Harvey Weinstein’s wife Georgina Chapman is a victim of our judgment: Teitel
The spouses of fallen powerful men are rarely able to redeem themselves. Real life is not as forgiving as The Good Wife.
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Being the wife of an alleged sexual predator is far better than being a victim of that predator but it’s not a role to be desired. Case in point: Georgina Chapman, the 41-year- old English fashion designer who was, until very recently, the committed spouse of fallen Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Chapman announced Tuesday that she is leaving her husband after bombshell media investigations by the New York Times and the New Yorker revealed he allegedly harassed and assaulted more than a dozen women in the entertainment industry over many years.
“My heart breaks for all the women who have suffered tremendous pain because of these unforgivable actions,” Chapman said in a statement to People Magazine on Tuesday. “I have chosen to leave my husband. Caring for my young children is my first priority and I ask the media for privacy at this time.”
Fat chance. Chapman’s business already appears to be suffering as a result of her husband’s alleged actions. On Wednesday, jewelry retailer Helzberg Diamonds announced it was severing ties with her fashion label, Marchesa, and some former fans of the brand have begun boycotting it. Chapman is not only an ongoing subject of media fascination, she is the target of outsized online vitriol. In times like these, everyone wants to know: Who is the wife? Was she aware of her husband’s alleged behaviour? How could she have been married to such a pig? Did her silence enable him?
We know that Weinstein may have been instrumental in the success of Chapman’s fashion line, allegedly pressuring famous actresses to wear Marchesa on the red carpet. But of Chapman’s motivations for staying by Weinstein’s side for years, and now, for leaving him, we don’t actually know anything.
Of course it’s entirely possible, as online haters of the fashion designer have suggested, that Chapman knew about every violation allegedly committed by her husband. It’s also entirely possible she had no qualms about keeping quiet so that he could help her business succeed.
But those quick to condemn Chapman ought to remember that there are other possibilities in this equation, and though they are less scandalous they are worth considering.
For example, it’s entirely possible that revelations about Weinstein’s alleged abuse came as a complete surprise to her. It’s possible that Chapman was under the impression her husband was merely creepy (the kind of guy who makes a pass at a female subordinate) but was totally unaware that his actions may have veered into the territory of rape. It’s also entirely possible that she was a victim of sexual assault in her own right, at his hands. Some of the women who say Weinstein allegedly assaulted or harassed them also report that they were terrified of him. Who’s to say his wife wasn’t equally terrified? The point is, we simply don’t know.
What we do know, however, is that the spouses of fallen powerful men are rarely able to redeem themselves. Real life is not as forgiving as The Good Wife. If Chapman says she knew nothing, she will not be believed. If she says she knew something, she will be loathed. Hers is a lose-lose situation.
Of course, being sexually assaulted is a far graver lose-lose situation than that of the wronged spouse, but victims of sex crimes have a protective force behind them that Chapman and women like her most certainly do not: the sisterhood. In other words, where victims of assault are rightly believed, women who appear to give themselves willingly to domineering men are judged and shunned. Though Chapman is no Monica Lewinsky, the former White House intern’s slow, painful climb back to respectable public life after her affair with Bill Clinton is a perfect example of the cognitive dissonance some feminists exhibit in situations where women aren’t clear-cut victims.
Perhaps the most telling example of this cognitive dissonance was Beyoncé performing in front of a gigantic “FEMINIST” backdrop at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards after she sang “Partition” — a song in which she turns Lewinsky’s name into a verb for ejaculation. “He Monica Lewinsky’d all on my gown,” Beyoncé sings on the song. (Lewinsky later shot back at the pop star in Vanity Fair, stating: “If we’re verbing, I think you meant ‘Bill Clinton’d all on my gown.’ ”)
All this is to say we don’t know if Georgina Chapman was a victim of her husband, but she is most definitely a victim of our judgment. This is unfortunate because when a man appears to have abused his power in a cruel and heinous manner, as Harvey Weinstein has allegedly done, our outrage should remain fixed on him. When we shift it to his spouse we achieve nothing more than to extend his path of destruction.