Married man hero Paula Broadwell wants the word ‘mistress’ banned
Language changes. New words arrive and old words go out of fashion. Some people can’t wait. They want words banned. They want less words. In the Guardian Jessica Valenti writes on Paula Broadwell, a woman best known for her affair with married US military type David Petraeus:
In a New York Times profile, Broadwell talks about her behind-the-scenes campaign to get media outlets to stop using the word “mistress”, a term that has no similar male counterpart.
She wants the word banned.
“On the one hand, I don’t want to define myself by this” she told the Times. “But on the other hand, I’ve been defined by this. So if I can change things for the better because of it, then why not?”
We know what mistress means. It is well defined. Ban it and what will we use instead to describe a woman who dates and shags a married man? Valenti agrees with the ban:
Why stop at “mistress”, though? It’s hardly the only word reserved for women…. A man is a “bachelor” but a woman is a “spinster”. (Please spare me the argument that “bachelorette” is a word ever used outside of reality television and drunken parties.)
So mister is out, then?
We even use “female” words to insult men. On the first day of an English class I took in college, for example, the professor asked us what words were the worst things you could call a woman.
Dear. Call a woman “dear” as in “yes, dear” and watch.
In minutes, the board was filled with misogynist invectives – words like “slut” and “cunt”. When she asked us to do the same thing for men, the board filled up again: all the worst words you could use against a man – “bitch”, “pussy”, etc – were also distinctly female.
Balls. I’d go for knob, prick, dickhead, wanker – and feel free to use them toward women, in the spirit of equality. Or maybe we can ban all those words and just go for the unisex “arse”.