Nigella Lawson testified yesterday in a fraud case involving former employees, and the it was extremely disturbing and upsetting. Lawson spoke about the abuse–emotional and otherwise–that she endured during her marriage to Charles Saatchi, although you wouldn’t know it from People’s coverage, since they saw fit to prioritize outfit over actual substance.
Lawson did in fact confirm that she had used drugs a handful of times (relevant to the trail only because the former employees accused her of being an addict), hardly qualifying her as a habitual user. I know grandmas and ministers who have done more drugs than she has. And so naturally most media coverage is biting into this aspect of the trial with vigor.
I use a reader to find news stories every day, and here’s just a sampling of articles that have populated my feed all day (this is significantly less than half).
“Nigella Lawson: ‘I would rather be honest, if ashamed’ about drug use”
“Chef Nigella Lawson ‘ashamed’ of drug use, court hears”
“Nigella Lawson admits cocaine use”
“Nigella Lawson ‘not proud of drug use’ but would rather be ‘honest and ashamed’ than ‘bullied with lies’”
“Nigella Lawson Testifies About Cocaine Use”
“Nigella Lawson: I’m Not Proud Of Drug Use”
“Nigella Lawson: I have used cocaine and smoked the odd joint”
“Nigella Lawson experiences downside of fame when forced to admit drug use”
There’s a lot we don’t know about what happened in their marriage, but we do know that Saatchi was abusive to Lawson during their relationship, and at least one time things got violent (I don’t want to speculate, but I will say that violence isn’t typically a one-time behavior). So here we have an abuse victim being put on trial for her non-violent, mostly harmless behavior. It’s not like Lawson is going to be prosecuted for her drug use years ago. And the headlines painting her as a drug user work only to denigrate her character, which is a tactic Saatchi has used to further exert control over Lawson.
As Callie Beusman at Jezebel points out:
[B]y emphasizing Lawson’s (not very notable at all) “cocaine use admission” over the egregiously abusive dynamic inherent in the drug accusations, the media is complicit in Saatchi’s control and emotional abuse. In court, Nigella said, “I have been put on trial here… and in the world’s press.” Why give an abusive, brutal bully the power to publicly excoriate his ex-wife in the news? Why enable Saatchi’s abuse?
It’s not an accident that all of these headlines feature some iteration of Lawson’s shameful drug past, and it goes a lot farther than it being a good story that will get good traffic. This is indicative of a system that blames victims intentionally, and it’s unbelievable to me that we still haven’t figured out that victims of abuse didn’t do anything to deserve it. Honestly, how much cocaine would she have had to snort to make her deserve years of abuse? Headlines like this take away from the real story here, which is not that an adult did some recreational drugs years ago. It’s a story of systemic abuse by her husband, and it’s being upstaged by frivolous bullshit. Worse, it’s perpetuating cycles of abuse by smearing the victim instead of turning our attention to the abuser where it belongs.
Photo: Getty Images