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Gayle Haggard: Feminist Hero?

by Alicia Montgomery
Feb 5, 2010

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Alicia Montgomery

Why would any woman stay married to a husband who cheated on her with another man?

That's the question that Gayle Haggard said she wanted to answer with her book Why I Stayed: The Choices I Made in My Darkest Hour. She talked about it with Michel Martin for our Faith Matters conversation Friday.

Back in 2006, Haggard gained the kind of fame that no woman wants. A male prostitute claimed to have had sex and done drugs with her husband, Ted Haggard, a then-national evangelical leader. After the core of the scandal proved true, no one (NO ONE) would've blamed Gayle Haggard for walking out.

But she didn't.

In her book — and in her conversation with Tell Me More — she said she loved her husband, forgave him, and felt her marriage was worth fighting for.

Now I'm a feminist. It's a label I wear proudly. And I know I'm stepping out on a limb here, but feminism was one of the first words that leapt to my mind while listening to Gayle Haggard tell her story.
Despite her husband's infidelity, and the resulting exile from the church that she loved, she never spoke as if she were a victim. She insisted that staying with her husband Ted wasn't just the right thing for him, or her children, or her church ... but that it was the right decision of her, as well.

It strikes me that, across gender lines, we respect the choices women make, as long as we agree them. We seem to have evolved from a society that believes a good woman should stay in a bad marriage, to one where we now often pity, ridicule or even condemn a wife who chooses to stay with a husband who has wronged her.

But listening to Gayle Haggard made me wonder whether that's really evolution at all.

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