The Private Matters of Public Women

There wouldn't seem to be much linking Ann McCrory and Jodie Foster, but both women fight hard to keep their private lives just that
Office of the Governor
Pat and Ann McCrory at the governor's inauguration

So I got into a bit of a heated Facebook discussion with folks about Jodie Foster’s coming out-non-coming out retirement-non-retirement speech the other night at the Golden Globes, and I came down on the side of: She owes us nothing, she gets to decide how she wants to handle any announcement or lack of one, it’s no one’s business but hers, everybody knows she’s gay anyway, so who cares? The folks who disagreed with me criticized Foster on the grounds that she does owe something to people other than herself — that by virtue of being gay and a celebrity, she has an obligation to make that fact public and unequivocal, because gay people are members of a minority whose oppression has been fortified in part by the silence of its members. I don’t agree, but I understand.

Then again, Foster’s speech wasn’t really about sexual orientation. It was about privacy, and how it’s going extinct. Very few of us can or do live fully private lives any more, at least not in the First World, and most of us have voluntarily surrendered what little privacy we had so we can join discussions like the one I had about Jodie Foster. Her point, as I saw it, was: Yeah, I’m gay, but more so I’m a private individual, and the career I chose does not give the public the right to know anything about myself I don’t want to divulge. I may say something, but it’ll be on my terms, not yours. “Privacy,” she said. “Someday, in the future, people will look back and remember how beautiful it once was.”

This past weekend, North Carolinians got to see another woman who, despite her public figure status, seems determined to preserve her privacy no matter what.

As anyone familiar with Charlotte government knows, Ann McCrory doesn’t do public. She’ll make herself visible at the occasional function, but you can tell she’d rather be doing anything but, and forget interviewing her. Not going to happen. I honestly can’t remember if I ever met her; if I did, it was bullet-train fleeting, and I didn’t know until I read Mike Gordon’s story in the Observer on Monday that the McCrorys’ marriage is the second for both. The story did its best but ultimately failed to chip much more away from Ann McCrory’s ossified privacy fence, which is obviously how she wants it.

So can she sustain it? Should she? What does she owe North Carolinians, if anything? She could stay in the shadows as the mayor’s wife; can she as First Lady? Does she even want to? Apparently she does, despite some indications that she understands she needs to show a little more of herself than she has. But I wouldn’t count on more than that, and if anyone has a problem with it, I suppose they can take it up with the Governor’s Office.

Categories: Poking the Hornet’s Nest