A few years ago I wrote about how much I love Martha Stewart and said this: “When I mention I’m a fan, most people respond with, ‘She went to jail,’ like it might be news to me or make me recycle those magazine back issues.”
I chalked that up to people not being true fans like I was, or not knowing about everything else she did because the jail time got so much coverage. But this article finally sums up why that response bothers me so much: The Martha Stewarting of Powerful Women: How society disproportionately demonizes women after they’ve bent the same rules that men have always broken.
The entire article, by Ann Foster, is fire–going from Martha to Joan of Arc (!) and beyond–but this pretty much sums up the problem:
For a man to fail as a king, president, or CEO through wrongdoings is so commonplace as to be insignificant; in fact, the patriarchal system supports these men as they fall, leaving doors open for them to regain their former level of power. For a woman to ascend to these roles is novel enough, rare enough, that when they display the same fallibility or criminal activity, they dominate the news cycle for months. This when we reach peak Martha Stewarting: the particular schadenfreude expressed at the public shaming of powerful women behaving badly; the way that women who misbehave are treated as representatives for the entire gender and shamed far more than men would be for the same actions.