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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Pace chapter.

Earlier this week, Instagram model Sumner Stroh came forward in a TikTok video confessing to a year-long affair with Maroon 5 frontman, Adam Levine. Not only has Levine been married since 2014 to Victoria’s Secret model, Behati Prinsloo, but they also have two children together and a third on the way. Since Stroh’s video, messages have circulated online of Levine making unwanted advances towards several other women, yet Stroh remains Public Enemy No. 1, a poster child of infidelity. 

There are several derogatory phrases in our lexicon to describe the woman that a man cheats with: the other woman, the mistress, the concubine, the side chick. These phrases are specifically feminine, with no male equivalent. In literature and film, the other woman is a wicked antagonist, while “the other man” is the means of creating a thrilling love triangle. For example, think of Edward Cullen and Jacob Black in Twilight. Edward is exciting and mysterious while Jacob is reliable and supportive, and both men are extremely protective over Bella. These men have different strengths and weaknesses, are incredibly complex and are both viable options to play Bella’s love interest. Now think of Daisy Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson in The Great Gatsby. These women are juxtaposed, with Daisy being a symbol of purity and innocence, and Myrtle being a symbol of lust and greed. Myrtle represents a more relatable, common character; yet Daisy garners more empathy, despite her unrelatable wealth and status. The other woman is embarrassingly naive, yet a manipulative mastermind. She lacks ambition in her personal life and career, yet is ruthless in her pursuit to wreck a home. The other woman is incredibly pathetic, yet still too evil for the audience to pity. 

I’ve debated between multiple lenses in which to explore Adam Levine’s scandal. A Freudian analysis using the Madonna-whore complex theory, a Sontag-inspired inspection of the female expiration date, or a critical review on Hollywood men’s inability to flirt. Ultimately, I decided the scandal itself is far less interesting than the media’s reaction, which revealed the misogynistic attitudes that permeated our culture. 

The media is incapable of viewing women as nuanced individuals. It is inconceivable to acknowledge that Sumner Stroh has played a role in breaching a marriage while simultaneously being a victim of a predatory power structure. Levine is nearly twice her age and dominates her in fame. Their dynamic is blatantly unequal at best and subtly coercive at worst. It is evident that public support of the #MeToo movement only extends to ‘perfect victims.’ If a story becomes more complex than an all-empowering abuser and a completely innocent victim; the public fails to sympathize. 

A majority of hate comments towards Stroh come from women; women who violate her for her violation of sisterhood, asserting that her moral jurisdiction should be as strong as Levine’s legal vows. The court of Twitter has decided to leak her Onlyfans content and spew slurs in the name of ‘accountability.’ Stroh is now bound to the same disproportionate and misdirected outrage that Monica Lewinsky, Jordyn Woods, and countless ‘other women’ have faced before. By using the mistress as a scapegoat, men with pre-established careers are able to wait for the initial shock of a scandal to subside and then move forward. The woman suffers a far worse fate, always remembered for how she came into the cultural consciousness: a villain. Maroon 5 will remain the soundtrack to convenience stores nationwide, while Stroh’s reputation is permanently tarnished. 

Jumping to the defense of Behati Prinsloo is just as counterproductive as defaming Stroh. When prominent women such as Prinsloo are cheated on, it sparks a widespread panic. We mistakenly endow beauty as a currency, a price women pay in exchange for loyalty. We reveal our subconscious belief that there is an ideal woman, and this ideal woman has earned her right to fidelity. There are no preventative measures a woman can take to assure the security of her relationship. A man’s own moral compass is the ultimate deciding factor. It is easy to believe the narrative of a conniving, ruthless temptress. It is comforting to believe that good women deserve good men. It is hard to accept that men can act immoral out of their own unpredictable agency. 

In the past week, anyone who defended Sumner Stroh against the internet’s mob mentality, was accused of condoning her behavior or painting her as some sort of feminist icon as if humanizing an individual and justifying their actions are mutually exclusive acts. Our media landscape relies on polarization to engage an audience, which results in attempting to reduce situations and public figures to be objectively good or objectively bad. Sumner is not the first woman to be minimized to a spectacle. Going forward, we cannot use moral impunity as a social shield for mass defamation and harassment. We must remember that failure to recognize the humanity in any woman is a failure to women as a whole. We cannot preach sisterhood without practicing it; it is especially crucial to practice it when it’s the most difficult to.  

Pace University A tired feminist, stereotypical English major, toucher of grass, but fundamentally; just a silly, silly girl!