Politics & Government

Gender gap wide on Jenny Sanford book

South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford autographs her book "Staying True" at Barnes and Noble Booksellers on Forest Drive.
South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford autographs her book "Staying True" at Barnes and Noble Booksellers on Forest Drive. The State

Men are from Mars and women are from Venus, explained author John Gray in his 1992 book.

That gender divide has come to South Carolina this week.

Over dinner tables and shared bathroom sinks, men and women are facing off over first lady Jenny Sanford's new memoir, "Staying True," a chronology of her troubled 20-year marriage to Gov. Mark Sanford.

A number of S.C. men interviewed by The State say they're increasingly skeptical of the first lady because of her book, a surprisingly salacious memoir that paints a series of unflattering portrayals of the governor as a cheap, self-centered man pining for his lover.

Meanwhile, many of the state's women remain sympathetic to the soon-to-be-ex first lady, who got a big dose of what they say is undeserved humiliation last year when the governor confessed his love for his Argentine soul mate in media interviews.

Friday evening, women and a scattering of men lined up at Barnes & Noble bookstore on Forest Drive, despite snow, to buy the book and congratulate Jenny Sanford for being inspirational to women everywhere. Somewhere between 200 and 300 people were at the bookstore, most waiting in line to have the first lady sign "Staying True."

The book will debut next week at No. 8 on the New York Times bestseller list for hardcover nonfiction books, according to the book's publisher. Friday, the book ranked No. 47 on the Amazon.com list of hottest sellers. Theresa Zoro of Ballantine Books said earlier this week the company has gone back to press three times and now has 166,000 copies in print.

If the crowd at the bookstore Friday is an indication of interest, clearly women are principally buying the book. But that hasn't stopped men from having an opinion.

Democrat and publisher of Statehouse Report Andy Brack got a dose of the gender gap at a recent dinner party of Democrats, Republicans and independents when he called the first lady a hypocrite.

"We men tended to be a little tougher on (Jenny Sanford,)" Brack said. "We felt like she's the girl who cried wolf."

She says, 'I want my family to be left out of (the media). Please respect our privacy,'" Brack said, referring to Jenny Sanford's press releases last summer.

"But at every turn, there's another attempt to get media coverage," he said, referring to her book deal and interviews with magazines, TV shows and newspapers. "So after a while, you get tired of hearing how she wants to keep her life private."

The female diners were quick to counterattack.

"The women seemed to cut her a little bit more slack, saying writing this was cathartic for her and maybe she needed to get it out and maybe it is helping her get through all of this and we, as men, should not be so judgmental about it," Brack said.

Will Folks, Gov. Sanford's former press secretary who is mentioned in the memoir, is one man who takes it a step further.

"As for the (Jenny Sanford) Harlequin, no I haven't read it, nor do I have any plans to. I probably won't watch the Lifetime movie either, when it comes out," said Folks who now runs the political blog FITSNEWS. "I think on some level what she's doing right now is every bit as contemptuous as what he did with his lover, and I cringe a little bit every time I read her talking about how (her children) are her top priority.

"I think it's pretty obvious that making money is her top priority, just like climbing the political ladder was his top priority," he said.


Deedie Rose of Daniel Island, who just finished the book, cut the first lady far more slack.

"I give her a lot of credit for filing for divorce even though it took her a long time to do so," said Rose, who has also been through a divorce while having small boys at home. "No matter how bad a marriage is, it's very hard to move forward with a divorce. She's on the right track."

Still, Rose is surprised by the book.

"I didn't expect so much personal stuff would be told, stuff that could have been kept quiet especially until her kids are older," Rose said. "If she needed to get it all out and write it down, she should have put it in a file folder instead of writing a book, then taken it out in 15 years and shown it to her kids."

Pat Wendling, who stood in line Friday to get her book autographed, shrugged when asked why men and women don't see eye to eye on the matter. She said her husband can't understand why she has to watch every TV interview the first lady does.

"We women just relate to her. She just seems like one of us," said Wendling, an Iowa resident in town visiting her daughter. "But my husband, he can't understand why I'm so gaga over her. Oh well."