Mistresses had a hell of a year in the spotlight in 2010. Some women were upfront about their affairs with married men, while others attempted to keep their secrets on the low. But their stories were blasted everywhere from tabloids to mainstream news. And the blame being placed on the mistresses took the attention away from the man who actually took the vows.

Alicia Keys has been fairly low-key since the birth of her son, Egypt Daoud Dean, but she recently resurfaced with her exclusive interview in Essence’s June issue.

For the past two and a half years, Keys has remained silent on her relationship with husband Swizz Beats, even amid all of the chatter. Keys has been accused on blogs and by former fans of being a home wrecker for contributing to breaking up a family. Meanwhile Swizz Beats’ ex-wife Mashonda was fairly vocal about the situation with her ex-husband and Keys’ relationship, as well as him fathering another child in London while they were separated. Keys walked with her head held high and never spoke on the issue.

As I was flipping through her cover story, I recognized Keys’ refusal to admit any foul play.

“Everything was in order,” she says firmly. “We didn’t start seeing each other until after they had been separated for months…Of course, people will believe what they want to believe. But I know the truth will shine through.”

After I read the interview, one of my girlfriends and I chatted until the conversation led to the topic of mistresses. Although she understood my stance, she asked, “Why is the woman always blamed and never the man who said the vows?”

Her question has a valid point. For me, holding Keys, or any other mistress, accountable for knowingly participating as the other woman does not negate the fault of the man who took the vows. Both of them equally are at fault. Disagreeing with Keys’ choice to date Swizz Beats while he was still legally married, and acknowledging him breaking his vows doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive. But I do think in situations where the husband is unfaithful, the side chick is scrutinized more than the man.

We live in a patriarchal society. The man’s number of sexual encounters oftentimes defines his manhood. It’s rarely a shocker when there is breaking news of a public figure cheating on his wife. In some sick way I think we’ve become accustomed to men and infidelity. (Yes, I understand women cheat too.) Whereas women are held to an unfair moral standard. Society is uncomfortable seeing women outside of the realms of some unrealistic chaste being. It’s a double standard. But it is the world we live in.

The scrutiny of Keys, although many give her a pass, is different than the average woman’s. The image the public had of Alicia placed her somewhat on a pedestal.  She was the beautiful, articulate, humble, down-to-earth, wholesome and talented artist who appeared to have the total package. She was also a breath of fresh air in the music industry when she dropped “Songs in A Minor” in 2001. She became the spokeswoman for female empowerment; and nearly everything she did was centered on that identity. Yet she knowingly dated a separated, but still married man.

People will undoubtedly argue Swizz Beats and Mashonda were separated, which gave them the green light to date other people. And that’s fine. But there is a conversation to be had about my friend’s question regarding the mistress being blamed.

Maybe there is some flawed system at play in these types of circumstances where society unfairly blames the mistress. And perhaps that ought to be reevaluated. The “other woman” is not bound by law to respect anyone’s vows that are not her own. But disregarding the mistress’ role is unrealistic as well.

Why is the mistress condemned while the man usually walks away unscathed? Is it right for the mistress to own any responsibility for the affair since she isn’t the one who took vows?

Speak on it!


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