Matt Lauer says stay-at-home mom Cori Rist decided to appear on Today "to set the record straight," and Rist echoes this sentiment when she says, "I felt like I needed to defend myself." She does emphasize that Tiger Woods never paid her for sex, that she's not "a hooker or a prostitute," and that members of his entourage knew about their affair, but she doesn't really add all that much to "the record." Rist says she needs to "set an example" for her seven-year-old son, and perhaps her appearance is an effort to, as she says, "take responsibility for the things I've done." But while she publicly apologizes to Elin Nordegren, the apology is unlikely to be all that comforting, and there doesn't seem to be much need for Rist to "take responsibility" on television. In fact, at this point it's hard not to suspect some of Woods's mistresses of self-promotion.
As Givhan pointed out yesterday, the act of speaking publicly as a former Woods mistress does have costs. The media and viewers alike disparage them, viewing them not only as morally loose but as "interchangeable commodities." Givhan writes,
Whatever might have occurred between Woods and all these women might never be fully known, and frankly, that's the way it should be. But for all the careful parsing of Woods's character, the attempts to reconcile his public persona with what might have been going on in the shadows, the women are being lumped into broad categories. They are being stereotyped as usual suspects for this sort of behavior.
It's a fair point, especially when people are joking of Tiger that, "If all his mistresses look the same, why didn't he just choose one?" Just because they looks similar doesn't make them the same, and even if Woods pursued them because they fit a certain physical type, that doesn't mean blondness is all they have to offer anyone. It's also true that their occupations — some are cocktail waitresses or former models — don't say anything about their intelligence or morals (a mistake we've been accused of making). But their jobs do make them a lot less famous than Tiger — meaning that, in some ways, they have less to lose.
Rist and other women in her position face some public censure and mockery. Even Givhan's not immune, saying of Woods's porn-star entanglements, "It seems fair to say that if you have chosen porn as your life's work, you are content with being judged as slimy, stereotyped as skeevy and maligned as sleazy." But unlike Woods, they don't have lucrative endorsement deals with Accenture to lose. And they may have something to gain — especially since famous other-woman Ashley Dupre now has a newspaper column. Rist says that unlike Woods's other mistresses, "I wasn't looking to get anything out of the relationship," and that may be true — when she broke down on Today, it felt genuine. But the Today show and other media outlets are certainly looking to get ratings out of Tiger Woods's relationships, and women who until now lived in relative obscurity may find the exposure tempting.
The Tiger Woods Scandal Is A Tale Of Sex — And Sexism [Washington Post]
Big Risk In A One-Man Brand Like Tiger Woods [NYT]