For The Someday Book

Women Blaming Women

Posted on: March 22, 2010

Why do women always blame the other woman? I do not usually go for celebrity scandal stories, but the headline quotation I saw drew me in. Rielle Hunter, mistress to John Edwards and mother of his child, had an interview with GQ magazine this week, complete with risque photos surrounded by her child’s toys.

In the interview, she blames all of John Edwards’ problems, all his unhappiness and his need for the affair on Elizabeth Edwards. Here’s the quote that drew my ire:

Most of his mistakes or errors in judgment were because of his fear of the wrath of Elizabeth. He’s allowed himself to be pushed into a lot of things that he wouldn’t normally do because of Elizabeth’s story line. And the spin that she wants to put out there. He was emasculated. And you know, the wrath of Elizabeth is a mighty wrath.

Poor John Edwards. He is not responsible for his own actions, for his unfaithfulness, for his decision to cover it up, for his denial of his own daughter, for his decision to renew his wedding vows even as he was involved in an affair. It’s not his fault, she says—he’s a good man. That shrew Elizabeth made him do it.

This is all too familiar. There is a very long, very ugly history of women blaming women for the misdeeds of men. It makes me sad that more than 40 years after the modern feminist movement, we still live in a world where women blame other women for the bad decisions made by men.

Elizabeth Edwards (or at least her supporters) have engaged in the same practice—blaming Rielle Hunter for tempting, flirting, seducing and beguiling John. Why aren’t both women targeting the real offender, John? Why do we, as women, attack each other, compete with each other, destroy each other for the attention of a man?

As long as women continue blaming women for the pain men inflict on them, we cannot examine the broader male power at work—the culture that sees the other woman, not the man who strayed, as a homewrecker; the culture that judges women’s worth based solely on her beauty and gives men permission to reject a woman who does not live up to those standards; the culture that pits women against other women to keep women’s power at bay.

I feel sad for all those involved in this ugly episode—Elizabeth, Rielle, all their children. I feel even sadder that we still find it reasonable and acceptable to debate whether Elizabeth or Rielle was more at fault, and ignore the schmuck behavior of the man at the center of the story.

Let’s stop blaming women for men’s bad behavior, start holding men accountable for their actions and work together on building up women and girls rather than tearing them down.

3 Responses to "Women Blaming Women"

good point! and i totally agree. i have to point out almost seems like this post might be a “woman blaming women blaming women.”

you opened with a great question, “Why do women always blame the other woman?”

but we don’t really have any answers…yet.

Thanks, Charita–I really struggled with that in the post. How do you challenge the situation without just joining the fray? How do you convey sympathy (rather than more blame) for the players involved, and recognize the blaming is part of a larger pattern?

You’re right. We really don’t have the answers.

I think that Elizabeth does blame john, at least in what I have seen her say, but Miss hunter takes absolutely no responsibility in the hurt and pain caused not only to Mrs. Edwards but their children as well. If a man is in a bad marriage then get out before you move on. I think mistresses blame the wife because all they hear from the man is how awful thier wife is…and they never stop to consider the fact that the husband, once the wife finds out, is feeding his wife a pack of lies as well! It’s all very sick and twisted. I wrote a post about it today…at Being a woman who has been cheated on I find it all very unfortunate, and sad. And Miss hunter has no idea of the permanent damage caused by the actions of herself and Mr. edwards.

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About Me

I am a full-time pastor in the United Church of Christ, mother of a young child (B.), married to an aspiring academic and curmudgeon (J.). I live by faith, intuition and intellect. I follow politics, football and the Boston Red Sox. I like to talk about progressive issues, theological concerns, church life, the impact of technology and media, pop culture and books.

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