Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
News broke recently that a famous South African rapper and media personality found out about his wife’s infidelity in the Sunday paper. He initially dismissed the allegations as hogwash but later confirmed them to be true, adding that the public should refrain from casting judgement upon his wife because he himself is not a perfect human being. His statement earned him a candid blend of praise and scorn from fans but also highlighted a huge flaw in our social culture; women are given a harder time for cheating than men do.
It is an argument as old as time: men cheat because their hearts have nothing to do with their penises therefore they must be forgiven. Alternatively, women must never ever cheat. It is not a double-standard apparently; the rationale is that women are rightfully expected to be the embodiment of virtue, the pillars upon which the integrity of our families rests. Only the finest behavior is expected from women because it suits us, being the beautiful, tolerant and meek creatures that we are. No pressure!
The saying goes “Only the mother knows”. Fair enough, we ought to be more careful with fidelity because we are the bearers of life. Very few things are as humiliating as when a woman births a child who turns out to very obviously not be fathered by her husband. Alternatively, a married man can get his mistress pregnant and then deny paternity. In this scenario, people will likely limit their judgment to gossip where the man is concerned. The mistress on the other hand, must be prepared to deal with a more severe backlash such as being labelled a ‘home-wrecker’ and other unsavoury names.
A woman who cheats deserves public outrage so that she may be ashamed for her lewdness. She must be vilified and branded for falling from grace and her man must leave her at once because she obviously cannot be trusted. Such a woman sets a bad example therefore she must be dealt with severely. There is absolutely nothing a man can do to drive his woman to cheating, in contrast to our constant nagging, jealousy and demanding which lead men into the arms of other women.
Men’s shortcomings can always be defended. For example, he does not spend enough quality time at home because he works extra hard to provide the kind of life his wife expects (it is not like he made any promises). Few men go to the trouble of communicating frankly with their partners without tossing around words such as ‘disrespect’ or losing their tempers when they hear something they do not like. On the other hand, many still believe that granting their women the chance to dictate the terms of reference or anything of the sort will have their man cards revoked. A man’s pride must be guarded as all costs, no compromise.
When cheating happens to a man, it is emasculating. When it happens to a woman, it is to test her strength and her commitment to her man. R. Kelly can record a song called “Down-low (Nobody Has to Know)” and it’s OK, but Rihanna singing “Unfaithful” makes her a slut. It all makes perfect sense right? Because being the righteous molds of perfection that we are as women, we should be immune to humanness while it is a man’s privilege to be imperfect. The logic applied is that nature is also to blame: our basic biological design is such that a man can rise with every waking sun while women are relegated to at least a week of no contact thanks to menses.
This article is not in defense of women who cheat for the sake of cheating. It is not for women who assign their insecurities and feelings of inadequacy to their partners when they should be facing those internal issues privately as individuals. This is not a critique intended at bashing men or even competing for the same status as them. It is a response to an ongoing discourse about the double-standards which have come to be accepted as culture simply because they favour patriarchy. To keep silent would be to imply that we accept being guilted into subservience because anything contrary is not womanly/lady-like.
I admire that a rapper did not conform to the stereotype by using derogatory language against his wife in retaliation for the humiliation and undue publicity the news caused. The loaded Facebook status updates, tweets and general conversations I have observed are more of a reflection on individuals’ perceptions and characters than on the parties involved in the story. Besides that, what counts as cheating is prejudiced and does not always occur sexually. More importantly, it is none of anyone’s business except those involved in the relationship. That basic fact is something that people need to think about first and foremost as they navigate their ways through the grapevine.
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