Friday, 24 October 2008

Gold digger

No one much likes Heather Mills, ex-wife of Paul McCartney, and I'm no exception. The woman is quite, quite nutty - and not in an endearing way.

But I have to wonder whether, behind all the criticisms and taunts that have been levelled at Mills, there's a bit of good old-fashioned misogyny, and a punitive desire to get back (no pun intended) at the woman who dissed an ex-Beatle and cultural icon.

In the eyes of the media, Mills can do no right. This Stuff article is typical fare. It begins with an unflattering photo of Mills, caught mid-speech so her face is slightly contorted. It lampoons the way in which she is spending her divorce settlement, using phrases such as 'splashing out'. The article quotes a source who calls Mills "a calculating, pathological liar and the biggest bitch on the planet", then concludes by ridiculing her somewhat eccentric charity work.

Mills may indeed be a complete dick, but there seems to be a double standard operating here. Paul McCartney also supports a range of charities - he and Mills undertook lots of charitable work together - but the media aren't mocking his philanthropy. Nor are they scrutinising his spending habits.

You might say that Mills has attracted all this opprobrium because she's managed to come into a vast sum of money through no merit of her own. It's quite true - but it's also not all that uncommon, particularly amongst celebrities. People live off their investments. Some win Lotto. Paul McCartney wrote and performed some great songs in his time, but we can safely assume that most of his income now comes from passively collecting royalties. Galling though it may to those of us who have jobs to go to, not everyone works for a living, and as a society we don't sink the boot equally into all of them.

There's been a great deal of speculation over whether Mills deserved a chunk of McCartney's £800 million estate. The answer is probably no - but I think the question is misguided. A better thing to ask is whether anyone, male or female, divorced or married, celebrity or otherwise, ought to have such an obscene sum of money at all. We could also question the vacuous culture of celebrity that has lead to the public playing-out of this undignified drama.

Mills seems to have got offside with the global public primarily by using marriage to her own advantage. For right or for wrong, the law says that marriage is a relationship of dependence (including financial dependence) between two people, and this entails sharing of property, at least upon divorce. More often, marriage is an arrangement that financially disadvantages women, as those who find themselves raising kids alone after divorce will tell you. To me, the way forward isn't to change the balance of power within marriage and divorce, so women can screw over men in equal proportions. If we don't like the idea of a woman using the institution of marriage to shaft a bloke, we need to take a look at the whole institution itself, and the rights, responsibilities and protections it confers on both parties.

I have a lot of sympathy for everyday people find themselves in the midst of divorce, trying to make life decisions, care for their kids and divide their assets in what can be a tremendously stressful situation. However, my concern for Heather Mills and Paul McCartney is nil. That's one thing they share equally post-divorce.


Anna said...

If someone can fold this for me, they'd be very welcome to... :-)

Julie said...

I think that did the trick? Next time I'm in your neck of the woods with some time we should sit down and I can show you a few tricks :-)

Anna said...

Yeah - what's that phrase about teaching a man to catch a fish or something...? ;-)

Julie said...

Teach a man to fish and you still need to teach him to clean, gut and cook it? Something like that? ;-)

Ruth said...

There's been a great deal of speculation over whether Mills deserved a chunk of McCartney's £800 million estate. The answer is probably no -

He chose Mills - that is his responsibility - he had a child with her - also his responsibility.

McCartney is a silly old goat - his kids by Linda warned him about Mills - he disregarded it and did not sign a pre-nup, so Mills most certainly deserves some of this fortune.

The "Spice Girl" Feminist Left of the political spectrum - which overall this blog seems to represent - seem to think men should not take responsibility for their choices.

It sits well with spending money on shooz, brazilians, and manicures to please the menz, I guess.

Anna said...

I'm confused, Ruth - you'll have to explain the connection with Spice Girls and brazilians to me.

The issue of McCartney's financial or other responsibilities to his child is quite separate from his responsibility to Mills. I most certainly did not suggest he had no responsibility to his child, and I'm not quite sure how you inferred that.

The issue of financial interdependence which goes along with marriage has a long history in feminist writing, and has got attention from women including Mary Wollstonecroft and Virginia Woolf. Both these ladies wrote before the Spice Girls. Have a look on Wikipedia.