Sunday, March 22, 2015

We Need a New Word

For John, BLUFWe should think about our words.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I was checking my Facebook page and Doctrine Man had a link to a Stars and Stripes article, by Reporter Peter St. Onge of The Charlotte Observer.  The headline is "Paula Broadwell, in one word".  Author Paula Broadwell wrote the General David Petraeus biography "All In".

Mr St Onge starts with a question:

How would you describe Paula Broadwell?

She’s been in the news again, reluctantly so.  The man with whom she had an affair, Gen. David Petraeus, took a plea deal this month for giving military secrets to Broadwell, who was writing his biography.

The Observer has written about that case and that relationship, and we’ve published things others have written.  In those reports, Broadwell, who lives in Charlotte, is often referred to as the general’s “mistress.”

She doesn’t like that word.  She thinks it’s sexist and demeaning.

“I can deal with the repeated old news, but such non-stop chauvinism is reprehensible,” she said in an email to me last week.

Broadwell would prefer what CBS and NBC reporters have called her – a “biographer.” But “biographer” doesn’t capture the context of her relationship with Petraeus.  “Mistress” is more fully descriptive.

But is it fair? Mistress doesn’t have a gender equivalent.  It’s a word that’s tangled up in culture, history and how we see women who cheat differently than we do men.

Frankly, I am with Ms Broadwell.  To define a wife and mother, an Army Veteran, an author, by the single term "mistress" is demeaning and unfair.  Sure, she made a mistake.  But, if there is forgiveness and redemption then it should apply equally to Paula Broadwell as to any of the rest of us.  General Petraeus passed her information so she could fact-check the book she was writing, not for sexual purposes.  And ask yourself how the careless use of "mistress" impacts Ms Broadwell's husband, who has stood by her.  How does that focus help the healing in that family?

Beside, "mistress" is such a French thing.  These two had an affair.  They both did wrong.  One presumes they have both asked forgiveness of their own mate.  It is now time to move on.

Regards  —  Cliff

1 comment:

Carl Prine said...

I agree completely, Cliff. Well put.