The Blame Culture

8 years ago

The bimbo. The bitch. The whore. The soulless skank. How many names can you think of to describe the other woman?

“Don't forget 20-something gold-digger,” my friend Mia adds.

“Of course.”

We're at Ralph's on a 3 A.M. run for the kind of goodies that run our side of the blogosphere: caviar, strawberries, pate, crackers, Marlboros, Coke and a wide array of cheese.

I've been looking over the tabloids lined by the cashier. In the past week, it seems the entire nation's attention has shifted to the woman now associated with Jon Gosselin, one of the stars of the TLC reality TV series Jon & Kate Plus 8, about a husband and wife and their eight children.

The show, which featured the trials and tribulations of two parents dealing with two sets of multiples, gained traction over the years, but went into a sabbatical during season five to give the Gosselins time to sort out their emotions surrounding a very public separation. The episode announcing the split was the highest rated episode of the series, with some 10.6 million viewers.

That being an old story for the media—and far better told by the Gosselins themselves—the tabloids had moved on to Jon Gosselin's alleged newest (there appear to have been at least two others before her) object of affection. Or, as they preferred to describe her, “his bimbo.”

“For all the grief we give Hollywood about sugarcoating everything, the truth is that there is nothing we like more than the decay and destruction of happy endings,” I tell Mia, grabbing several tabloids and throwing them into the cart. “We are the vulture culture. It's almost like we can't tolerate happiness. We just want to get fat on the misery of others.”


Back home, I stayed up all night reading about Jon and the woman with whom he'd spent a weekend in Saint-Tropez. She was described by Us Weekly, In Touch, and People as a raunchy, celebrity-seeking bimbo, a sexually confused party girl mooching off her parents and friends in the pursuit of fun, with a past marijuana possession conviction. This woman, the tabloids are implying, is a dangerous influence, a temptress who is only using Gosselin for celebrity.

I'm really tired of seeing the other woman quartered as though it's always her fault for luring an innocent, hapless man away, as though men somehow don't have the capacity to think for themselves and make the same choices that women do.

It's demeaning to men. What are they, then? Dumb beasts of burden who can't control themselves? Who have no capacity for thought or choice? It's sexist and ridiculous, and yet the notion is so prevalent as to have become some kind of truth.

Men are dogs! They don't know better!

My good friend Shelly is one of the perpetrators of this fallacy. She and her boyfriend recently ended a relationship of twelve years. It's not that things weren't working, that they hadn't had sex in years, that he was disloyal. It's that a “fucking bitch slut whore” came around and ruined everything.

Shelly's forgiven him. It wasn't his fault. Obviously he was no match for the fucking bitch slut whore.

“Shell, you need to stop calling her that,” I said to her the last time we spoke.

“Well, she is!”

“She never made a promise to be faithful to you,” I told her. “He did. And he broke it.”

“With her,” she pointed out. “She's not a saint!”

“No, I'm not saying that—”

“What is he supposed to do with this twenty-something jumping around at work in little shorts?” Shelly screamed. “Men don't know!”

“Men don't know?” I asked. “Men don't know? He was smart enough to hide it, to sneak around, to lie, but somehow the reason he had to do all of this escaped him?”

Men don't know. Men don't think with their head, they think with their dicks. Men are just animals who must be watched and controlled.

How about letting people take some responsibility?

It's not that men are animals, it's that sometimes people make choices that they think are in their best interest and not in the interest of the people in their lives. Sometimes these people are men. But 50 percent of the time, they're women.

I don't know whether the decision the Gosselins made had anything to do with the fact Jon was having an affair. I don't know whether he was having an affair—or several. And I don't know whether the allegations that Kate had an affair are true, either. All I know is that raising a family—especially one that large—is not easy, especially in public. Watching the few episodes I caught, Jon & Kate Plus Eight seemed to me more a portrayal of a crumbling relationship than one about the raising of eight kids.

Even so, I don't think it's fair to say Kate drove Jon to leave because she's a control freak. I don't think it's fair to say Jon is an irresponsible parent. And I don't think it's fair to say this girl is manipulating him and that she's somehow responsible for their separation.

All of this reminds me of that quote from Leo Tolstoy—I think it was in War And Peace.

“Every society needs someone to admite and someone to despise.”

I think ours has become too concerned with finding someone to blame. What would happen if we focused all that energy on finding how to move on instead?



Laurie has a great response to the feeding frenzy surrounding the stars of Jon & Kate Plus 8 in her piece Jon & Kate Plus 8: What I (Really Don't, Probably) Want to Know About Your Family: “One of my most deeply held beliefs is that you can work your stuff out however you want, as consenting, hopefully competent adults. But when it comes to the children you made together, you'd better have your stuff together for them, because they didn't ask for their lives in general or their lives on TLC. And when it comes down to it, Jon can sit on the couch and be morose all he wants. People can feel for him for being married to a woman who only bemoans crying on tv because it will "ruin her makeup" and who bitches about filling 30 gift bags for a party for six kids and yells at him to the point where he looks anesthetized and angry at the same time. He married her. She married him. They chose to reproduce and ended up with eight human beings under their care, and then they went on television. Deal with it, both of you. And put your (reality tv) money where your 'my children are my life' mouth is, and take them off the air if it's that bad. Take yourselves off the air. Take your family off the air.”

Jennifer Satterwhite takes a minute to talk about parenting in Motherhood, Mentors & Mistakes: “We have all made mistakes. Some minor and common. Some that are huge and life changing. Either way, we have all made mistakes in our mothering. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. Who do you turn to? Do you have a support system? A mentor? Someone who will kick your butt when it needs to be kicked and kiss your cheek when you need to be loved or just praise you when you so desperately need to hear that you are doing a good job in a very tough position?”

In How To Think About Divorce In A Small-Town Supermarket, Jennifer Mattern describes divorce in the everyday stuff of life: at the supermarket: “Chinner Uppering is your best bet, all things considered (and you have spent the last few years doing nothing but considering). If you opt for Chinner Uppering, take care to not be too bouncy about it. Do not prance too gaily or smile too widely, lest stinky blame be flung upon your shoulders like pigeon crap on a too-proud statue in Central Park. There are already possibly four people in this supermarket and across North America who believe you to be a mentally unstable harlot. Keep those numbers to a bare minimum. Chin up (steady, steady) as you choose your laundry detergent, select yet another brand of bread your children will refuse to eat, snag the latest People mag featuring an article on the grieving sort-of-widow Michelle Williams, who never married Heath Ledger, but had his child. Think, 'Well, at least Michelle Williams didn’t have to go through a divorce. And she probably has very nice bathroom and kitchen flooring,' then realize Michelle Williams is not a fortunate soul at this moment, not at all—having to raise Matilda Rose without Heath, who is just now ordering black coffee at Heaven’s Dunkin’ Donuts and discussing the baffling (from their point of view) elusiveness of world peace and domestic peace with the Lord.”

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