Why do we hate "the other woman" more than we hate the cheater?
As Khloe Kardashian would know, it has been a week. News came out recently about how Tristan cheated on her yet again, but this time with Jordyn Woods - Kylie’s best friend of over a decade. Essentially a member of the Kardashian family. She’s 21 years old, and she lives with Kylie.
Twitter was ablaze. The #popculture Slack channel at my work was in ruins, and I quickly scheduled an emergency 1:1 meeting with a coworker so we could discuss the drama in all of its juicy detail.
A few days later, my roommate and I had a guilty pleasure night where we watched the teen classic John Tucker Must Die. In it, a popular high school boy is dating 3 girls at the same time, leading them on with carefully crafted lies and scheduling his dates with masterful planning. When the 3 girls find out, in the middle of gym class, a cat fight breaks out, and they begin throwing volleyballs and clawing at each on the ground. The gym teacher breaks them up, and a girl caught in the middle incredulously exclaims, “he’s cheating all of you and instead of taking it out on him, you are beating the shit out of each other???”
It’s a good point.
I found myself repulsed when I scrolled through Twitter after the Khloe/Tristan/Jordan drama, and found an incredible amount of people describing how they felt no sympathy for Khloe. She knew he was a cheater, what did she expect? They said, referring to how Tristan cheated on her years before.
I also saw a huge amount of people talking about how much Jordyn messed up.The Kardashians were her family, how could Jordyn do that to them?
I scrolled through Twitter until my thumb was sore and I found barely any tweets about how what Tristan did was horrible. A betrayal. A public humiliation. A boundary he crossed by sleeping with someone so close to the family. I saw so many memes, so many insults, and so many pointed fingers, but they all seemed to point at Tristan the least.
Why the fuck is that?
When Brad Pitt left Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie, the news articles spoke of cheating for a week, and then focused on the storyline of Jennifer and Angelina hating each other for years. Literally years. Sometimes I forget about the fact that Brad Pitt cheated but I will never forget about the rivalry between Jen and Angie.
I’m especially curious about this topic, because I’m someone who has been on both sides of this.
First, I was cheated on. Let me tell you my story.
My sophomore year of college, I was into this senior named Jeff*. Jeff was a lifeguard, half cuban, perfectly trimmed facial hair, I mean even now I look back on Jeff and think to myself fuck, that guy was hot. Honestly I’m thinking about him right now as I type this and I’m just thinking about how hot he is. Or was, most accurately. I haven’t seen him in years.
Anyway, I signed up to be a lifeguard (…for obvious reasons), and soon Jeff and I started talking, and talking turned into flirting, and flirting turned into me hooking up with him one night, and landing myself a permanent position on cloud 9 afterwards.
I hooked up with fucking Jeff! Jeff, the hottest guy I’ve ever seen! And it was amazing! It was the best thing that ever happened to me!
Diana* was an acquaintance of mine at this time, a fellow lifeguard who was my same age. One day, during training, her and I started talking, and since I have a complete inability to keep secrets to myself, I spilled to her that I had hooked up with Jeff, and like most college girls we giggled about it, and shared juicy stories, and talked about Jeff while practicing our swim drills.
A week later, Diana and Jeff slept together.
I had heard whispers of it, and texted Jeff to see if it was true. He came over to the dorm I was partying at that night, and told me that it was.
Naturally, I went ballistic on him. It was the first time I had ever been ‘cheated’ on. Some people handle it differently - they go about the matter calmly, or they take time to gather their information, maybe they plot revenge, or they move on…you name it. There are many different ways to react to cheating.
But I went ballistic.
We were on a sidewalk next to the dorm and I literally tackled him onto the grass in a drunken rage.
“You fucking asshole!” I rolled around with him on the grass, swinging wildly with my heart pounding in my chest. “You’re supposed to be fucking me! And she was my friend! We all lifeguard together, you fucking dick” I tried hitting him with my fists, and he would pin them down on the grass, a continuous cycle of me struggling to get a hand free so I could pummel it at him.
Obviously, we looked insane, and soon enough our campus police drove over and separated us, and asked what was going on.
I glared at Jeff, and fought back the urge to tell the police that he had attacked me - an innocent girl walking back to her dorm in the middle of the night.
“Nothing, sorry,” I eventually mumbled. “It was my fault.”
Jeff and I walked around campus and he explained to me what had happened on the night he slept with Diana. They were both drunk, she had come onto him, and he didn’t know where we stood because we weren’t dating. And it was true, we weren’t officially dating. We weren’t even dating, truthfully, but I liked him so much and I was hurt.
We ended up talking it out that night, discussing our feelings for each other, and decided to date - officially. Exclusive, together, boyfriend and girlfriend.
I was still a bit mad at Jeff, I mean, he knew that I liked him.
But then my mind turned to Diana. Wait a minute…she fucking knew that I liked Jeff too. In fact, it was only a few days ago when her and I talked for a half hour about how I was sleeping with him and completely consumed by my crush.
My hatred found a new target. I fucking hated Diana. I told all of my friends to not like her. I went on her Facebook page about 10 times a day, and gleefully celebrated when I found an unattractive picture of her. I looked through her photos from the past years, even in high school, years before she would ever meet me or Jeff. I subtly asked about her from friends of friends and found out about her life.
I know, I sound like a crazy person. Truthfully, I was. This girl had spent about 30 minutes with Jeff, and here I was close to putting in my 10,000 hours on her. I couldn’t help myself, I was obsessed.
After enough months, I started to relax. Jeff was with me. He never even looked in her direction. I was fine. We were fine.
And then, 4 months down the line, out at our school’s yearly Toga Party, I saw Jeff talking very closely to a girl named Allison. I was suspicious, but I brushed it off. 7 months later, I found out that Jeff had cheated on his girlfriend in his last relationship. And a year later, I was painfully cheated on again, over the summer while we tried a long distance relationship, and Jeff slept with the majority of the female swim team.
The problem wasn’t Diana. The problem was that I fell in love, wildly and blindly, with a serial cheater. When I first found out who Jeff was, on the night he slept with Diana, it was easier to ignore his character and instead cast Diana in the position of ‘all-powerful seducer who threw herself at my boyfriend and made him stray with her all-powerful vagina’. Otherwise I had to admit to myself that I was in love with and dependent on (I’ve got attachment issues) someone who wouldn’t treat me right. And it was too painful to do that.
Sure, Diana knew that I slept with Jeff. Guess who else knew that I slept with Jeff? Probably Jeff himself, because he was the one fucking me.
Sorry to be so crass, I’m just upset with Past Me for needing a good 2 years before I realized this.
What I’m trying to say here, is that even though I disagree with the Twitter posts shaming Khloe and Jordyn while letting Tristan off the hook - I would be hypocritical to blame them. I did the same thing myself.
Granted, I did try to beat the shit out of Jeff when I found out he slept with someone else. But I also held Diana to a higher standard, dubbed her actions as more wrong than his, and forgave Jeff almost immediately - while putting Diana on trial to myself and my friends for years after.
I’m fucking ashamed of it.
So why do we do this, why do we always allow the man a second chance, but immediately and forever vilify the woman? Is it due to our inherent sexism as a society? Is it because women are socialized to compete with each other? Or is it because hating a woman you don’t know is so much easier than hating a man you love and still want a life with?
And I don’t know the answer, I’m still asking these questions myself. The worst part is, I still look back on my year long relationship with Jeff and think to myself that guy was hot, and the times we went to the renaissance festival, or played drinking games, or when he cooked for me on Valentines day…they were so amazing. And when I think about Diana…I’m filled with memories of her Facebook page. Honestly I probably still know it better than she does.
It’s a puzzling question, made only more puzzling by the fact that I’m still in the trenches with it. I’ve always said, always, that if someone cheated on me I could forgive them. I would only give them one other chance, but I could forgive. I’ve laid out guidelines on how I would forgive, what qualifies as ‘cheating’, what they could do to make it up to me…but I’ve never before made a hypothetical plan for how I would deal with the other woman (or man - because you know I don’t judge).
Maybe I should start factoring that in, and maybe when I do factor that in, I’ll find that I’m not the type to forgive cheating.
It’s a puzzling thing to think about, and I welcome your comments on the topic!
Still pondering (and wishing I spent more time kicking Jeff than Facebook stalking Diana),