Misogyny: The saga of the former Virginia Governor, his wife and the serpent

By Isabel Manuela Estrada Portales, Ph.D., M.S.

Feminists, please, do help me out. Did I just hear a Judge say in his sentence for former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell that his wife had allowed the serpent into the mansion? Was this said in public or am I just hearing voices like Joan of Arch?  
Moreover, did I then hear Mrs. Maureen McDonnell affirm that, indeed, she had let the serpent into the governor’s mansion? She went so far as to explain the effects of the beastly presence: “The venom from that snake has poisoned my marriage, has poisoned my family and has poisoned the commonwealth that I love.”

Don’t get me wrong. I think they are, for a change, getting both away with something that is very close to murder. Which reminds me of what Bryan Stevenson says: “We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent.”

I keep saying when this is all said and done, we will end up apologizing to the McDonnells for causing them so much trauma and emotional distress. They could have been sentenced to decades in prison, but they only got three years between the two of them, and are still appealing the sentences.
But my issue here is not that. Please, mind your language. The tropes of the saga couldn’t have been more misogynistic and male-centered if they tried.
  • Mrs. McDonnell is a new day Eve who lets the serpent tempts her and brings an apple to the husband to bite. Seriously?
  • Mr. McDonnell – a man who was vying for the President of the country – was completely under his wife’s spell and, now apparently freed from her hex, no doubt more pressing matters such as impending jail time have a way to get the voodoo out of you, blamed her for all their financial troubles, her convenient crush with a businessman whose largess caused their downfall, the failure of their marriage and global warming. Oh, no, that part was wrong. He doesn’t believe in global warming.
  • Then, we have Judge James R. Spencer of Federal District Court, who wondered in bewilderment regarding Mrs. McDonnell: “How can a person become so bedazzled by material possessions that she can no longer see the difference between what’s appropriate and inappropriate.” Are you serious? Isn’t that the number one reason people lie, cheat and steal? Has he read the convictions of white collar criminals, most of them male, by the way? Does he really think they were not in it for the money?
  • Judge Spencer even chastised Mr. McDonnell because “While Mrs. McDonnell may have allowed the serpent into the mansion, the governor knowingly let him into his personal and business affairs.” Go figure.

But it is even more humiliating because the contention is that Mrs. McDonnell was some easily dazzled woman who could resist neither the temptations nor the pressures of the Garden of Eden, I mean, the Governor’s Mansion. We, women can’t be trusted with that much access, that much power. Any serpent dangling a pearl necklace in our face, and we are done for. 
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