When I was in high school, a vicious drama played out between three of my classmates. A popular boy, the stereotypical football player with a lot of talent on the field who was in love with his own legend, cheated on his cheerleader squad captain of a girlfriend with a girl who was widely panned as the school skank. The plot has become ridiculously familiar in today’s high-school-themed movies: big man on campus has the perfect girlfriend and screws it up by sleeping with the town party favor. The movies aren’t nearly as ugly as real life. There was no happy ending when the jilted cheerleader picked a fight with the girl who stole Mr. Wrong. As is always the case, the cheater was far more street wise and had been in fights before, while the cheerleader was just really pissed off. Suffice to say, the cheerleader couldn’t shake her pom-poms anymore when the dust settled. In time, everyone forgot that the fight was over a boy. The girl who stole him for a one-night stand, however, was never forgiven. My former classmates remember what she did even now.
It was then that my dad told me a story about his Navy days when women first began serving on US ships. Two sailors, a man and a woman, both married, had an affair during a major deployment. They were eventually caught (impossible not to get caught on a Navy destroyer – if you’ve ever been in one of the berthing compartments, you know why). When they were, everyone castigated the woman as being a whore – the man, however, got high-fives and his name was eventually forgotten. It was the same thing that happened when I was in high school.
Fast forward to today. Kristen Stewart, the sweetheart of the Twilight films, has been in a relationship with on-screen partner Robert Pattinson for a few years. She didn’t actually admit their relationship until she was caught cheating on Rob. Naturally, all hell broke loose – Twilight fans posted YouTube videos reminiscent of Chris Crocker’s crying rant, screaming “how could you” at Kristen over the internet. People have gone absolutely insane over this whole thing. Interestingly enough, the same tired storyline is playing out: everyone is mad at Kristen, but not one person in my office could name the man she cheated with, nor could they say for certain if he had a family.
For the record, his name is Rupert Sanders. He is technically still married to actress Liberty Ross, who played Snow White’s mother in Snow White and the Huntsman. The pair has two children together.
I’m sure Rob is torn up and feels deeply betrayed. Anyone who’s been cheated on feels a hurt that is unique to that particular act. I have to wonder, though – why in the hell has Rupert not been publicly shamed? Why hasn’t his apology been entered into the current quotable vernacular? Why hasn’t he been screamed at? He was actually married. He has two children with a woman he vowed to remain faithful, ’til death do us part. He’s the one who’s gonna have to explain to his kids why Christmas has to be split between mom and dad’s house. Why isn’t he the one everyone is targeting?
For the same reason that my classmates all forgot the guy in that love triangle. The same reason all the men on my dad’s ship gave their two-timing buddy a slap on the back and congratulated him while the woman he screwed was branded an adulteress: sexism will never die.
Women have always been held to a different standard than men. You can see it in the way Hilary Clinton was treated as soon as Barack Obama entered the presidential race. You can see it in the way Sarah Palin was skewered in John McCain’s place. We have long since answered the question of whether America is ready for a black president, yet we’re still asking if our nation is ready for a woman in the White House. We’re not ready because we still haven’t moved past the centuries-old idea that a woman is always the seductress and the man is unable to withstand her wiles. You can see it in our subconscious in the way Jodie Foster has to stand up for Kristen Stewart because almost nobody else will.
(Jodie brings up one very good point – our society has grown into an animal that eats alive any celebrity who doesn’t live up to our unspoken expectations, and it’s unfair to subject a kid to that these days. I’m glad now that I didn’t get fame when I wanted it.)
As long as things like this are coupled with White House staff salaries proving that women still aren’t equal in the workplace, we’ll never move forward; but sexism will always remain that dirty little secret that nobody talks about. It will never change because the liberal feminists will only point at abortion rights and conservatives refuse to speak loudly enough to be heard.