As young women we are influenced by the world around us. Our perceptions of other people and how we understand ourselves is directly affected by what we see, hear, and experience in our everyday lives. We are bombarded with conflicting messages about what choices we should make and what it means if we follow a particular path. As a child you are taught that you are responsible for your actions and should therefore act accordingly, but what if you are blamed for something that is completely out of your control?
Last week television presenter Anthea Turner spoke out in defence of her husband Grant Bovey when it was uncovered that he had had an affair with another woman. Rather than scorn him for his infidelity, instead Turner chose to implicate herself as the guilty party. She admitted that she had worked abroad for most of the year and that this neglect had left him no other choice but to stray from the marital bed.
“…my decision to pursue my career in Canada doesn’t look so sensible now. Long periods apart are never good for a healthy relationship. But then we’re all fallible. We all make mistakes.”
It appears a six month stretch of fixing his own dinner every night was simply too much for Grant and he had to seek solace in the arms of 25 year old socialite, Zoe de Mallet Morgan. What Turner fails to address is the reason she had to work away for most of the year was due to financial problems caused by the collapse of her husband’s business.
While I know nothing of the dynamics of Anthea Turner and her husband’s marriage and I don’t want to appear to trivialise their relationship, I do have difficulty understanding her need to vocalise her admission so loudly. Is she suggesting that other women may also be to blame for their husband’s betrayal?
The debate was further flared when Daily Mail writer Angela Epstein appeared on ITV’s ‘This Morning’ show to support Turners theory of female liability.
Epstein opened the discussion by stating “I have seen marriages fall apart because the woman has taken a ‘man’s job’ and the man feels emasculated”
She further supports her view by declaring;
“Men are essentially hardwired to cheat because their biology makes them more vulnerable to temptation” and adds “Men are emotionally simple”.
She also warns that men are more likely to stray if they feel abandoned or vulnerable. I can just imagine the RSPCA style adverts for ‘abandoned’ men.
‘Here’s Bob from Norwich, his wife Linda has been on an accounting course for 5 days and Bob has only showered once and survived on ham and cheese sandwiches. He has also started eyeing up Vera next door, obviously.’
I’d imagine the men in Epstein’s world to be like small dogs or even young children. Attracted to bright colours and scared of loud noises. She cites “sex, food, warmth and uncomplicated situations” as men’s top priorities.
As well as being unbelievably patronising towards men, Epstein’s primitive views of the role of a wife reduces a woman down to little more than a submissive carer. One who is at fault of losing her man if she does not conform to these idealisms.
It is one thing poking fun at how seemingly simplistic Angela Epstein’s views are but when you consider the fact she writes for a national newspaper, it is alarming to think how many people she may be influencing.
In an equal partnership surely it is each person’s responsibility to appreciate each other, to remain attractive and interesting to that person, to continue to challenge and enjoy each other each day. I do understand that in certain circumstances a person might cheat because they are craving a love or attention they are not receiving in their relationship, but surely in that situation you both shoulder the responsibility together and work on it. It is something very different altogether to accept the entire blame for your partners damaged ego and subsequent infidelity.
Another high profile example is the David Beckham/Rebecca Loo’s scandal which was re-ignited last week after Loo’s gave an interview to a women’s magazine. For the duration of the scandal, the overwhelming opinion of many commentators was that Beckham had cheated on his wife of 5 years because she had been away touring as a solo artist and had abandoned him. This, along with her noticeable fear of smiling, meant she was given little sympathy. A failed career and a rocky marriage, should have stayed at home eh Vicky?
Without playing to the tabloid inclination to sensationalise a story, Epstein may want to consider the repercussions of her comments.
This apparent blame culture is manifested in other areas of women’s lives too. A study about women who have suffered physical or sexual abuse showed that an overwhelming amount of these women felt they were partly to blame for the abuse they experienced. This is usually due to extremely low levels of self-esteem. An example seen here when Rihanna took to her twitter account to vent her frustration, this is widely thought to be in relation to the incident involving her on/off boyfriend Chris Brown who viciously assaulted her.
I am not suggesting that Anthea Turner’s comments encourages a culture of violence towards women but quite often it is the gentle nuances which are the most destructive. Once you make it socially acceptable to blame women for situations which are out of their control you open the topic up to interpretation. It is actually these slight suggestions that appear unassuming and un-threatening which are the most harmful.
If a woman goes out on a Saturday night dressed in a short skirt and high heels, is she to blame for any unwanted advances? If a stranger puts his hand up her dress is that OK because she is ‘asking for it’ in that outfit?
Likewise, if you scream and shout at your boyfriend and he raises his hand to you, have you brought this upon yourself by acting unreasonably? Is it your own irrational behaviour which might lead to him attacking you?
A third of Britons believe a woman who acts flirtatiously is partially or completely to blame for being raped, according to a new study.
More than a quarter also believe a woman is at least partly responsible for being raped if she wears sexy or revealing clothing, or is drunk, the study found.
What an infuriating and unbelievably sad state of affairs.
The UK has an incredibly low rate of conviction when it comes to rape cases. Ruth Hall, from the support group Women Against Rape, criticised “prejudices” in the court system, saying: “They still put the woman on trial, including her sexual history with other men, which is supposed to be banned and blame the woman for what happened to her and hold her accountable.
What the Anthea Turner story highlighted was the worrying trend for women admitting blame in circumstances which are out of their control. It is one thing having the blame thrust upon you, but it is something else to stand up and bring the entire weight of the situation upon yourself willingly.
So lets stop this cycle of blame. Let me respond on behalf of all women around the world when I say;
If you walk down the street in a short skirt and you are attacked; it is not your fault.
If a boyfriend raises his hand to you during an argument because he is angry; it is not your fault.
If your husband abuses your trust and sleeps with another woman because you chose to further your career; it is not your fault.
Anthea; It is not your fault.
Victoria; It is not your fault.
Ladies; It is not your fault.