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Voices: Billie Piper divorced Laurence Fox years ago – why is she still expected to answer for his terrible behaviour?

Voices: Billie Piper divorced Laurence Fox years ago – why is she still expected to answer for his terrible behaviour?

If a man does something wrong, it’s usually a woman’s fault. At least, that’s what we’ve always been taught. Think about it. If your drink is spiked by a man, someone will inevitably blame it on you being too drunk to have noticed. If you are sexually assaulted by a man, that same someone will probably say it had something to do with what you were wearing.

Even Harvey Weinstein’s ex-wife, Georgina Chapman, bore the brunt of her then-husband’s multiple rape allegations. Her fashion label, Marchesa, sunk into trouble, and when Scarlett Johansson wore one of Chapman’s designs to the Met Gala, the choice was criticised and deemed “controversial”.

You’d hope that in 2024 this sort of thing would be long gone. Men are more than capable of taking accountability for their own actions – surely women needn’t have to answer for them, regardless of how close they might be to the actual perpetrator. Right? Well, based on recent developments, it seems like that is far from the case.

Because this week, yet another woman appears to have been centred in the story of a man’s misgivings. Yes, I’m talking about Billie Piper. The 41-year-old might be a Laurence Olivier Award-winning actor and director, whose credits include Doctor Who, I Hate Suzie and Rare Beasts – but in a recent interview with British Vogue, the quotes that have got everyone talking have nothing to do with her incredibly impressive career trajectory to date.

Nor do they even seem that fussed on those surrounding her role in Scoop, the upcoming Netflix series that dramatises how the BBC obtained the now-infamous interview with Prince Andrew about his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Instead, the talking points people have fixated on are those surrounding Piper’s ex-husband – actor-turned-disgraced TV pundit Laurence Fox.

After tying the knot in 2007 and having two children together, Piper and Fox divorced in 2016. In 2022 Fox, who has been labelled racist, misogynistic, homophobic – labels Fox has repeatedly and strongly rejected – and was recently barred from GB News, claimed that he had been denied access to his children, with Piper using them as “weapons” against him. Now, speaking to Vogue about her ex for the first time, she said: “I’ve had to make some choices and a divorce speaks for itself. Or at least it should!”

When asked about how she and Fox co-parent their children, now 14 and 11, she replied: “With enormous difficulty.” As for when her ex hits the headlines over his tirades, Piper says she handles it by staying close to her children. “I try to keep people from telling me stuff but it’s really, really hard. I don’t read it but everyone wants to talk about it. Sometimes I have to say to people: ‘Please don’t bring this to me, now or ever.’”

I can understand why these quotes have struck a chord: after all, it’s the first time Piper has spoken about Fox publicly since their split. But it’s a sad indictment of the state of pop culture and the way we uphold women in this industry that an interview that was ostensibly about championing Piper’s new show – one which is very much about celebrating women and female empowerment, no less – has become framed as a tell-all about a relationship she left eight years ago. Piper is an established, acclaimed actor in her own right. Why bring Fox into it? Isn’t it all a little reductive – and, frankly, insulting – considering everything she’s achieved?

Yes, he is the father to her children. Yes, he is an incredibly divisive figure. And yes, he has said some truly foul things about women, trans people, and almost every other minority group. But none of that is Piper’s responsibility, nor is it something we should expect her to comment on.

As Piper said, she divorced him. That alone should speak for itself. Perhaps if she were a man, we’d let it.