The scorned wife, the femme fatale and the public dismantling of women. It’s a misogynistic and woefully predictable ploy used by the tabloid press to sell papers and generate clicks, and this week, Martha Hancock is in the firing line.
As a reminder for anyone who may need it, accomplished osteopath and mother of three, Martha Hancock:
- did not ask her husband to cheat on her with his aide
- did not ask her husband to cheat on her with his uni pal
- did not ask her husband to cheat
Yet, the coverage we’ve seen in the press so far, focuses solely on Martha Hancock.
A woman who, until the scandal broke, we hadn’t really known existed. I for one thought that Matt Hancock was a sentient rubber puppet who, when not publicly subverting COVID efforts and destroying the NHS, was placed in a dark room where he waited to be re-activated by a Tory donor.
But now we’ve found out that she does exist, because her scumbag husband had an affair.
Martha Hancock is the victim here, not Matt.
Because of what the media are doing, it’s easy to forget that while the images of Matt Hancock kissing his tax-payer funded aide, and groping her arse like a virgin at Freshers week gave us meme fodder (and nightmares), Martha Hancock was watching her life crumble around her.
She didn’t ask to be cheated on, and you can guarantee that until she saw the grainy CCTV footage of her husband kissing and groping another woman, she had no idea it was happening.
Yet, rather than being left alone, Martha Hancock has become an actress in a play she wanted no part in, taking on the role of scorned wife at the hands of her husband and his seductress.
She was given to right to privacy and no time to grieve.
Instead, the paparazzi swarmed en masse, setting up tents right outside her door. So now, everytime she emerges from her home, she’s met by a frantic snapping; strange men and women capturing every step through their vindictive lenses.
And because we all know how the paparazzi work, we also know that they’re loudly goading her as viciously as they can, so they can trigger an emotional response to immortalise in print.
Because that’s what they’re after. They want to see her snap, crumble and fall apart in public. They are desperate for her to break down in fits of tears, or to angrily gesticulate, so they can capture what they really want: the image of a woman scorned.
They don’t want dignified decorum, they want her pain blazoned across her face, so they can release the image to the highest bidder.
The paparazzi know what stories the rags will run with, and they support it, because they know that nothing pays the pills like the public dismantling of women.
We’re witnessing yet another public dismantling of yet another woman
The language that we use when discussing infidelity and affairs are just as important as the image of a woman scorned, to shine a light on how the media operate, and how we collectively enable misogyny to thrive.
To be scorned implies that hell hath no fury, that a woman will unleash her contempt in vicious, angry and often public ways. The assumption is that, at some point, the scorned woman will seek revenge.
A seductress suggests a woman has magically managed to entice a man to the point where lust overpowers duty and vows. The assumption here is that a poor, hapless bloke was simply led astray by the relentless siren calls being serenaded to him every waking moment.
Even the term mistress is loaded with misogynist intent, in which the implication suggests that a woman has behaved outside the parameters of socially acceptable conduct because she’s a bad egg; she’s breaking the rules because she’s immoral.
This loaded language is the foundation of the public dismantling of women in the hands of the media. Coupled with a few images of a sad, angry or hysterical looking woman, and we’ve got the blueprint for media coverage of scandals.
A man behaves badly and we forget about him, focusing on the women around him for a show.
It’s as predictable as it is misogynistic, and it’s something we’ve all participated in, without fail, for centuries.
Let’s look at Brad Pitt’s cheating scandal. He cheated on his wife, Jennifer Aniston, while filming with Angelina Jolie. The media focused entirely on what Jennifer could have possibly done to drive him into the arms of his co-star, while defending Brad’s actions… Because, hello, it’s Angelina Jolie: every man’s fantasy.
And so for months – years even – images of Jennifer looking homely, sad, lonely and like a third wheel dominated the global press, while photos of Angelina looking every bit the temptress sat alongside them.
A woman scorned, falling apart.
A mistress, revelling in the destruction of her apparent foe.
Brad was nowhere to be seen.
What we’re seeing with Martha Hancock is the same thing, only Brad Pitt looks like an attractive human male, and Matt looks like what happens when you let an AI create a Sim.
The media has focused their attention entirely on Martha Hancock, and they’re desperate to absolve Matt of his wrongdoings by finding something, anything, that places the blame firmly on the scorned woman.
Gina Coladangela has mostly been left alone, and the only reference to her own infidelity is centered around the fact she cheated on a multi-millionaire. There are no desperate attempts to tear her down, though, because it doesn’t fit the narrative.
The media is fine with what she’s done, because both she and Matt have decided to leave their partners to be with one another. Matt Hancock didn’t fuck up his marriage and beg forgiveness, he ended his marriage to be with his uni sweetheart – headlines and heteronomaritve relationship status restored.
The real scorn is reserved for Martha Hancock
There’s a reason why the paparazzi are camped outside Martha Hancock’s door. It’s so the media can perpetuate the wildly sexist narrative that it’s okay for a man to cheat on a woman if she fits the bill of angry, frigid, barren or crazy.
It absolves men everywhere from the guilt of infidelity. If you’ve succumbed to the siren call of the other woman, it’s because what you have at home has failed you somehow.
And that’s okay…
However, please note that this is a courtesy extended to men exclusively.
If anyone can remember the year 2000, Meg Ryan was alleged to have cheated on Dennis Quaid with Russel Crowe while filming Proof of Life. She was demonised and her career was effectively put on pause for doing exactly what the media actively and enthusiastically absolve men for.
Proving again that it’s only ever women who are publicly dismantled by the press when scandal hits.