Last week, The Associated Press elicited mockery when it declared “mistress” to be a sexist, archaic term more deserving of dignified phrasing like “companion” or “lover.”
“We now say not to use the archaic and sexist term “mistress” for a woman in a long-term sexual relationship with, and financially supported by, a man who is married to someone else. Instead, use an alternative like companion or lover on first reference. Provide details later,” the AP Stylebook tweeted.
We now say not to use the archaic and sexist term "mistress" for a woman in a long-term sexual relationship with, and financially supported by, a man who is married to someone else.
Instead, use an alternative like companion or lover on first reference. Provide details later.
— APStylebook (@APStylebook) May 8, 2020
The debate over the word “mistress” has been circulating in the halls of left-wing conversation circles in recent years. In an article for HuffPost last year, Emily Peck argued that the word needs to die a natural death:
It’s a loaded term, meant to suggest that a woman is subordinate to the man with whom she’s having a relationship. The word also implies that her behavior is immoral.
“It is clearly a red-flag word,” said Soraya Chemaly, the director of the Women’s Media Center. “It implies this woman is operating outside the parameters of what is socially acceptable. That she might be morally questionable because she’s breaking the rules.”
Since there’s no male equivalent for mistress, the implication is it’s OK for the guy to go outside his marriage ― it’s normal, doesn’t even require a new term.
Mistress is one of a parcel of terms ― slut, spinster ― that serve to dehumanize, objectify and subjugate, notes Chemaly, who recently published “Rage Becomes Her,” an exploration of women’s anger throughout history.
As noted by Fox News, the suggestion that “Mistress” should be treated in a more dignified fashion was roundly trolled online as people suggested words to use in its place, such as “homewrecker” or “adulterer.”
“I think an alternative like Homewrecker fits quite nicely,” tweeted Robby Starbuck.
“How about side piece, kept woman, concubine, shack job, goomah, homewrecker or Lisa Page for short?” tweeted Tony Bruno.
“Seems less accurate. Does someone at AP have a mistress who got huffy over the term?” tweeted John Hawkins.
“I didn’t realize we needed to consult [AP] for guidance on how we are allowed to speak. You’re kidding, right? This is some sort of a joke to lighten the mood after General Flynn was vindicated and the Russia hoax has been even more exposed?” said one Twitter user.
“Mistress is used quite properly. It’s intended to be tied to gender. That’s the whole point of the word, it describes something in detail, so it can be differentiated from other phenomena. This is the foundation of words and language,” said another user.
“‘Companion’? ‘Lover’? It isn’t sexist to say both parties involved in such an arrangement are skeevy moral cripples. Couples who publicly refer to each other as ‘lovers’ weird me out. An acquaintance once introduced me to his girlfriend as his ‘lover’. I laughed at loud,” tweeted another.
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