General Education

Is ‘Mistress’ A Sexist Term?

Is ‘Mistress’ A Sexist Term?
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Elisheva Azarael profile
Elisheva Azarael May 15, 2019

There is a Time Magazine slideshow titled, “Top 10 Mistresses. ” (If I’m lying, I’m flying.

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There is a Time Magazine slideshow titled, “Top 10 Mistresses.”

(If I’m lying, I’m flying.)

Think about this. There is an article dedicated to women whom the media shamed for engaging in extramarital affairs. This was the first article on the screen when I typed “Monica Lewinsky mistress.” (Surprisingly, Lewinsky only made it to number eight on the list.) I’ll give you a little heads up. Lewinsky would probably tell you that her life was never the same after the affair because it’s what she’s going to be known for throughout the remainder of her life, despite the fact that she’s now a fashion entrepreneur, an activist, and a hell of an academic. And this is the messed up thing—she’s still taking the beating for it, while her Bill Clinton is out here living his best life. For example, he paid a visit to my high school during my sophomore year, and that joint was packed. Folks were bringing books for autographs and all. On the other side of the fence, Lewinsky struggled to find employment for years, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder from cyberbullying, and was recently “uninvited” from a Town and Country-hosted event when her old boo thang received and accepted an invitation. Yes, you read right. Homegirl was invited, then disinvited when Loverboy 42 decided whatever he had to say was more important. That is hardly a rise to glory in my view.

The most recent example is Sharina Hudson, Kevin Hunter’s apparent lover. The alleged story is that Wendy Williams filed for a long-overdue divorce (It’s none of my business, though) from Hunter when Hudson gave birth to Hunter’s alleged daughter outside of his and Williams’ marriage. What makes this extramarital affair different from that of Lewinsky and her ex-boyfriend’s is that I had to dig for an article calling Lewinsky a mistress. After typing Hudson’s name in the Google search bar, I was automatically brought to three articles referring to her as Hunter’s “alleged mistress.” Is this an accident? Not at all. President Thomas Jefferson fathered five kids of his Black slave, Sally Hemings. However, she’s still called his “mistress” or “concubine” in much of academia, despite the fact that having sex with Jefferson likely was not her choice. Even if Hemings saw it as an opportunity, it still doesn’t matter. Do you think if Hemings had been like, “Nah, Jeff, maybe in another lifetime . . .,” Jefferson would’ve said, “My fault, Sally. I just think you’re so beautiful, I had to give it a shot.” No. Hemings was Jefferson’s property, a victim of sexual abuse—not Jefferson’s mistress. Calling her a mistress implies that she was simply complicit because she wanted some type of power that was unattainable to her as a slave. Moral of the story: the word “mistress” is disproportionately used when referring to black women who’ve engaged in these types of relationships. And that’s because folks want to portray us as less-than conniving women who deserve abuse and maltreatment because, well, who the hell are we to be desired?

There’s no male equivalent to the word.

Emmy-award nominated reporter, Lauren Sanchez was married when her alleged affair with Jeff Bezos started. Try to find an article giving Jeff Bezos a title that’s equivalent to the word “mistress.” Then I want you to do the same for Dean McDermott (Tori Spelling). That’s it.


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