All Beksd-up’: Market Morality Bends OK

Details of David Beckham's extramarital sex life recently exploded onto the media creating an uproar. Media feed on sex lives of celebrities to titillate their viewers, so what was different about Beckham? The media furore over Beckham was based on him transgressing his own image of a family man. This media coverage falls back on the values of family life - monogamous marriage and couples playing out their expected roles of the patriarchal, breadwinning father and the mother as the emotional support to the family.

These values meant that Victoria Beckham copped some of the blame for her husband's infidelity. She stayed behind in England with her children, to pursue her own career, when her husband went to play for Real Madrid. By not being there, she exposed him to predatory women.

Politicians often use family values as a ploy to stake out a moral high ground and win electoral support. Opposition Leader Don Brash tried to undermine Prime Minister Helen Clark recently, claiming she was 'indifferent to the institution of marriage'. This tactic backfired on Brash. He presented himself as honourable despite his divorce. His claim that he got together with his current wife some years after his divorce was contradicted by his first wife. She spilt the beans, telling media that when their 25 year old marriage was dissolved, he remarried 4 months later!

This bogus morality survives and is useful to capitalism. The ideology of women as primarily domestic can justify the way many women are kept to the margins of wage work, brought into work or pushed out according to the needs of capital accumulation. However, the pursuit of profit has opened up to the acceptance of different sexual behaviours which are exploited under capitalism. Homosexuals are an important niche in the capitalist marketplace. Part of David Beckham's appeal is that he has not conformed to a macho male sportsman image. He is seen as a gentle man, and cool about being a gay icon.

So what is at issue in the Beckham story is more than stereotypical gender roles. It's money. The Beckhams are celebs not just because they appeared to lead an ideal family life, or because he’s a good footballer or because she was a Spice Girl, but because they are multi millionaires. The Beckhams' lavish yet cosy lifestyle is central to their current marketing strategy.

Marketing is really the issue for the Beckhams – will his serial affairs affect his multi-million dollar sponsorships and tarnish the Beckhams entry into the US market where public figures are expected to rigidly conform to family values? Not to worry? Bill Clinton survived Monica Lewinsky. Sex is a serious commodity. But the double standard only registers when it is other peoples’ money that is transgressed. Look at Martha Stewart who made her millions as the epitome of a homemaker. She has fallen not to lack of morality in her family, but her financial doubledealing. She was caught lying over her suspicious sale of shares. Adultery –not guilty - insider trading –guilty. The market morality bends, OK. 

From Class Struggle 55 April-May 2004

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