled it all when he fell into the killer bi-ceps arms of his biographer Paula Broadwell, herself, a married 40-year-old woman and mother of two young boys.

The media has been as nimble and industrious as any non-state actor plotting an attack in uncovering what is a quintessential story of human frailty. But in its obsession with this modern-day Greek tragedy with a military/spy twist, an opportunity is being missed to truly empower women in the workplace.

Did I consult with some organizational psychologist or HR expert?

No. I called Mami who has a Ph.D. in common sense.

"Ay mijita, she sighed. "El hombre propone y la mujer dispone."

My mother broke it down with a saying she's been drilling into the heads of Lil' Sis and I since we were little girls: men will always make a proposal, indecent or not.

But women have the power to accept or deny it.

To be clear, this view doesn't blame the woman, in the same way that the media has gleefully trashed Broadwell. Al contrario, it gives her and all women agency to control our destinies by stressing that in the workplace, we can make a choice to handle ourselves professionally.

We can rely on our brains and not our cleavage.

In Broadwell's case, she could have done just so because she is extraordinary: herself a West Point and Harvard graduate, she is a Major in the Army Reserves, a marathon runner, with a book published by Penguin! In other words, she could have written a bang up biography of Petraeus without having to get...well, I'll refer you to the title.

Why Broadwell didn't seem to get this (was she intoxicated with her own power over Petraeus, her ambition? Was she just plain in love with her subject/mentor/lover?) is unclear. It's also not clear to the scores of young women I've witnessed wear their hoochie club clothes to work, deciding to "weerk it guuurrrl" to get ahead.

Men and women have been flirting--and then some--since forever and will continue to do so. Rather than only rail against the evils of patriarchy, how about we also take a stand in our Birks, stilettos, or running shoes and say no? Maybe it means you don't get total access in Broadwell's case or get that promotion (by the way, one of the best reporters The New Yorker's provocative Sy Hersch claims to have not stepped foot inside a briefing room in decades and he breaks some of the most important news stories).

As someone who hasn't played that game, I know the stakes and I can unequivocally confirm that my career has taken a hit.

But your integrity and family stays intact as does your credibility, the key ingredient to file a complaint.

El propone y la mujer dispone.

And that chicas is a position of strength.

Click here or below to listen to my participation and analysis in “The Beauty Shop” on NPR’s Tell Me More with Michel Martin where I joined Michel, regular Bridget Johnson from the conservative, libertarian PJ Media, Makeisha Madden Toby from MSN TV, and former NPR correspondent and novelist Mary Louise Kelly. This aired on Wednesday, November 14, 2012.

To hear more hot topics on TMM‘s “Beauty Shop” with Viviana, Michel, plus smart and sassy ladies, click here.

Is "el hombre propone y la mujer" dispone a good code of conduct for men and women to uphold, at minimum in the workplace?