Lauren Boebert's divorce exposes the dark little secret of red state life

Lauren Boebert's divorce is funny — it also reveals why GOP men are doubling down on the misogyny

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer
Published May 18, 2023 6:00AM (EDT)
Updated May 18, 2023 2:02PM (EDT)
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) wait their turn to speak during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on February 1, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) wait their turn to speak during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on February 1, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

When so much Republican behavior these days is too gross to be funny, there's something downright refreshing about old-fashioned Christian right hypocrisy. This time, it comes from Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, a biological human being who nonetheless sounds exactly like ChatGPT channeling a Breitbart comment section. Boebert built her career on sanctimonious, though often incoherent, lectures on the supposed threats to the family of leftist sexual "depravities" like same-sex marriage or contraception use. She also filed for divorce last month, a fact that only got into the press this week. This follows other comical examples of Boebert's "family values," such as celebrating teen pregnancy or standing by her now-to-be ex-husband after he exposed himself to teen girls in a bowling alley

Her choice to leave Jayson Boebert might be the first sign that there's functioning brain activity in Lauren Boebert's skull. As the bowling alley story suggests, the guy is a creep. He started dating then-Lauren Roberts when she was 16 and he was 22 years old. She dropped out of high school to give birth to their first child at 18. They got married two years later. During this time, he was arrested on domestic violence charges after a fight with her. In August, he was still at it, getting the cops called on him for reportedly threatening neighbors.

His behavior when she finally served him divorce papers was reportedly more of the same. As the Daily Beast reports, "He chased away a process server with an expletive-laden tirade and let his dogs loose when he was served with the divorce papers." Jayson Boebert denies the process server's description, including the mention of alcohol consumption. He told the Daily Beast that "divorce is sad." In a statement, the congresswoman defended Jayson Boebert: "Our divorce is a private matter, but the misrepresentations must be addressed. Jayson deserves his privacy, not slanderous stories."

This story is tasty gossip. But it's also a window into an aspect of red state life that hasn't been much discussed, one which is likely fueling the ugly surge in misogynist rhetoric and policy being pushed by Republicans, especially the men. The dark little secret of red state life is there's a lot of Lauren Boeberts out there: Conservative women who disavow feminism, but, when given a shot at more independence for themselves, gladly use hard-won rights like divorce and abortion. Republican men are getting increasingly angry about even this minor loss of control over women.

The results are ugly. A sexual predator is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. Abortion bans keep getting passed, despite being wildly unpopular. And now there's even a GOP push to make it harder for people — mostly women — to file for divorce. 

Her choice to leave Jayson Boebert might be the first sign that there's functioning brain activity in Lauren Boebert's skull.

As is well known, the average age of a woman on her wedding day has been creeping up for decades, from about age 20 in 1950 to nearly 29 years old in 2022. This trend is more pronounced in blue states, but only by a small amount. Even in the reddest states like Alabama and Mississippi, women are, on average, over 25 when they tie the knot. The age women give birth for the first time has also risen to about age 30. Again, it's a little higher in blue states, but not by much. 

All of this is because American women, whether they live in liberal or conservative communities, have decided it's best to have a strong measure of personal independence. Women now outnumber men in the college-educated labor force. Two-thirds of mothers are breadwinners or co-breadwinners for their family, with 41% of mothers being the primary or sole breadwinner. Nearly a quarter of children live in a single parent household — and most of those are single mothers. 

As anyone who is connected to conservative communities could tell you, conservative women may denounce feminism, but still feel it's important to be self-sufficient. The story they tell themselves is that it's not political, but pragmatic: Finding a good man is hard. It's safer and smarter to be able to take care of yourself and keep your options open. Life without men is often, frankly, easier. Statistics even show that single mothers have more free time than married mothers.

Women of all political stripes will take their shot when they get a chance to escape bad marriages. Boebert isn't even the only anti-feminist loudmouth in the House GOP caucus who blew up her marriage, once she got elected and got more interesting options. In April 2022, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia trolled feminists by declaring women are the "weaker sex," made from Adam's rib to serve as "our husband's wife." But, of course, she's not talking about herself. She appears to have left her husband shortly after getting elected, and official divorce proceedings started in September

Unsurprisingly, male leaders of the GOP do not view it as merely an apolitical expression of "independence" when conservative women make use of hard-won women's rights. Instead, they're reacting like Jayson Boebert flipping his lid on a process server handing him divorce papers, i.e. they are not happy about it.

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The most obvious manifestation of this misogynist tantrum is in the overturn of Roe v. Wade and the subsequent explosion of abortion bans being passed by Republican-controlled legislatures. These bans aren't just unpopular with Democrats. In red states, voters have repeatedly rejected abortion bans, only to have male-dominated GOP legislatures force them on the population anyway, even by blocking the rights of voters to weigh in directly. In many cases, female Republican leaders seem downright stunned at how extremist their male counterparts are on this issue. In South Carolina, for instance, female Republicans in the Senate joined with Democrats to block an abortion ban, often acting as if it just occurred to them that all this anti-abortion talk from their party was serious. 

The dark little secret of red state life is there are a lot of Lauren Boeberts out there.

It's not just abortion, however. As Tessa Stuart at Rolling Stone reported, "Republicans across the country are now reconsidering no-fault divorce," even though it's been legal in most states for decades. State Republican parties are adding the repeal of no-fault divorce to their party platforms, and even the national party looked at the issue in 2016. (And probably would have taken it more seriously if their candidate, Donald Trump, wasn't twice-divorced.) The reason isn't mysterious: 70% of divorces in the U.S. are initiated by women.

As journalist Lyz Lenz writes in her newsletter, "Maybe 70 percent of women file for divorce because having a husband adds seven extra hours of housework, work that a wife is expected to do. Maybe it's because women, despite also having full-time jobs, still do the majority of childcare and housework." A lot of women are sick of it — even women who claim to disagree with feminism. But it's also no surprise that men aren't going to let all that free labor get away from them so easily.

A lot of the culture war issues that wind up Republicans are, to them, mostly abstractions: Drag shows they don't go to, "woke" pop culture they don't consume, books about racism they don't read, cosmopolitan lifestyles in big cities they don't visit. But, when it comes to gender and power, the struggle is keenly felt, even in Republican households. Right-leaning women may talk trash about feminism, but, as Republican men often learn the hard way, even conservative women have their limits on how much crap they'll take from men. This is about keeping power over their own wives and daughters, not just controlling some strange women who live far away. Boebert and Taylor Greene may insist their divorces are merely "personal," but as any feminist could tell you, the personal is political, baby. 

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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Abortion Rights Commentary Lauren Boebert Marjorie Taylor Greene No-fault Divorce Reproductive Rights