The First Lady of South Carolina got mad and she isn’t gonna take it anymore! Rah rah sisterhood! Even I initially wrote about how pleased I was to see a political wife publicly take a stand against suffering in silence at her husband’s serial philandering. Now…I’m not so sure Mrs. Sanford deserves such accolades. While her husband’s political clout sinks further Jenny is taking the high road – or so she claims. It’s for the sake of the children. They get along just fine. Blah blah blah.
I look at the contrast of race, class and money and see glaring disparities between the warm embrace one woman of privilege is receiving versus a poorer non-white woman for their lives. Whereas some black women are immediately castigated for “making bad choices” when it comes to partners and certain immigrant women “shouldn’t be here anyway” why is it that Jenny Sanford gets off scott free for taking any responsibility for her poor choices? I’ve watched her admit on national television that her husband removed key vows of fidelity when they got married that would indicate he had no intention of adhering to it. So why be surprised or get angry when he violated them? To say it raised a red flag is an understatement. Jenny Sanford has bent herself into an pretzel to justify this. I think she was willing to tolerate infidelity as long as it was women who didn’t pose a serious threat to the status quo. Mark Sanford choosing to love a woman who wasn’t his wife was the deal-breaker.
I’ve wondered why she focused on this one man to marry when it was she who came from a family of means, had a potentially prominent career and could have chosen any number of men. I’ve also wondered why some women fall into a role of being support system to males who don’t reciprocate in kind. Is being a wife and mother that important – even to a weak male with little character? Is sexism and patriarchy that powerful? There’s no way I believe she did not know he was cheating on her unless it was a case of willful ignorance. Perhaps they had an arrangement but he violated things by having a long-term relationship outside their marriage with a woman he claims as his sole-mate.
That wasn’t a typo on my part. I’m using sole instead of soul because Mark Sanford clearly made his choice a long time ago. We have no idea what the specific circumstances are within their marriage but he’d clearly checked out a long time ago. Did he ever love his wife? It seems to me their mutual political ambitions was the tie that bound their marriage. Perhaps their children as well. It seems to be Jenny was the one who may have had an even higher vested interest in keeping the MRS. title because the MR. had already benefitted from all that she brought to the table. His leaving would be the final insult to all the years she’d sacrificed to hold onto a lie. Sometimes it’s that investment that matters most. Not being happy or fulfilled but in retaining false totems that we’ve devoted our lives to.
I appreciate she’s not pushing the victim meme too hard because it would raise questions, but she’s not being very honest either. The legitimacy of her complicity in her own misery would have to be evaluated. I simply don’t believe things are as we’re being led to believe. Nor do I care actually. For all we know her family may be in heavy negotiation with the MR. about what to pay him off so he goes away quietly and doesn’t further embarrass the MRS. It’s the media spin I’m interested in and how she’s being allowed to use this public scrutiny to her advantage. The value of virtue of Jenny Sanford’s particular brand whiteness must be maintained at all costs against the “exotic” other of the would-be mistress’.
Modern media has done more to expose the fallacy of the strength of marriages than any set of individual choices in recent memory. There’s too much focus on those who marry for fame and ambition than for true companionship. It’s no wonder more younger people are so jaded. Sensationalizing dysfunction may generate big ratings but it also devalues an important component of a strong and thriving society. No drama may equal boredom to some but that “boredom” belies a certain amount of responsibility being fulfilled. Stability is a good thing. That’s the glue holding together the best relationships. This is yet another indication of the decline of the United States where the things that should be most valued are held up for ridicule.
When we think of political wives and cheating husbands we immediately think of Hillary Clinton. Or at least I do! She got a job as Secretary of State that she wasn’t the most qualified person for but it fulfilled political obligations. That may not be fair but that’s life. It’s better to come out on the good side of a disadvantaged situation than not. That’s why our connections, our mentors and those we have access to matter. The story of Jenny Sanford isn’t the story of the everyday woman but of the rich and famous. It would be a mistake to think she’s “one of us” because she isn’t. She made her own decision to diminish herself – not for lack of options but perhaps because she didn’t believe in herself enough or she wanted a particular man and ignored good advice. While we may relate to her difficulties she was not disadvantaged in the way women who grow up with less education and opportunities are.
I’m waiting on Elizabeth Edwards to do her “he done me wrong” tour next…but I won’t believe a word of it.