Is it anti-woman to slut-shame the woman a man cheats with?

Don’t you steal my man: Beyoncé has infused her new album Lemonade with her marriage blues. (Cathal McNaughton/Reuters)

Don’t you steal my man: Beyoncé has infused her new album Lemonade with her marriage blues. (Cathal McNaughton/Reuters)


“I’m a petty bitch,” said a friend of mine, of her man having an affair with another woman, “If you knew he was married and didn’t care, you deserve what ya get. Both of y’all do.”

The married man with a “side piece”, stuck in home-wrecker syndrome, has been thrust back into the limelight as Bey drops another album, Lemonade, and has the world losing its collective mess.

It has white people confused as to whether the music is for them, and black women feeling all types of ways about strength, empowerment and gulping huge amounts of lemonade.

It also has any man who has ever cheated on a woman considering his life choices – the album seems to put marital turmoil and cheating “on blast”. As Vanity Fair says, it seems “a working through of the rumoured infidelity of her husband, Jay Z”.

  Lemonade has raised conversations about art, blackness, womanhood and other topics.
Is it anti-woman and unfeminist to slut-shame the woman a man cheats with?

On the one hand, the argument is: “That heifer knew and she shall pay for it”, and Beyoncé (and other women like her) has the emotional space to address their supposed adversary. On the other hand, the stronger argument stands: you never had a contract with this woman; your partner agreed to monogamy. You can argue the “heifer” in question simply exhibited good taste.

To vilify women in these situations is a time-honoured tradition, one as old as touching genitals for fun outside of marriage. The woman is always mooted the home-wrecker, the one who should have known better, whereas the man was minding his own business before he was bewitched by the harlot.

Granted, narratives have begun to change slowly but this is still the dominant one in this arena.

We saw this when drama between local media celebrity Bonang and hip-hop artist AKA emerged after AKA tapped a little too hard on Instagram. We saw this when former United States president Bill Clinton mistook the Oval office for a speed-dating event and Monica Lewinsky was forced to disappear. And when actress Kirsten Stewart cheated with her married director and found herself out in the cold.

To place it in a more local context, one particularly delightful Ndebele man on Mzansi Magic’s Our Perfect Wedding said the reason he started cheating on a woman he had pursued relentlessly for four years was because “men are easily charmed” and, obviously, he could not say no.

This mirrors a conversation I had with a group of men who unequivocally stated if a woman did not say yes, men would not cheat. The argument was summed up thus: it’s your fault we cheat on you, no matter which way you look at it. The idea that women are to blame for cheating is widely accepted.

Much as it is necessary to tell people stealing is bad, as is touching the jiggly bits of someone else’s spouse, the current narrative of demolishing one’s female opposition in the war of love, as promulgated by Beyoncé, is counterproductive.

For starters, it doesn’t fix any of the internal problems. It is the equivalent of leaving your dirty house to hit a stranger in the face for not washing dishes and expecting that, when you come home, the house will be spick and span.

The “home-wrecker” narrative is strong because it is its own form of misogyny. It allows men to avoid the blame for what they do and makes women the villains of the story.

Unfortunately, women are not here to baby-sit your ball sack, and cannot be guardians of morality. The monogamy contract that two people sign is between them and third parties can only be held partially liable, at best. One needs to look at the grander paradigm of how we talk about cheating and how the main perpetrators are women.

So, what is the male version of a “small house” or a “side chick”? Very little of the vocabulary we use has derogatory words for men who step out of their relationships.

If your mouth is full of words such as “side chick”, “thieving hoes”, “home-wreckers” and “sluts”, you’re not getting your house in order, comrade, you’re wasting the revolution.

You’re marching on the streets and not changing anything because you’re protesting against the wrong person. Yes, she is a … (insert expletive here) but the person you really need to throw those four-letter words at is at home.

So, women, before calling “Becky with the good hair”, maybe try calling your man first and then work out if the second call really is worth it.

  See Beyoncé channels ghosts of black women past, Friday

Kagure Mugo

Kagure Mugo

Kagure Mugo is the intoxicatingly scary gatekeeper of HOLAAfrica, an online pan-African queer womanist community dealing with sexuality and all things woman. She is also a writer and freelance journalist who tackles sex, politics and other less interesting topics. During weekends she is a wine bar philosopher and polymath for no pay. Read more from Kagure Mugo