DOUBLE STANDARD

How Ayesha Curry and Kehlani Became Internet Misogynists’ New Obsession

Whenever a famous woman dares show her flaws, social media misogynists turn to slut-shaming by comparing her to Ayesha Curry. But what happens the day Curry defies their sexist standards?

03.29.16 9:57 PM ET

The ongoing discord between R&B singer Kehlani Parrish, her ex-boyfriend Jahron Braithwaite (a rapper and singer known by his stage name PartyNextDoor) and her current beau, Cleveland Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving, made for an intense and unfortunate bit of social media drama over the past 36 hours. When PartyNextDoor shared an Instagram photo of what appeared to be him and Kehlani lying in bed watching television together, Twitter had a field day roasting the 20-year-old for assumed infidelity to Kyrie. Kehlani later posted pictures of herself in an emergency room and said she was feeling suicidal in wake of the situation. It’s a lot for these young stars to go through, and worse when it’s public and subject to running commentary.

But the controversy became an opportunity for Twitterbros to once again extol the virtues of Ayesha Curry, wife of NBA superstar Steph Curry. For those unaware, Mrs. Curry has recently (and unwittingly) become the poster child for a sort of idealized, new age Stepford wife; attractive and respectable, doting on her husband while advocating for modest dress and “classier” standards. As such, misogynists on social media have routinely used her as an example of what all women should strive to be—and every time a famous woman doesn’t live up to the standard that these bros have created, they stone her with their idealized version of Ayesha.

She’s devoutly Christian, her family is both accomplished and photogenic, she has a cooking website called Little Lights of Mine, and she publicly celebrates being a wife and mother. “After having my daughter, I kind of made a career change, and so I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do where I could be home with her and still have something for myself,” Curry told website Hello Beautiful. “My main reason for doing all of this is that I felt like at the time, being a mom and being a wife wasn’t considered cool and maybe it was a little bit looked down upon.”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of that. What’s disgusting is how Mrs. Curry’s persona is being used to attack any woman who isn’t presented through the same lens. From Kim Kardashian to Amber Rose to Ciara and, now, Kehlani—any woman who isn’t buttoned up,  any woman who has an overtly sexy image, and any woman who doesn’t meet the Twitterbro measurement for “wife-ability,” gets thrown under the “we need more women like Ayesha” bus.

The Web’s fixation on Ayesha Curry has been picked apart brilliantly (the guys at VerySmartBrothas recently put a chokehold on the entire phenomenon) and it’s interesting considering how easily the wives of athletes are vilified in instances where they dare take their husbands to task for, say, infidelity. Is the love of Ayesha Curry conditional?

Back in 2011, when it was reported that Vanessa Bryant wanted to divorce her then-husband Kobe after 10 years of marriage, she was criticized on social media and on record. Drake famously chided her on his track “Stay Schemin” with the lyrics, “Kobe ‘bout to lose a hundred fifty Ms. / Kobe my nigga, I hate it had to be him / Bitch, you wasn’t with me shooting in the gym.” Kobe’s own indiscretions were made public way back in 2003, when he was infamously charged with the sexual assault of a 19-year old hotel worker. The charges were later dropped after Kobe admitted wrongdoing—and even before then, he’d conceded that he’d been a serial cheater throughout their relationship. But even with his admitted infidelity, and even after Vanessa stayed with him through that ordeal when she could’ve been done with the marriage—she was still the one who got criticized when she thought she’d had enough. A baller’s wife is ideal as long as she dresses the right way, acts the right way and most importantly, never holds said baller to the same standards the general public expects her to meet.

It stands to reason that Twitterbro Nation would turn on Ayesha Curry, should anything ever go wrong in their marriage and she decide to walk away, she’d go from being the “Gold Standard” to a heartless wench hell-bent on punishing a male superstar by taking his money. It probably wouldn’t matter at all who was the more to blame for any marital troubles; the perception tends to be that the woman is wrong any time she doesn’t “stand by her man.” Even when he didn’t care enough about their relationship to stand by her. So it’s not about love of Ayesha Curry; it’s about making sure women adhere to the standards that men are comfortable with. 

Do any of these individuals raving about what she represents even care about who Ayesha Curry is as an actual, living, breathing person? Doesn’t seem like it. They’ve already decided that her value is defined by a perceived adherence to arbitrary standards. It’s likely that if she did anything that stepped outside of the box they’ve created for her, she’d get the kind of social media backlash so many famous women have faced for not “living up” to an ideal they never even declared any allegiance to in the first place.

This isn’t just the typical madonna/whore binary that informs so much of our culture and the kind of hypocrisy born of sexual double standards—it’s intertwined with notions of respectability that condition us to believe that a woman who is “wife-able” has to live up to some sort of sitcom mom stereotype or else we have no idea how to define her.

That sort of respectability reared its ugly head when porn star Mia Khalifa shared her unsolicited two cents on the ongoing Kehlani drama. “Did he [Irving] expect to make an Ayesha Curry with a girl with face, neck and hand tattoos?” she tweeted. The assumption, however intended, reads as though these two things run counter; that a woman can’t be “edgy” and a suitable partner. Because part of being “Ayesha Curry” is an adherence to superficial aspects of her appeal. Again—it all reduces Curry to a type in an attempt to shame women for not being that “type,” and reduces womanhood to so many easy-to-digest caricatures.

The door never seems to swing the other way with the same intensity and regularity. Kobe or Tiger or Michael Jordan cheating on their wives doesn’t lead to tidal wives of guys applauding their ex-wives for leaving the marriage and taking whatever money they felt were owed them. A woman feeling unfulfilled in a relationship doesn’t usually elicit that kind of empathy in the form of male commentary. Men are also less likely to turn a male celebrity into such a standard that they would judge themselves and their peers against his image and accomplishments.

We feel entitled to an “Ayesha” just because we’ve decided that we meet some sort of invisible criteria. We’ve gotten the degrees, we’ve gotten the career and now, we want the spoils. Because that’s what a “wifey” is to so many immature thinkers; a trophy, a reward, an object to be claimed, possessed and directed. That’s why we project these thoughts onto Ayesha Curry. She hits all of the superficial marks that we want our trophy to have and we use that as ammunition in our ongoing dismissal of women who are as flawed, complex and human as we have always been allowed to be.

So maybe pull back from the enthusiastic stoning of young women who make the same kind of mistakes of which young men are frequently guilty. Maybe make some allowances for human behavior and stop championing a standard that you yourself could never live up to. You don’t know Ayesha Curry. You don’t know Kehlani. And be a little more honest about your own cornball tendencies before you decide that you’re entitled to a certain type of woman—any woman. You’re not entitled to squat. We’re all flawed. Show her the same compassion you would one of your boys.