The Sexist

One Percent of People Think Elin Nordegren Woods is the Most Admired Woman In America

According to a new Gallup pollHillary Clinton is the most admired woman in America. Barely. Clinton's runner-up, Sarah Palin, almost knocked the Secretary of State from the most-admired perch she's assumed 14 times. If you think that's sad, check out the also-rans:

The third most admired woman in America is Oprah Winfrey, with 8 percent; fourth on the list is Michelle Obama, with 7 percent. Makes sense so far. Next up is Condoleezza Rice and Queen Elizabeth II—each with two percent. (Oddly, British royalty counts: The poll is actually meant to determine the most admired woman by Americans). Then we have the one-percent group: A four-way tie between Margaret Thatcher, Maya Angelou, Angela Merkel and . . . Elin Nordegren Woods.

Let's see: We've got heads of state, cultural ambassadors, high-ranking government officials, and a lady who married a douchebag. One of these things is not like the other!

Marrying (and divorcing) douchebags, sadly, has been hailed as a resounding achievement for women in 2009. Jessica Grose chastised Barbara Walters for placing Kate Gosselin and Jenny Sanford, two ladies who married douchebags, in the top 10 most fascinating people of the year: "Being publicly cheated on does not automatically make you an interesting person, much less interesting enough to appear on one of these silly lists." Phoebe Connelly also chimed in on the absurdity of giving the feminist treatment to Sanford: "The news that Sanford is leaving her national punchline of a husband, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, is no reason to hail her as a feminist icon."

Look closer at the cultural narratives surrounding Gosselin, Sanford, and Nordegren Woods, and you'll find three different monsters born of our fascination with wronged women. Sanford gracefully endured her husband's infidelities before calmly divorcing him. She is respected. Nordegren Woods allegedly chased her philandering husband down with a golf club, leaving him laying delirious in the middle of the road next to his wrecked car. She is celebrated. Gosselin, star of Jon & Kate Plus 8 and wife to confirmed douchebag Jon Gosselin until their separation this year, broadcast her marital troubles for all of America to see. She is pitied.

When we have women like Clinton, Angelou, Thatcher, Rice, and Merkel to admire, why are we still eager to recognize the long-suffering wife whose greatest accomplishment is no longer being married to a douchebag? Perhaps it's because divorcing a douchebag is an achievement that regular women can foresee accomplishing in their own lifetimes. Most women won't become Secretary of State or a celebrated writer—or end up married to a catch like Barack Obama. But many, many women will marry douchebags, and about half of those douchebag unions will end in divorce.

Most women won't find the strength to face their divorce with Sanford's calm and collected exterior. They won't get away with Nordegren Woods' outburst of spousal abuse (though many will fantasize about it). They won't attract the unwavering public attention that Gosselin's divorce has. But these public narratives of divorcing douchebags lend a certain gravitas to the personal lives of normal women—women who are not likely to be admired or celebrated or even pitied for finally severing their marital vows. For a long time, getting a divorce was seen as a failure, which meant that half of married women were failing. No wonder America has labored to find something to admire about these women—they are us. The problem with the current narrative is that we're celebrating divorce as a failure of men and a triumph of women, instead of focusing on the real triumphs of women like Clinton, whose marital status has been made irrelevant to the discussion of her success.

Photo via marcn, Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

  • Former Staffer

    Elin = hot. Tiger = idiot.

  • suicide_blond

    every time i think there is hope for our nations youth...sombody has to ask them what they think!
    ***im assuming these were youngsters cause the adults were likely all in divorces court or therapy at poll time...

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    So a whore like Elin is admired? Nice.

  • Jane Doe

    Tiger is nasty

    and Elin looks lke a boney, washed out blonde...She is overrated

  • Mr Mulligan

    Elin deserves consideration for her short iron game.

    The nine iron is best used at short distances, and from all indications, she really knows how to use it.

  • John Dias

    Hillary Clinton and Elin Nordegren have three things in common:

    a. Their husbands cheated on them.
    b. They both battered their husbands.
    c. Any status enjoyed by either was unearned.

  • whet moser

    I think Grose is being snide and demeaning when she refers to Jenny Sanford as a "tabloid queen," and at best has no idea what she's talking about.

    Sanford is exceptionally accomplished: a former I-banking VP at Lazard, her husband's longtime campaign manager/co-manager, and his gubernatorial adviser. In being a professional success on her own terms turned political confidant, she's not dissimilar to Hillary Clinton, so she wasn't just personally wronged by her husband, she was professionally wronged as well.

    It doesn't in and of itself make her interesting, though I think she is, or a feminist icon, but she's in no way a "tabloid queen."

    Nordegrin, as far as the Gallup poll, can probably be dismissed as statistical noise. I'm weirdly encouraged that Angela Merkel, who is obviously deserving, would be tied with Nordegrin, who has the advantage of current name recognition.

    OTOH, I'm not entirely sure that the Queen of England (who inherited an increasingly meaningless position) or Condi Rice (arguably the closest adviser to arguably the worst president of the past century) are especially admirable.

  • ElinAdmirer

    Stop bashing on Elin. She was and is a stand up wife who is from a good home who never strayed and set a fine example of what a human being should be in a relationship. Stop calling her a whore, she doesn't deserve nor did she earn it.

  • jf1

    You have to ask whether their husbands were douchebags when they married them to really rate these women properly.

    Of course they may not have known the full extent of their husbands' douchebaggery, but still certain signs must have come out. So the question then becomes, which signs should be taken as concrete evidence that the husband (not to mention the boyfriend) is a douchebag and should be kicked to the curb?

    Given the existence of this set of questions, the real question becomes, how long did they know that their husband was, in all likelihood, a douchebag, and why exactly did they stay with them, having in the case of Teresa Spitzer, Jenny Sanford, Hillary Clinton and Elin Nordegren, 1, 4, 1 and 2 kids, anyway?

    It speaks to the larger question of why exactly do women get married to future-douchebags and then have kids with them and THEN divorce them?

    I'll bet that this is not all the husbands' fault.

  • jf1

    I'll throw out an answer to my own question. Or two.

    One, these women knew that their husbands were very likely to become douchebags and had kids with them anyway because in spite of their proto-douchebaggery, they wanted to have kids with these men, and second they knew they had some cash coming if they did.

    Remember that to cheat, a man must have a sexual partner other than his wife. Since we are not talking about prostitution (except in the case of Spitzer), it's no surprise that Sanford, Nordegren (to the near future) and Clinton remained with their husbands even after they cheated. And remember that only one of the 4 has actually left their husband and even then after actually trying to make the marriage work long after they knew that their husband was having a torrid affair with another woman.

    So it's also possible that these women still do not see their husbands as "douchebags", which only makes sense, since after all they married them and had kids with them in the first place. Hell, the Spitzers seem to be tighter than ever (no pun intended). Hillary obviously got a Cabinet appointment out of her tolerance, and Nordegren, well, we know she's going to get quite a bit out of hers.

    The bottom line is that they all put up with their husbands (at least for a while) in spite of their douchebagness for the simple fact that they wanted to have kids with them and knew that the money (and in some cases, fame and power) was waiting. In that respect they are no different from a hell of a lot of other women who also would have done the same thing, and who are now potentially lining up to do just that.

    And I think that that speaks to the larger point, that infidelity now is now a good sign. It says, "I can find a good wife, and I can have kids with her, and I can be a successful man, and I can still cheat on my wife and leave my kids and support her and have another woman, and a good woman too, and maybe even have more kids with *her*". It's now the thing for successful men to do instead of buying a Porsche.

    Any goob with oiled chest hair and a neck chain can buy a sports-car. It takes a real man to marry a desirable woman, have kids with her and then leave them all for another woman, all while paying alimony and child-support for the first family. And while Hillary may not be "desirable" you certainly can't fault her on the scale of personal achievements, which, last I checked, she was easily equal to a Wall Street whiz, a partner at a major Manhattan law firm, and even a Swedish bikini-hottie.

    These men may be douchebags but I doubt that this has really soured the general female population on them. So much of this hate has to be envy.

  • jf1

    anyway I am amazed that this blog has reduced itself to considering a poll as sufficient basis for an article.

  • Lily

    I'm super late to this party but...
    I think Elin is admired, despite the fact what she (allegedly) did was abuse, because she responded with anger towards her husband. In a culture where women are encouraged to blame themselves, their behavior, their appearances for their husband's infidelities, we expect a cuckolded? wife to respond with devestation, or a make over, or dramatic weight loss, or public crying etc. etc...Elin's actions speak for a woman who did not take responsibility for her husband's failings for even a second. That is kind of laudable.

  • John Dias

    Lily wrote (#12):

    "Elin's actions [knocking her husband's teeth out with a golf club and smashing his car window as he tried to flee] speak for a woman who did not take responsibility for her husband’s failings for even a second. That is kind of laudable.

    You might as well say that it's laudable for an abusive husband to tear his wife apart because he refused to take responsibility for her disrespect and non-compliance.