The Lore of the Other Woman
Lana Del Rey said it perfectly
The other woman has time to manicure her nails
The other woman is perfect where her rival fails
There is something so incredibly daunting about the “other woman.” She is painted to be this sinister, seductive creature who is perfect – a mirror of our insecurities that waits in every corner ready to steal our partners. She is always the bad guy, the slut, the girl he tells us not to worry about. She is the inevitable villain, and nothing us mere mortals can do will stop her pursuits. The other woman is our scapegoat. The object of all our hatred who takes on all of the man’s blame because it is much easier to hate the “seductress” than to come to terms with the fact that our partner disrespected our relationship. Instead of facing the hateful actions of our significant others, the other woman bears this contempt and our suffering.
The other woman is still a woman after all, and that is our fate: to shelter the man from his actions, and take away his pain.
It is not to be argued that both parties in an affair are at fault. Adultery is a heinous act that tears apart families, diminishes one’s self worth and ruins marriages. Everyone is valid in their hatred toward someone who helped destroy their relationship. The problem arises when we consistently berate the “other woman” and not the man who had made a commitment to a relationship.
The media and pop culture has always lusted over the “other woman.” From the 2010 release of Taylor Swift’s song, Better than Revenge, to Olivia Rodrigo’s album, Sour, it has been engraved in society to hate and despise the seductress. Specifically, regarding Sour, there was a wave of violent attacks on Sabrina Carpenter, who was rumored to be the other woman Olivia was referring to in her album. Olivia’s ex, Joshua Bassett, received very little hate in comparison with Sabrina. There is this continuing cycle of misogyny being thrown at women that is deemed acceptable through pop culture. Think about Beyonce’s song Partition and the lude reference made to Monica Lewinsky, who was demonized and then used as a punch line for years to come. Monica Lewinsky was berated for decades, and no one thought to evaluate the power dynamics of it all. How does a young female intern really seduce a president – the most powerful person in the United States?
There are a plethora of words used to demoralize women: slut, whore, tramp, harlot, floozy, bimbo, skank; however, there are very few words used in colloquial language that are synonyms for a “man-whore.” The most common would be a “player,” yet that still has a positive connotation. Similarly, women who have affairs with men are called mistresses, but there is no male equivalent.
The other woman enchants her clothes with French perfume
The other woman keeps fresh-cut flowers in each room
There are never toys that's scattered everywhere
Society has done everything to create this hyperbolic depiction of mistresses. The lore of the other women does not allude to the “girl next door.”
This picture of the other woman does not allow forgiveness for mistakes, the naivety of youth, power dynamics or deception.
It paints a picture of a woman we all want to hate, who is prettier, alluring and morally corrupt. It gets women to hate women, and that is a huge problem. Hatred and envy induce the cycle of slut-shaming and it gives a space for men to openly disrespect women.
Once men feel it is deemed acceptable to insult an adulterer or a mistress, what is stopping them from attacking other women? If the other woman is labeled a seductress, men will start to shame women who are sexually liberated or wear revealing clothing. We as women are tricked into participating in the belittling of women and, ultimately, will fall victim to the cycle of slut-shaming.
Women hurt women because we have been hurt by a man. Women attack the “other woman” because their partner broke their commitment. Women slut-shame because men said they would only be desirable only if they were “pure.”
Once again, we should not always defend the “other woman.” But, we should be more aware of where we place our blame. Society has painted the “other woman” as our scapegoat, and as easy as it would be to use it, I encourage you to look at the situation from a cultural context, and stop contributing to the unequal culpability placed on women. There is no reason a cheating man should go unscathed while his mistress endures the majority of the burn. It is time that men bear the consequences of their own actions, and we stop hurdling a wave of misogyny at the next woman society decides to villainize.
But the other woman will always cry herself to sleep
The other woman will never have his love to keep
Gwyneth Baker is an online editorial writer for Rowdy Magazine. Her current obsession is reading novels with truly messed up female characters. Check out any of Ottessa Moshfegh's work or Acts of Desperation by Megan Nolan to be on her same wavelength.