I was in the car with my parents 40 years ago this month when we heard the news that Ted Kennedy had driven his car off of a bridge, after a night of partying, killing a young woman. My father said nothing. I thought “this means Kennedy will never be president.” My mother said, “where was [his wife] Joan.”
When a public figure gets caught in a sex scandal, women naturally seem to focus on the aggrieved wife. These days, the main issue is how she will react.
It varies. Some stand next to their husband at the press conference, some don’t. Some say they aren’t “standing by their man,” but end up doing just that. Some implore the public to respect the privacy of her family, then end up writing a book about the matter.
Jenny Sanford, wife of the disgraced governor of South Carolina, did not appear at the press conference and, as I understand it, has taken her four children and moved away from her her husband. For this she is earning high praise. But as we see moreof (and learn more about) Gov. Sanford, her response can also be viewed as a no-brainer.
I consider it misguided to pass judgment over the way aggrieved wives handle these situations, or to compare the ways in which they do so. The better response is just to feel sympathy. All marriages are different and so are all women. There is no fixed correct or (within the limits of the criminal law) incorrect response.
The urge to judge is strong, nonetheless. It stems in part from human nature and in part, I suspect, from modern feminism, pursuant to which women feel liberated relentlessly to judge the choices made by other women.