Why is it that when a female celebrity's relationship ends, the world seems to take a twisted pleasure in their heartbreak? We've seen it with Cheryl and Liam Payne's recent split, and now the same cruel lens of public attention is rearing its ugly head again. Of course, I totally get that people may be wondering why did Caroline Flack and Andrew Brady break up, but the cruel comments are just not on.
There have been loads of articles about their age gap, his alleged cheating, not to mention plenty of tweets criticising her taste in men. But look, it can't be an easy time for the Love Island presenter at all. So I just don't get why people think it's OK to laugh at women's emotions, particularly when they're going through a break up.
Flack and Brady called it quits earlier this week, with the Love Island host confirming in a statement: "I'm sad to announce that Andrew and I have decided to part ways. Unfortunately it was not to be. I wish him all the best. At least there's a Villa waiting for me. It's back to the ol' grafting."
Since then, neither have elaborated any further. However, Flack sent the rumour mill into overdrive when she liked a tweet by former Love Islander Olivia Buckland, which read: "It’s honestly crazy how unattractive a person can become when they reveal an unfavourable personality." Now, the tabloids have been questioning why the couple ended their relationship.
Some have speculated that there issues around infidelity, especially after The Sun reported that a woman claimed back in March that he had cheated with her. Shortly afterwards, the couple reportedly briefly split, according to the Metro, however, Brady insisted he'd never met the woman in question, The Sun reported at the time.
He and Flack pair re-followed each other on social media before officially getting back together a few weeks later, according to The Sun. Sadly, although this matter appeared to be done and dusted, it's believed by the paper that those cheating rumours played a role in the couple's decision to call off their engagement.
What's interesting, and frankly downright irritating, is that so much of Flack and Brady's break up coverage cites their age gap as a major reason, as happened with Cheryl and Liam's relationship. But why is it that it's perfectly acceptable for a guy like Leonardo DiCaprio to date women at least 20 years his junior, or for Scott Disick, 34, to date Sofia Richie, 19, that Flack and Cheryl have been ridiculed for smaller 11-year age gaps?
Why is there still a stigma around women dating people who are younger than them? Age can equate to experience which is sometimes synonymous with authority, and the reaction to Flack and Brady's break-up suggests that many still feel uncomfortable with men taking on a potentially less powerful role in a relationship. All of this is massively reductive of course, age is no indicator of the role an individual will take on within a relationship.
Relationship expert Susan Winter told The Independent: “I find it amusing that there’s an equation for the 'optimal' age gap in love. While formulas seem as though they have some kind of scientific credence, the truth is that two resonant souls will find each other (regardless of their ages)."
She continued: "Socially speaking in the western world, women have been granted liberty to unite with men five to 15 years older without anyone batting an eye. Conversely, when a man chooses an older mate he’s apt to encounter judgement and discrimination."
It's also testament to how differently male and female sexuality is viewed. As the treatment of Love Island's Laura Anderson shows, being even just a few years older than someone you'd like to date opens a woman up to vilification, because while men can date free from criticism, female sexuality is perversely associated with youth.
But it's not just the age thing. People's fixation with the love lives of high-profile women like Flack and Cheryl, and their enjoyment when their relationships end, shows on some level many people just don't believe successful women can "have it all". Women who are outspoken, ambitious and successful, are often told that men will be intimidated by them. It's this same myth that's peddled when the press and social media commentators swoop in on the latest bump in the road in Flack and Cheryl's personal lives.
Can we please put an end to this? New research from Badoo recently revealed that more women than ever are prepared to pay for a first date with a new partner, indicating there's a shift in the way women perceive their financial autonomy and power within a relationship. So perhaps it's time the rest of the world caught up. Let's start by cutting Flack some slack because break-ups are hard enough as it is without this nonsense.