The media speculates on Kate McCann's guilt in the disappearance of her daughter. The evidence: Her small hips and breasts.
In the wee post-midnight hours I made the mistake of wandering into the media circus surrounding Kate McCann and the disappearance of her daughter, Madeline. Since I have a daughter about the same age as Madeline and we traveled to Spain just a couple of weeks after she went missing in Portugal, I’ve resisted the whole story like a contagious flu. Not only do we not know what happened to the little girl and should therefore hold our tongues, even tangential chatter around the subject carries the potential to damage lives.
But then McCann — the mother whose physical beauty, successful medical career and three children embody a certain unattainable ideal as a woman who managed to “get it all” — became the focus of scrutiny and suspicion and I thought: Here we go again, another “bad mother” on the pillory. Her clothing and makeup inspired analysis, her looks prompted constant mention, her image instigated replication ad nauseam. I couldn’t resist wondering what was really driving the obsession — actual facts about a tragedy or the cultural white noise created by a mother who looks so perfect.
Now, quite apart from the heart-wrenching reality of a little girl gone missing, the commentary about a woman and her body, her mysteries, her fatal mistakes is spinning its own web of words in a way that might have inspired a sequel to “The Scarlet Letter.” Yesterday, the Daily Mail reported that Kate McCann’s mother said that Kate feels persecuted because of her looks. “If I weighed another two stone, had a bigger bosom and looked more maternal, people would be more sympathetic,” McCann reportedly told her mother.” The story cites “claims that Portuguese detectives first suspected she was involved in her daughter’s disappearance because their wives said she looked too controlled and did not weep enough to be the distraught mother of a missing child.”
Yesterday, another editorial with the mind-numbing headline “Kate McCann is right — just because she’s slim and pretty doesn’t mean she’s a killer” essentially confirmed that McCann is getting an especially harrowing treatment because of her appearance. Fair enough. But then the piece explains bias against McCann by spewing more bigotry: Portuguese women’s reported suspicion of McCann was really a result of their hip measurements. “Anyone who has traveled in Spain, Portugal, Italy or Greece knows how young mothers quickly come to look like overblown roses, their child-bearing settling comfortably around their hips,” writes Bel Mooney. “It’s hard not to imagine Portuguese women murmuring to their husbands that this British woman is — yes — much too skinny.” WTF?
Two weeks ago, Booker Prize novelist Anne Enright wrote an essay for the London Review of Books, titled “Disliking the McCanns,” about her own dark obsession with the case. Yesterday, various papers made a story out of Enright’s “amazing attack on the McCann’s.” Today the Daily Telegraph manufactures another story about the story. Although her essay focuses most on the husband, and what Enright characterizes as his corporate-speak, she acknowledges that her fixation is the exception: “Most of the animosity against the McCanns centres on the figure of Madeleine’s beautiful mother.”
Enright’s piece is about media crime stories and the way they work upon us, driving us to distance ourselves from those in the limelight through petty criticisms. As she traces her descent into the maw of McCannery, the story holds a mirror to her own mothering and her own fears: “I realise that I am more afraid of murdering my children than I am of losing them to a random act of abduction.” Now Enright is attracting a familiar kind of vitriol. Readers are calling her a “selfish mother” with references to her “petty thoughts” and “ugly face.” So I’d hazard that Kate McCann is wrong — it doesn’t matter precisely what she looks like. As a mother in the limelight, she’ll get criticized not only for her words and actions, but for the bloom of her hips and her face.
Carol Lloyd is currently at work on a book about the gentrification wars in San Francisco's Mission District. More Carol Lloyd.
More Related Stories
- My text blew up in my face
- Boy Scouts end ban on openly gay boys
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- Billionaire hedge funder: Babies, breast-feeding "kill" focus, keep women from succeeding
- "Bookless library" set to open in Texas
- Man arrested for sending Craigslist sex party to neighbor's house
- Greek yogurt, toxic waste hazard?
- Glenn Beck: CNN interview with atheist tornado survivor was a setup!
- Incoming BBC news director on journalism gender gap: "We can do better"
- Illegal construction, shoddy materials at fault in Bangladesh factory disaster
- Pope Francis: Atheists are all right!
- Lawsuit alleges anti-gay hiring practices at ExxonMobil
- Boy Scouts poised to vote, still greatly divided on gay youth
- Is recreational pot use safe?
- How I ended up in a pyramid scheme
- My bipolar partner beat me
- Teenagers care more about online privacy than you think
- Radio host tweets rape joke, blames journalists for reporting on it
- El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance
- Kicked out of the mall -- for an anti-cancer hat
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11