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Love child: says who?

Two very famous, very rich and very powerful men have had their lives blown apart very publicly this week.

IMF chief Dominic Strauss Kahn and Arnold Schwarzenegger have crashed from positions of supreme power to disgrace, public ridicule and tabloid headlines.

Some people have said we shouldn’t be lumping these two men and these two stories together like I’m doing right now. One is an accused rapist and the other simply an adulterer.

But to me, there are a lot of similarities. Because Arnold Schwarzenegger is not just a guy who has cheated on his wife.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has a long history of form when it comes to sexually harassing women. Decades of it.

We first learnt about this back in 2003, when a number of women nervously and reluctantly came forward to state that the movie-star turned politician had done some extremely demeaning things to them: public–groping of their breasts and other body parts, unwanted, invasive kisses, crude, belittling comments….it was a pretty sordid list.

After initially denying it and being defended by his wife, Maria Shriver , Schwarzenegger finally acknowledged he’d behaved badly. What happened next? He was elected to the role of Californian governor in a landslide.

So I’ve been interested to note how quickly the media jumped on the term ‘lovechild’ to describe the son Schwarzenegger fathered with his housekeeper.

It’s a strange description.

Because in fact we know nothing about the circumstances around the boy’s conception, whether he was born of love or not. Nor do we know what happened afterwards.

What we DO know is that the relationship between one of the world’s most famous and well-paid men and his employee could never have been an equal one.

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She worked for him and he was larger than life in every way, bigger, stronger, more powerful.

Just like the power imbalance between Dominic Strauss Kahn and the maid he allegedly sexually assaulted.

It didn’t take long for the rumours, the sniggers and the speculation to start. The housekeeper and the maid. They’re doing it for the money, some said. The fame. It’s a political conspiracy.

REALLY?

Find me one example of a woman who has made a claim of sexual abuse, harassment or impropriety against a rich and powerful man who hasn’t had her own life utterly ruined by the media storm that followed?

Good things don’t come of women who make accusations against famous men. It’s like a double humiliation. First the incident itself and then the international spotlight of media attention. Whether it’s a footballer, a wikileaks founder, a celebrity or a CEO, the women at the centre of these incidents are invariably named and shamed – in most cases far more than the man himself.

This week, other women have begun starting to tell their stories of past sexual harassment, assault or infidelity by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dominic Strauss Kahn. Are they opportunists? Looking to make a quick buck?

Or do they maybe just feel finally able to tell their stories to a world that’s more receptive to the idea of these two men being jerks and in the case of Strauss Kahn, possibly a criminal?

[note: this was my opening editorial from Mamamia on Sky News Tues 8pm – video of the show will be up shortly]