Froma Harrop: A rough month in America for women
By Froma Harrop
Mark Sanford’s heralded engagement to Maria Belen Chapur is apparently over. The rep from South Carolina released the news to America through a Facebook post. That’s how Chapur found out, too.
Gallantry has been in especially short supply this month. Prominent American men have been roughing up their women in spectacularly public ways — ranging from coldly calculated mind games to a knockout punch.
September opened with former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s unsuccessful attempt to swat away felony charges by making his wife take the entire rap for rampant corruption. The governor’s lawyers smeared Maureen as “manipulative,” “unpredictable,” “deceptive” and, most famously, a “nut bag.”
For a taste of the media response, Google “Maureen McDonnell under the bus.”
McDonnell had long touted his traditional values, pasting pictures of his photogenic wife and children on every available surface. His master’s thesis was on family breakdown and contained the line, “As the family goes, so goes the nation.”
Guess family values week is over.
To think, many Republicans had put McDonnell on their list of potential presidential candidates.
As for Sanford, an antiseptic breakup note marked the latest in a series of callous behaviors toward women and just plain weirdness. Recall that as South Carolina governor, Sanford sneaked off to Argentina to visit Chapur, a TV journalist there, for nearly a week. He told his staff that he was “hiking the Appalachian Trail” and could not be reached. Recall that his disgusted wife threw him out of the house and initiated divorce.
To pretty up the adulterous activity for his socially conservative voters, Sanford framed the affair as an unstoppable joining of soul mates. He promised to put aright the perceived wrong by marrying Chapur. And he layered on top of that an inspirational journey of redemption, starring himself.
“I’ve experienced how none of us goes through life without mistakes,” he said in a campaign ad when running for Congress. “But in their wake, we can learn a lot about grace, a God of second chances, and be the better for it.”
Two years went by, and Chapur eventually demanded an actual wedding date, which he wouldn’t make.
“I think that I was not useful to him anymore,” she told an interviewer. “He made the engagement thing four months before the elections.”
The ex-wife is now trying to restrict Sanford’s visits with their 15-year-old son. She also wants the court to order the congressman to have psychological counseling and take anger management classes.
True to form, Sanford is now blaming his ex-wife’s custody fight for his inability to wed Chapur. Don’t blame the ex-wife, Chapur responded.
To think, many Republicans had put Sanford on their list of potential presidential candidates.
To be clear, narcissistic abuse of women is hardly a Republican monopoly.
Consider the Democrats’ 2004 vice presidential nominee, John Edwards — who declared devotion to his cancer-ridden wife on the campaign trail while fathering a child with a tawdry filmmaker.
Between the McDonnell and Sanford stories emerged the video of football star Ray Rice punching his girlfriend, now wife, cold in an elevator and then dragging her limp body out. The now-former Baltimore Ravens running back saw no need to blame the woman for provoking the attack. She did it for him.
Say this for the Rice assault: It was straightforward brutality. It happened in a moment and without burdening the public with baroque explanations. The victim knew exactly what had happened to her, once she came to.
But what are Rice’s prospects of getting a second chance? The practitioner of psychological cruelty tends to be slicker than the man with the fist. And the businessmen running the NFL are a tougher sell than the electorate.
Meanwhile, September isn’t over.