The Truth About the Side Chick Stigma

April 30th 2016

Lucy Tiven

Since Beyoncé released her visual album "Lemonade" on April 23, fans and journalists have made countless attempts to identify the 'other woman' described as "Becky with the good hair" in the album's forth track, "Sorry."

British singer Rita Ora, fashion designer Rachel Roy, and Rachael Ray, a celebrity chef with an unfortunately similar name, each faced vicious online attacks from the Beyhive, while Australian popstar Iggy Azalea suggested that "Becky" was a target of reverse racism against white women in general.

Who "Becky" is remains a mystery — but these reactions sent a clear message about who takes the blame for marital infidelity — and in this case, it certainly isn't Jay Z.

"If the public narrative is to put the burden of blame on men, that would make us feel hopeless and sad about men," psychologist Brandy Engler wrote in a piece on the "Becky" ordeal published on Motto. "But if we can villainize one woman, we still have reason to hope—and it provides a collective discharge of angst about our fears of betrayal."

Being "Becky."

On Friday, author and motivational speaker Karrine Steffans-Short published an essay on XoJane, sharing that she had occupied both Beyoncé's role and "Becky's" in various relationships over the years.

Steffans-Short confessed that she had been "one of Jay Z’s Beckys back in the year 2000 for about three minutes," and also had a 7-year relationship with Clifford Smith, better known as Wu Tang Clan's Method Man — for six of these years, Smith was married. The author alleged that she wasn't aware she was his 'side chick' until a year into their relationship, and was already deeply emotionally invested in their romance. "And for the next six years … I would be his Becky," she ​wrote.

But she also saw the other side of a broken marriage. Steffans-Short alleged that her ex-husband, choreographer and "Scandal" star, Columbus Short had affairs with numerous other women, which contributed to their eventual separation, along with other factors like alcoholism, drug addiction, and emotional problems.

"There is a stigma attached to the other woman, the side piece," she said. "There is this notion that her position alone warrants shame but, honestly, I don’t see the difference."

"It is staggering how many wives are still sides, and how many sides become wives, only to realize they are still one of many," she wrote powerfully.

The 'side chick' stigma.

There are "Beckys" everywhere. Years before Angelina Jolie became a parenting hero and noted humanitarian, she too, was considered a "Becky."

In 2005, when Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston split up, it was all-but-impossible to avoid headlines proclaiming that Jolie had "stolen" Aniston's loving husband. The media ceaselessly painted Aniston as a helpless victim, while Jolie was pitted against her as the evil temptress who selfishly torpedoed the happy Hollywood couple.

"Pardon me for stating the obvious, but people aren’t wallets," author Ginny Brown wrote on Everyday Feminism. "People can’t actually be stolen."

"When Jordan leaves Megan for Nicole, Jordan is making a choice about who to be with, and how to go about it," Brown explained. She proposed that we are quick to blame the 'side chick' because we falsely think of our partners as property, and are raised and conditioned to believe that men have less control over their sexual urges than women.

Slut-shaming the other woman can serve as a distraction from the core of a troubled relationship. It hurts less to believe that a cheating partner has been seduced by a predatory third party — through little fault of their own — than it does to accept that they made a conscious choice to cheat, or are simply a cheater.

“The other woman is an easy target—especially if you don’t know her, or she’s not your friend," Christine Hartman, Ph.D., a behavior scientist and relationship expert told Women's Health. "Hating the person you love that wronged you, on the other hand, is confusing. Putting the blame on him makes you address uncomfortable questions, like ‘what if our marriage is a sham?’ ‘Maybe he’s not who I think he is?’ ‘Am I going to be alone the rest of my life?’"

Madonna and whore dichotomy

Both the labels 'betrayed wife' and 'side chick' carry shame and are deeply sexist — one is the Madonna, the other is the whore. Both reflect a gravely simplistic view of how relationships work, evolve, and fail. There aren't just two types of women. There's much more to the duality.

"I am Becky with the good hair," Steffans-Short concluded. "I am Beyoncé. I am the keeper of secrets, the betrayer of women, the confessor of my sins, the owner of my secrets, lies and salvations."