Last week, gossip began emerging online that Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner and her husband of four years, musician Joe Jonas, were headed for divorce. Within a matter of days, the now exes released a joint statement confirming the rumours. “After four wonderful years of marriage, we have mutually decided to amicably end our marriage,” the statement began. “There are many speculative narratives as to why, but, truly, this is a united decision, and we sincerely hope that everyone can respect our wishes for privacy for us and our children.”
Though the announcement came as a shock to many, it was what happened afterwards that has created the real online storm. Almost immediately, comments from “sources close to the couple” began appearing, all framing 27-year-old Turner as a neglectful mother to their two young children, and as a woman on the brink of being out of control.
“She likes to party; he likes to stay at home,” one source told TMZ. Another said the couple’s two children had been with Jonas “pretty much all of the time” over the past three months, as if a man being required to be a full-time parent (no doubt with the support of nannies and other employees) was somehow a sign of how serious the situation was. A bar manager in Birmingham, where Turner has been filming a TV series, then shared photos of the actor doing shots at the bar, taken days before the divorce rumours began.
Throughout their seven-year relationship, both Jonas and Turner shared photos showing they enjoyed a night out together. In interviews, both readily acknowledged that of the two of them, it was Jonas who was more of the party animal. Yet somehow, through strategically placed comments, all of that has been forgotten.
On the surface, their split is your standard celebrity break-up announcement. The carefully worded, no-blame-laid statement has clearly been vetted by their expert PR team. Neither Turner nor Jonas has spoken about the split aside from a brief mention from Jonas at a recent concert, where he acknowledged that the past week had been “crazy”. The external discourse, however, has been anything but blameless. Fingers have been firmly pointed towards Turner as the sole catalyst for the marriage breakdown.
Unfortunately, the willingness with which this rhetoric was accepted is not surprising. While it’s always been socially acceptable for men with children to continue living as they did before they became a parent, women with children are expected to settle down to the point of having an entire identity overhaul. Jonas goes on a months-long world tour and no one bats an eyelid. Turner goes to the pub with her mates while the kids are with their dad, and it’s seen as negligence.
This judgment rains down on all mothers, but the level to which it plays out publicly when the woman is high-profile is on another level. Why do we care what mothers do when they’re off-duty? What’s the problem with women socialising when their kids are with their dad? And in the case of Turner, why does a 27-year-old at a bar warrant global attention?
In September 2021, influencer Nadia Bartel came under a barrage of scrutiny after footage emerged of her snorting white powder. Fairly, much of the outrage centred around Bartel and her friends flouting COVID-19 lockdown rules, but much was made of her motherhood, too, with people questioning who was looking after her children (as though her two sons don’t have a father) and why a mother was engaging in such behaviour.