It is with a grave amount of sadness that I've been watching the media coverage of three high-profile women whose husbands have been accused of/have admitted to being unfaithful. While the stories, blog posts and analyses about the betrayed wives generally start out as sympathetic, inevitably things take a turn and the women are blamed, mocked, or worse.
My Pop Culture & Politics column this week examined the mainstream news media's coverage of women/mothers in the week leading up to Mother's Day. While I analyzed Time Magazine's list of 100 influential people (only 29 were women, a third of the women's write-ups mentioned that they are moms, as compared to 5 percent for the dads), I pointed out how folks have been laying into well known women whose husband have (or reportedly have) cheated on them. Last week, the media was largely focused on sympathizing and vilifying Elizabeth Edwards and Kate Gosselin in particular.
Edwards, wife of two-time Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, is promoting her new book Resilience, in which she addresses many issues including her husband's infidelity with a woman who's rumored to have given birth to John Edwards' baby. And while folks feel badly that she's struggling with terminal cancer, that hasn't stopped people from slicing and dicing her recent decisions. To stay with him. To intentionally expose him and their three kids to further public scrutiny by writing her book.
In an interview with the Today Show this morning after listening to some harsh comments opinion writers had made about her, Edwards explained that she'd been asked to write a book about overcoming obstacles BEFORE she knew about her husband's dalliances. Not that that fact will matter to her critics.
Meanwhile Gosselin, who, with her husband Jon, stars in the TLC reality show, Jon & Kate Plus 8, has recently been subjected to humiliating reports that Jon has been stepping out on her. While she's out promoting her new book, Gosselin has faced questions about her husband's reported affair and she told Meredith Vieira on the Today Show that she's "hesitant to believe" that her husband strayed.
This deconstructing of the wives' motives and actions and whether they "made" their husbands stray, what good is it doing for anyone? The vitriol is being directed at the wrong people.