updated 4 Feb 2011, 04:24
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'Stand by your man' rule no longer ironclad for scorned wives
by Stephanie Griffith

(Photo: Elin Woods (left), wife of Tiger Woods, and Elizabeth Edwards, wife of John Edwards, a former vice presidential candidate.)

WASHINGTON - In the tawdry world of rich and powerful men who fall from grace, perhaps no image is more gripping than the long suffering wife, standing by a philandering husband despite his public mea culpa.

But a recent spate of wronged women are breaking with the mold, allowing their prominent husbands to tidy up the messes they have made of their public lives on their own.

The latest high-profile example is the wife of legendary golfer Tiger Woods, Elin who, for now, has remained silent and out of public view during the sex scandal swirling around her husband.

Elin Woods did grab headlines, however, after reportedly pummeling her husband’s Cadillac Escalade SUV with a golf club in late November, possibly leading him to lose control of the car.

"The meek may inherit the earth, but swinging a mean golf club may do a lot more for the soul. Shutting up and smiling through a husband’s humiliating infidelities appears to be a thing of the past," said online commentator Mary Papenfuss.

The Woods's middle-of-the-night marital implosion set in motion a media frenzy that ultimately led to revelation of Woods’ numerous affairs and the unraveling of his carefully crafted image.

In confronting her roving husband, Elin Woods may not have intended to become a feminist icon, but that is exactly what she has become for some.

"The thing about feminism is that it's not about equal outcome, but equal opportunity: the chance to make a graceful exit from a bad relationship, or to smash the holy hell out of a cheating husband’s shiny Cadillac," said commentator Rebecca Dana, writing in the popular Daily Beast website.

"Gone, for the moment at least, are the tearful press conferences where a puffy-eyed political wife stares at her feet while her husband confesses his carnal sins. Gone are the cheerful sham marriages held up as totems for the rest of us to emulate. Gone is the nobility of quietly carrying on," Dana wrote on the website.

"We are now fully in the season of not standing by your man," she said, as she praised a long line of women in the public eye who have stood up to their badly behaving male partners.

Confession of marital infidelity can be a death sentence to prominent politicians and some celebrities, who frequently count on a public show of support from the very women they have wronged to help save or revive their careers.

Tiger Woods could lose millions of dollars, as each day each has brought new revelations about Woods’ alleged extramarital escapades.

But since the Woods sex scandal erupted a little more than two weeks ago, Elin has remained out of sight – even as her husband issued three public statements, including one last week that he was leaving the golf circuit and focusing home with their two children.

News accounts have the 29-year old Swedish former swimsuit model purchasing a six-bedroom house on a small, secluded island near Stockholm.

Another woman to break the "stand by your man" mold is the wife of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who admitted before a crush of television cameras last June that he had carried on an affair with a woman in Argentina.

Jenny Sanford, who pointedly did not appear at the press conference, issued her own statement saying she had asked her husband to leave their home when he confessed his infidelity.

"I felt it was important to look my sons in the eyes and maintain my dignity, self-respect, and my basic sense of right and wrong," she said.

The scandal prompted calls by even Republicans that Sanford ought to resign the governorship and abandon hopes of running for the White House in 2012.

Jenny Sanford meanwhile filed for divorce last week, and has announced her plans to write a memoir to be published in May, which will detail her marital travails.

Yet another wronged political wife is Elizabeth Edwards, whose husband John Edwards was a former vice presidential candidate and a leading contender for a 2008 Democratic White House nod.

Edwards wrote in her book published earlier this year that said she became physically ill when her husband confessed his affair with a campaign videographer.

"I cried and screamed. I went to the bathroom and threw up," wrote Edwards, a cancer patient who was a campaign fixture despite her illness.

While she did not officially break with her husband, Edwards was conspicuously absent during the final months of his presidential quest, urging him to give up his White House run because of the affair.

"He should not have run," Edwards wrote of her cheating spouse in her book "Resilience."

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