Does the outcome of the Vicky Pryce trial say something about society’s view of women?
The phrase ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ is an interesting one, and has a certain resonance today, on International Women’s Day.
We are still espousing sexist values, where if a woman has the temerity to admit to a crime, or right a wrong, she must be doing it to exact revenge. I don’t understand the logic that dictates women are inherently more inclined to pursue revenge at any cost, but it probably has its roots in the idea of ‘hysteria’- uncontrollable irrationality brought about by the ‘time of the month.’
Vicky Pryce has just been convicted of perverting the course of justice for accepting points on her license for her now ex-husband Chris Huhne. Her defence was that of ‘marital coercion’; being pressured or forced into taking the points through obligation as a wife. It was unlikely this arcane defence would succeed, not least because Pryce is a successful business woman in her own right, presenting an idea of a ‘strong woman’.
Does having a job mean that women can’t be pressured by their husbands? There is surely a separation of public and private life that leaves little room for conjecture on whether an individual in a relationship might be browbeaten into submission regardless of whether they have high responsibility in the workplace. Or is it the case that if a woman has a good job, she simply can’t have a controlling husband? Too many assumptions on the inner workings of Pryce and Huhne’s private life have been made, and all from this strange angle. It is argued that Pryce invited such conjecture on herself, for she went to the media.
A newspaper has published an article headlined ‘To a Greek mother her son is a God.’ Pryce is thus rendered as an irrational womb, and all the more neatly for being Greek. The further implication is that Greek women uniquely care about their children in a way other mothers do not. She is accused of ‘cold-blooded plotting’. The premise is that her son had severe issues with his father, and she was cheated on, and so she ‘hysterically’ set out to destroy his career. It would be disingenuous of me to dismiss outright that there could be a grain of truth in the idea that she was feeling vengeful. It is not the case however, that she was acting as an irrational harridan. More, she had no obligation to protect her husband any longer.
The burden of keeping such secrets, of being a Pandora (to continue the bizarre ancient Greece references) who must keep the box closed, was lifted when Huhne no longer deserved her protection. His succession of betrayals to his Liberal Democrat voters thanks to his Faustian pact with the Conservatives means he won’t find much sympathy on the street. He isn’t getting any from his son. He is the villain in the story. Pryce accuses him of pressuring her into an abortion to help protect his career. None of this sounds too extraordinary to believe. The points on the license must have been a breeze compared to that.
Now she will pay the price for what is effectively coming clean. Perverting the course of justice is a serious crime, even if we are apathetic about the points on the license. Justice must be seen to be done. She is not as deserving of punishment as Huhne, and one hopes the sentencing reflects this. She is certainly not deserving of being labelled a ‘schemer’ when it is her ex husband’s schemes that have caused the problem.
On International Women’s Day, it would be a good idea if we all attempted to move away from stereotypes of women who get wronged, and then seek out maniacal revenge because they just can’t help it.
Photo courtesy of Chatham House, London, with thanks.
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