Julie Bindel: There must be a reason we so hate Heather Mills

Although men have been scathing of Mills from the start, women have been more vitriolic
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The Independent Online

Some say it's only what Heather Mills deserves, being locked out of the house she once shared with Paul McCartney and humiliated in the street as police were called to the scene. Others simply rub their hands with glee at the unfolding of what promises to be a long-running saga with all the ingredients of an episode of Dallas. Rags to riches (both of them); tragedy (both - Paul lost Linda, and Heather lost a leg); wild passion (seemingly, only him); and now a bitter break-up of epic proportions.

On Monday, Mills was photographed while talking to police officers who attended the scene after reports of an "intruder" climbing over a gate to McCartney's London home. According to Mills, she had turned up at the house to hand over the couple's daughter to McCartney and found that the lock on the gate had been changed.

This must have felt like the last straw for Mills. Recently it was reported that, in response to Mills spending "obscene amounts of money", McCartney froze their joint bank account, leaving her humiliated in front of the cashier. Another kerfuffle was caused when Mills sent her nanny to borrow some cleaning fluid from McCartney's Sussex farmhouse, prompting McCartney to send a legal letter to Mills warning her not to take anything without permission.

Much as it is quite shocking that matters have escalated from the happy couple seen arm-in-arm in public at, as one Heather-critic said "the opening of an envelope that Paul now has to go to", to daggers drawn and both parties briefing the press left, right and centre about each other's bad behaviour.

The Heather-haters have been waiting for the break-up ever since they got together. Although men have been scathing of Mills since she first came on the scene, women have been a touch more vitriolic.

I asked a few women of McCartney's age why they thought Heather is so hated. Answers ranged from "she married him for his money" to "she married him for his money". One added that she thought Mills had "pounced on him when he was at his most vulnerable".

How quickly we forget how the pair got together. Barely a year after his first wife Linda had died, in 1999, McCartney spotted Mills at a charity event, decided he fancied her, pursued her, and married her in 2002 - despite opposition from his grown-up children.

The dirt and criticism thrown at Mills since she got together with McCartney would have floored a lesser woman. She is regularly referred to in the press as a "gold digger", "leach", and a "liar". Her past was dragged through the gutter press when it was discovered that she was involved in pornographic films. One journalist write that Mills losing her leg was, "the best thing that ever happened to [her], because it instantly provided what she seemed to crave most: publicity".

It is assumed that the sole reason for the forthcoming divorce is Mills' "unreasonable behaviour", as if McCartney is bound to be faultless and blameless. His legions of fans should not be pleased by the suggestions that all he had going for him as far as Mills was concerned was his money, and that he was so stupid and geriatric that he allowed this manipulative bint to drag him up the aisle before he knew what was happening.

If she is simply a money-grabber, and hated by his children, then surely he was daft for marrying her in the first place? Some believe that Mills is hated because she is blamed, rather than McCartney, for disrespecting the sacrosanct life he shared with Linda.

How quickly we forget, however, that Linda herself was subject to years of vilification by the media and public when she first married McCartney. She was portrayed as a talentless groupie who had dragged McCartney down the aisle by manipulating him and all those close to him.

Funny how Mills, not McCartney, is to blame for his re-marrying. The media-fuelled public perceptions of Mills, love her or loathe her, can be explained by the misogynistic attitudes prevalent in discussions of women, money and divorce.

Mills has not once publicly mentioned how much money she either hopes or expects to get in the divorce settlement, but we have not stopped talking about it. At a bus stop the other day I heard one woman say to her friend: "Did you know he [McCartney] is worth £85m?" to which her friend replied, "That bitch will get over £40m then!"

But back to the acrimonious divorce (because I know you are enjoying it - sorry, that was me off on a tangent for a few paragraphs). What else can we expect to happen to add to the changed locks, frozen bank accounts, and public humiliations?

I asked agony aunt and Relate counsellor Denise Knowles how she thinks the couple will cope in the circumstances. "They need a lot of support and help, not criticism and gossip," she says. But what criticism has McCartney had, as opposed to Mills? "Well, he does seem to be seen as God-like and untouchable."

Will it last? Might Mills have something - a dark secret perhaps - up her sleeve ready to pull out when the next round of muck is thrown at her? Will there be more public rows? Or will they decide to act like grown-ups and get on with the divorce in calm and civilised manner? As a fan of soaps and drama, I hate to admit that I hope not.