There’s been something of a brouhaha following the publication of an admittedly acerbic article by Judith Rogers in the Daily Telegraph that called the oscar-winning actress tacky, after her announcement that she is expecting her third baby by her third husband, later this year.
In typical fashion various feminist commentators laid into Ms Rogers and the Telegraph with accusations of misogyny and the ubiquitous ‘slut-shaming’ label. A second article was then hastily churned out by the newspaper’s Wonderwoman section, in condemnation of the first.
A few observations. While sharp, the original article had a point in that it highlighted the folly of having three children by three different men. Before I go any further I am well aware that I lay myself open to charges of blatant hypocrisy as my relationship history has not been unblemished. I too attempted a marriage not in possession of a full understanding of what that meant and lacking the emotional maturity to realise that my judgement was flawed. Mea maxima culpa.
I would not attempt to justify, promote or validate my past as being ideal, nor would I seek to deny the devastating effect that divorce has upon children of a marriage, even if matters are resolved in a civilised fashion and former partners manage to avoid the trap that so many fall into of using their children as weapons or co-opting them into taking a particular side. It is painful and unsettling for children when their biological parents are not living together, they are subject to regular disruption, forced to live in two different homes, and always feeling slightly apart or different from their parents’ new families, a separateness that is reinforced by the fact that they may not even share the same surname as their mother or father’s families. When one of the parents re-marries, the child has to bond with and accept an additional parental figure of authority in their home, the new spouse, like it or not, bears an element of responsibility for the child living under their roof. We are fortunate as a family, there is no question for my eldest daughter that she is an equally valued and loved member of her stepfather’s family, she enjoys a close and loving bond with her stepfather alongside her relationship with her adoring biological father but there are still moments of pain and tears when visits end. It is a better situation than various alternatives, but it is not the ideal that all children deserve. It would be deceptive to claim otherwise.
The ‘problem’ is not one of sexual ethics, credit where credit is due, Kate Winslet is expecting a baby within a marital relationship, the ideal context. The difficulty lies not in her pregnancy, but that she does not appear to treat the bond of marriage entirely seriously. Either that, or she’s been incredibly unlucky, but from what was reported in the press, the break-up of her first marriage came entirely at her instigation with her former husband , Jim Threappleton joining the pressure group ‘Fathers for Justice’ as he seemingly does not get enough access to their daughter.
Multiple marriages or serial monogamy have a devastating effect on children and my eyebrows were raised not at the prospect of her pregnancy but at her third marriage which came after a relatively short courtship to a man who had recently changed his birth name to ‘Rocknroll’ by deed poll. It’s not indicative of maturity, each to their own, but with two children by different fathers and having ditched her previous model boyfriend upon meeting her spouse, it’s certainly doesn’t give the impression of a man who is giving much thought to responsibility and is an interesting choice for mother of two in her late thirties.
Perhaps having amassed considerable wealth as a result of her career, Kate is none too concerned about permanence as she has financial stability and is able to financially support herself should things go horribly wrong, but it seems fair to question the effect of the emotional stability upon her children. That will be the third father-figure in her eldest daughter’s life and doesn’t exactly model marriage in a good light as being a lifetime permanent stable commitment for her children.
This isn’t a misogynist attitude either, I have as little time for men who indulge in similar behaviour, I know I’ll cause gross offence if my former colleague Yvonne reads this, such is her passion for Rod Stewart, but he’s one such offender. Charlie Sheen is another who comes to mind. There will be plenty more.
It’s fair to note that women celebrities are more prone to being singled out for this disapprobation than men, so perhaps there is a slight element of misogyny, but of more concern is the element of class here. I don’t see the feminists rallying round to the defence of Katie Price, who has open season declared on her private life, (not helped by the fact she aids, abets and positively invites comments with her regular magazine spreads and reality shows) but the general consensus seems to be that La Price is trashy and vulgar for being on her third husband and expecting her fourth baby by her third different man, whereas Kate Winslet should be above judgement, because she is a beautiful and talented, Oscar-winning actress from a middle-class family.
This isn’t about money, but about class. Society does still stigmatise those who have multiple children by multiple men and women but the difference is whether or not they have the funds not to be a burden on the taxpayer. Transfer Kate Winslet into a tracksuit on a council estate, aged 37, expecting her third child by her third husband and the moral neutrality and relativism would vanish.
Articles such as Judith Rogers’ may be the literary equivalent of pursing one’s lips into the shape of a cat’s bottom, but it’s noteable that the Daily Telegraph have attacked Winslet, one of their own, as opposed to Katie Price who they would not normally sully their pages with. Here is a middle-class publication casting judgement on a middle-class woman, one to whom many would aspire on account of her ability to look good when taking her clothes off in films, dazzle in glamourous gowns on the red carpet and her undeniable talent as an actress. The Kate Winslet brand previously exuded class, a few errors of judgement and the lustre is beginning to look a little tarnished.
Bearing in mind that as Christians we need to speak the truth but with charity, I wish both of the Kates, Winslet and Price well. We have to remember that people are not means to an end, but human beings with feelings. Being hated on for the crime of being pregnant by one’s new husband cannot be pleasant and doesn’t do much to spread Gospel values, although Christ was clear about the importance of marriage. Jesus doesn’t simply reference marriage but talks about it as God’s plan for humanity from the very beginning, as John Paul II reflected upon in his Theology of the Body.
In all societies since time immemorial, people who have deviated from societal norms or indulged in patterns of behaviour to the detriment of the common good have been ostracised. Fortunately these days we have moved away from public shaming practices lacking in compassion and mercy and are more tolerant and open to the prospect of forgiveness.
Newspapers reflect the interests and views of their readership nonetheless, which is why the Daily Telegraph will be passing judgement on Kate Winslet, the Daily Express or the The Sun, on Katie Price. We can but hope that it is third time lucky for these two women, not least for the sake of their children. It is perfectly acceptable to note that neither seem to possess much wisdom in terms of choice of spouse and/or value the commitment of marriage.
There are those who, in the absence of any spiritual or moral formation take their cues from the rich and famous. Multiple children by multiple surviving former spouses is not in the best interests of individuals, children, families or society as a whole. It is neither misogynistic, narrow-minded or judgemental to point this out. It shows that public disproval can still be a powerful tool. Kate Winslet is no victim, despite the clamouring of the feminist lobby to claim her as their latest figurehead. Their silence over the similar press treatment of Katie Price, for her sexual antics, speaks volumes. They are as elitist as the patriarchy they claim to despise.