A few weeks ago Eva Mendes caused what the Telegraph characterized as a “fierce online row” with a seemingly innocuous statement about sweatpants:
You can’t do sweatpants… ladies, number one cause of divorce in America, sweatpants, no!
The controversy wasn’t really about sweatpants, but about framing divorce*. The ugly feminist narrative is that divorce is empowerment as well as a tool to acquire power within marriage. Mendes in her joke reframed divorce as ugly and a failure for women. This predictably touched off a fury of mound rebuilding, and Mendes ended up offering a sort of apology.
What is noteworthy here is that Mendes accidentally stumbled upon a weak spot in the feminist narrative, and this weak spot remains. Feminism has recast something ugly as something positive, but the reality remains. We could have another 100 years of feminism, and there would still be the risk of someone pointing out the obvious; divorce means failure, and a woman who is able to remain married, especially to the father of her children, gains status over other women.
Note: I was curious if sweatpants had anything to do with Laura Lifshitz’s divorce. Given that she makes a habit of airing every last bit of her personal life on the internet, I suspect this won’t come as a surprise for my readers.
*That Mendes herself isn’t married doesn’t change this fact.