Whether it's the John Edwards saga or the Mark Sanford story, it seems a lot of folks are throwing around the word "mistress" these days. But isn't the term hopelessly old-fashioned — and just a little bit demeaning to the women involved? For me it fails the basic sniff test for sexism: There is no equivalent term to describe a married woman's male lover.
This is totally unscientific, but I agree with Wikipedia's description of the word : "there is the implication that a mistress may be 'kept'—i.e., that the man is paying for some of the woman's living expenses, or provides her with an allowance." And while this may have been true in the case of John Edwards and Rielle Hunter, it's certainly not the case for Mark Sanford's lover, Maria Belen Chapur, a former journalist who lives with her two children in a luxurious Buenos Aires apartment building. A divorcee, Belen Chapur first met Sanford on a trip to Uruguay, and the couple subsequently spent time together in New York City and the Hamptons.
Then there's that other, more contemporary use of the term "mistress" — as a synonym for "dominatrix," as in S&M play. But I don't think that's what any headline writer was thinking when they chose the term!
cross-posted at TAPPED
Photo of Rielle Hunter filming John Edwards via Flickr user Chuckumentary.