Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Slut Shaming Of Rielle Hunter, John Edwards Mistress

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Yesterday Rielle’s GQ interview made the rounds on twitter and the blogosphere.   It even became a hot topic on “The View”.   For almost a solid 15 minutes, the ladies engaged in some of the worst slut shaming that I have seen in quite sometime.   Though they dedicated a vast amount of time to it yesterday, Elizabeth could not let it go and today quipped, “put some pants on, something decent,” in reference to the above picture.  Rielle has deemed the photos to be repulsive and apparently “cried for two hours after seeing the photos”.

The Black Snob, Danielle Belton had this to say regarding this photo:

This woman is completely delusional. And in the worst, mind-numbing, narcissistic way. She posing with NO PANTS ON while sitting with her legs apart on her daughters bed surrounded by Barney, Kermit, Dora the Explorer and one petrified looking pink pillow with googly eyes. But she didn't know those pictures without her pants on would come across as SO TACKY! She had no clue, y'all! Even though it was for GQ and SHE DIDN'T HAVE ON PANTS!!!

I personally did not read the interview in question because I have little interest in John Edwards and even less interest in his relationship with Rielle.  The only reason I am mentioning this at all, is the propensity to slut shame in this situation.  Rielle had sex with a married man and has thus become the modern day scarlet woman.  She made no promises to Elizabeth Edwards and in fact had no relationship with Ms. Edwards, therefore; it puzzles me why she is being shamed alongside John Edwards.

If he had truly wanted to stay faithful to his wife, nothing that Rielle did could have caused him to sway.  Edwards made an active choice to be unfaithful and therefore; if we are going to judge or blame (though I feel we should do neither) it should be him. Edwards was the one that was deceitful.

People have latched onto the photos of Rielle to justify the slut shaming.  Attacking how a woman chooses to dress and then making a correlation to sexual behaviour, is one of the most obvious ways in which patriarchy works to eliminate female agency.  What disturbs me most, is watching women jump on their high horse to finger wag, completely oblivious to the fact that they are supporting their own oppression.

I honestly hope that this is the last that we are going to hear about Rielle Hunter and John Edwards, because  it is a non story and only our obsession with sexism, sex, and sexual fidelity keeps this story on the frontline.  Like it or not, infidelity is common everyday behaviour and no amount of shaming or discipline, is going to stop it from happening.  Instead of seeing this as an absolute fact, we often choose to blame the adulteress, thus seizing upon the opportunity to reify some of the most destructive social memes.  Rielle Hunter had sex and this is something women across the globe engage in and therefore; before we start to judge, we should consider why it is important for society to decide when a woman may be intimate with another.  Slut shaming always serves a higher purpose.