Why Are Famous Men Forgiven for Their Wrongdoings, While Women Are Vilified for Much Less?

In Perez Hilton’s words, “2010 has really been the year of the cheater”. First we had Tiger Woods’ cheating scandal, which broke late last year but has continued to be a headline grabbing story, then Jesse James’ spiral of shame, and now David Boreanaz, who went public a few weeks ago with news that he cheated on his wife of almost nine years, Jaime Bergman.

And last year was the year of the sports scandal, you might say, with the Matthew Johns group sex story coming to light in May.

What do all these men, with, perhaps, the exception of James, have in common? Their shady pasts have virtually been forgotten in favour of their more positive talents. Boreanaz plays the lead in hit TV series Bones, Johns now hosts his own self-titled show, and Tiger is back on the Masters tour.

While the wrongdoings of the Australian underworld are being glorified on Underbelly no one bats an eyelid. To take it even further, O.J. Simpson, although acquitted of double murder, was held up as a hero amongst African Americans in Los Angeles following his trial, despite being thought of as guilty in the court of public opinion.

Perhaps this is just a sign of the times changing; that our society has become so desensitised to notions of war, violence, drugs and sexual depravity that they are not longer taboo. I would argue that this is true to some extent it is not reflected on the other end of the spectrum.

For example, a recently refurbished Heidi Montag admitted to undergoing 10 cosmetic surgical procedures in one day because she wasn’t happy with the way she looked. She obviously has deep-rooted body dysmorphic issues, however instead of helping and supporting her, the public has turned on her.

The same could be said of the Britney Spears’ and Lindsay Lohans’ of the world. A recent Jezebel article, “In Defence of Lindsay Lohan”, was in support of the former child star everyone loves to hate.

Sure, Lindsay has a father who “is a nightmare… and her mother is more of a friend than a parental figure. So perhaps she is lacking in guidance and role models. But who among us, in some way, is not? Her experience [of growing up in the spotlight]… is not one many people can relate to, anyway.”

The author surmises that the public’s fascination with Lindsay and their “build-you-up-to-take-you-down” mentality is much simpler: “She’s 23-years-old and being ripped to shreds in the press mostly because she goes out at night.”

Right. Someone like Colin Farrell has had a sex tape released, sexual misconduct allegations brought against him and has battled substance abuse problems, however he is still held up as a Golden Globe-winning actor. We all know Lindsay has the acting chops, it’s just a matter of her getting out of her own way. Double standard? In the words of Sarah Palin, you betcha!

The beautifully tragic Marilyn Monroe and Anna Nicole Smith were, and still are, vilified for being just that. Even in death, the girls can’t catch a break.

So that brings us back to the question, why do men get away with so much more than women can? Or, more to the point, why are men almost celebrated for their wrongdoings while women are banished into social oblivion?

I think, in a nation that celebrates sport as the highest level of achievement, especially, we want to give our sportsmen the benefit of the doubt. While I do think we focus too much on sport as the be all and end all of success in Australia, and the very nature of being “Australian”, it can be seen as admirable to offer someone a second chance. Johns, for example, could be seen as brave for coming forward and being the only one of his Cronulla Sharks teammates to own up to his mistake. But I do think it’s a bit soon to be running a television show off his back.

However, we also like to kick people when they’re down. Britney Spears, for example, was heralded as the princess of pop in her golden days, but when she started donning pink wigs, speaking to herself in a British accent in the gutter, and being carted off to the looney bin, we wanted nothing to do with her. Oh, I’m sorry, only to denigrate her on the cover of tabloid magazines.

Then last year she launched her comeback tour, and everyone was back on her side. That is, until, she lip synched (come on, it’s Britney! When has she ever not lip synched?) her way through Australia and out of our collective consciousness.

But how many second chances are we going to give these men, in particular? Charlie Sheen was embroiled in his latest domestic dispute over Christmas last year. But what of his past child pornography, prostitute and drug allegations? Not to mention the shooting of ex-girlfriend Kelly Preston in a domestic dispute. Do we just sweep them under the rug too so that Sheen can keep the $1.2 million per episode of Two & a Half Men coming?

When these mistakes are hurting people other than themselves, maybe it’s time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Do we really care if Lindsay, Britney or Mischa are off to rehab again? And shouldn’t we be caring that Jesse James allegedly ran dog fights out of his West Coast Choppers headquarters and is apparently a white supremacist? Or that Sheen is essentially being rewarded by the cash cow that is Hollywood for his reprehensible behaviour? Or that Tiger sleptand somehow found time to golfhis way across the country in a narcissistic bubble of admiration from his countrymenand women?

Related: All Eyes on Marilyn.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] In Defence of Lindsay Lohan.

27 thoughts on “Why Are Famous Men Forgiven for Their Wrongdoings, While Women Are Vilified for Much Less?

  1. Scarlett, these men have obviously not been forgiven by you.

    Whether or not Lindsay Lohan has acting chops is a matter of opinion.

    I’ll admit, I’m on a very unsure footing here, as following the celebrity gossip could not be further from my style. But all that aside, here we go…

    Is “People Magazine” really the public? This doesn’t mean that the collective opinion is against Heidi Klum, rather that a particular magazine is attempting to influence public thought in that direction, most likely in a quest to sell magazines, right?

    And who says that the shady sides of famous men have been forgotten? You’ve pitched it like the Tiger Woods sex scandal’s ability to grab headlines was NOT a negative appraisal of his behavior. It was a scandal. I don’t even know if he’s saved his marriage because I haven’t followed things. But, if he has, or if he finds another partner and then begins to cheat on her too, I’d bet my life savings that there will be headlines along the likes of, “has collapsed again”.

    Noone wanted anything to do with Britney after the looney bin, but I recall from ages past that there were photos of her going nuts with a shaved head and such. Just in the same way as there was a media murmur about photos of Tiger Woods in sex rehab.

    Now, onto the plastic surgery business. Women, at least, have the luxury of someone to turn to for this problem. They have famous examples of women to show them that it’s ok to physically improve themselves for the sake of vanity. If a dude needs plastic surgery to improve the way they look, for whatever hidden confidence issue, do they have any inspiration? Any example they can draw on for moral, argumentative, or even emotional support? None, save Michael Jackson. And we all saw how that turned out.

    Is this Montag woman addicted to plastic surgery? Perhaps, whilst the bold yellow “addicted” may be over the top, it’s certainly reasonable to ask, as the subtext does, “But has she gone too far?”. We did far more than just ask that about Jacko.

    If men go to rehab, is it not a big deal too? Do we really care?

    How has Sheen been rewarded? Is his new Two and a Half Men contract really worth damning, or will you be quietly removing this discussion once Lindsay lands another movie?

    How lucky we are that justice does not hinge upon public opinion. (Re. OJ)

    “… he wrongdoings of the Australian underworld are being glorified on Underbelly.” There are women on that show.

    Men are forgiven? Pffft. To violence against, women, Australia says no. But if a wife smacks a dude with golf clubs, it’s all good. Women with plastic surgery have been looked on as hot. Are there any dudes like this? Perhaps you can answer that for me, but if they have X amount of potentially excessive surgeries, do you really believe no media would care?

    Do you care about Charlie Sheen? Do you know him? Does he call you at home? For all any commoner knows, he has been banished to social oblivion, just not to the point of losing his job, again, so the media can continue to make money. Perhaps he’s not invited to after-work drinks anymore.

    And to finish this rambled, out of order, tired-while-writing response, I would ask you the following question Scarlett: Has Paris Hilton’s sex tape been forgotten? It happens for women too. Give it time and look objectively.

  2. I think you may be misinterpreting what I’m trying to say here, Andrew.
    Sure, the article is titled “Why Are Famous Men Forgiven for Their Wrongdoings…”, but it’s not an exercise in man-bashing, as you seem to think it is.
    The women I list here are heightened examples of how the media—and thus, the majority of the general public—won’t let up on someone they feel is doing the wrong thing. Why these “someone’s” are often women is a different question.
    Lindsay, Heidi and Britney are “hot messes” and will, for the foreseeable future, be used as the measuring stick for hitting rock bottom in their respective ways, ie. drug and alcohol use, plastic surgery obsession/body image issues, and mental illness.
    To argue against this article’s contention that only famous men’s indiscretions are swept under the carpet, we can look to Halle Berry’s hit-and-run accident. Who even remembers, or defines her by, this?
    Sure, Tiger Woods doesn’t seem to be forgiven by the masses yet, but his talent as a sportsman will inevitably tip the scales of public judgement in his favour. At the end of the day, what talents do Heidi et al. have that will save them?
    While Michael Jackson is a fine example of a MAN being vilified for all manner of things, I think it’s looking a bit too far to the extreme end of the spectrum. Yes, he was charged with child molestation, but the reason we had such a fascination with him in life is because he fell from such dizzying heights to such depressing lows. What heights have Montag, Melanie Griffiths or Jocelyn “The Bride of” Wildenstein fallen from? A much publicised feud with Lauren Conrad, multiple marriages to the likes of Don Johnson and Antonio Banderas, or being the wife of a billionaire art collector aren’t very notable accomplishments. Not to forget, when Jackson died last year, all was forgotten and he was once again held up as a music legend. Mickey Rourke, Burt Reynolds and Sylvester Stallone are all men who’ve gone under the knife, FYI.
    In response to your question about Paris Hilton’s sex tape, no, it has not been forgotten. While Hilton has ceased to be relevant in past couple of years, she is still the beacon of “being famous for being famous” via that sex tape. (Kim Kardashian is another who has followed in her footsteps.) There are many other transgressions Hilton has been involved in (drug use, jail sentence, yet more compromising sexual situations), but now that she has fallen from grace it is the point at which we all look back on as the moment she was thrust into the spotlight. And for many people, it was a very bad moment.
    To set the record straight, I have nothing against David Boreanaz, Colin Farrell, David Duchovny, Russell Brand or even Tiger Woods. I was simply using them to illustrate my point.
    Charlie Sheen and Matthew Johns, however, I do have a problem with. Under no circumstances do I condone domestic violence of any kind, including a husband being assaulted with golf clubs by his wife. Nor do I condone group sex when the (sole) woman involved has arguably not given consent. Johns makes me sick, to be honest, as does a $1.2 million pay check for a repeat offender in the categories of wife beating, drug abuse and alleged consumption of child porn. If I can reiterate, when a person’s behaviour is hurting others, it shouldn’t be rewarded, which seems to be the case amongst these men, which is the point I’m trying to get across in this article.

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