“Slut Shaming”: Why We Should Be Shaming the Word “Slut” Instead


Image from pxp.tdf.org

Image from pxp.tdf.org

Women cannot win in this world. To quote Allison Reynolds from “The Breakfast Club,” “If you say you haven’t, you’re a prude. If you say you have you’re a slut. It’s a trap. You want to but you can’t, and when you do you wish you didn’t, right?” Sadly, the concept is still true today. “Slut shaming” is a term often used to describe this double standard in liberal feminism, and is often used to “free” women of sexual constraints and liberate them by ensuring that it’s ok to be a “slut” and no one should shame them for that. While the debate of if slurs can be redefined by the oppressed group it is being used against or not, in this case, “slut shaming” just further reinforces and normalizes the idea that women who do act in a sexual manner are indeed “sluts,” and one shouldn’t shame them for that rather than shaming the destructive term itself.

Perhaps the prevalence of this term dates back to the invention and popularization of SlutWalk, now appropriately known as The Walk of No Shame. The uproar began on January 24th, 2011 when a representative of the Toronto Police released a statement regarding sexual assault by stating: “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” This consequently received outcries from feminists everywhere due to the harsh misogyny displayed in his message and his obvious victim-blaming. And while the word “slut” is extremely harmful and received the backlash it deserved, how can feminists redefine a word that brutally attacks women daily and redefine it as a term of sexual freedom? The answer is that they cant’.

Every two minutes in America someone is sexually assaulted. 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. 17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape. To label these women as “sluts” to reclaim the infamous slur and fight rape is just further contributing to rape culture, not redefining it. The word “slut” is an entirely feminized word, used to demean and harass women, not men. Reclaiming the word as sexually liberating is a great tactic if one wishes to further sexualize women rather attack the reason women are being sexualized to begin with.

This violent slur-turned-cutesy word seems to stem directly from white feminism, which is a privileged feminist movement that ignores other racial groups and their oppression and instead, only concerns itself with the struggles of white women, mostly middle-class. This is an issue because black women cannot find their respective space in SlutWalk, instead, they do not find relation to the word “slut” because they have faced violent sexual history relating directly to their blackness and not their sexual promiscuity, demonstrated by the Jim Crow kidnappings, lynchings, acts of rape related directly to race, and continuous racial inequality that exists in our current time. When considering this type of racial injustice that has been brought upon women of color for centuries, the word “slut” appears trivial, and it turn becomes harder to identify with because a black woman’s struggle proceeds that of a white woman’s struggle. Black women were not shamed for being “sluts” when slavery was rampant, they were treated like property and had no choice in reclaiming any word, mainly because they couldn’t claim anything at all.

The ability for the term “slut shaming” to exist exists because of white feminism, and feminism that excludes women of color and different nationalities is not feminism, regardless of the word “slut” that’s painted across your bare chest. There is, undoubtedly, sexual double standards that are alive and well in this world. Women are regarded as products and men the consumers. It’s an issue fun feminism avoids when regarding the alleged “promiscuity” and sexuality of women, but how were these women treated as girls as they evolved into their womanhood?

The answer for that hypothetical question is not very well. Despite liberal feminists who claim they dressed provocatively since the age of six to feel sexually liberated and free, the act of appearing older than one actually is comes from the patriarchal view of beauty, and that women must start presenting themselves to men starting as early as three years old. Take a trip through any girl clothes department and the sexuality is already readily available, with shirts screening the words “I need a hero” and “I’m too pretty to do homework, so my brother had to do it for me.” These messages are targeted directly, and worn by, little girls. These little girls are not victims of “slut shaming,” they are victims of women hating. Women have been raised to dress for men, and to blatantly blame this embedded issue of misogyny on “slut shaming” or being blamed for liking sex or dressing provocatively when regarding a 10-year old girl is disturbing.

When men catcall me from the street, I’m not being shamed for being a “slut,” I’m shamed for merely being a woman. No matter what I’m wearing, who I choose to have sex with, or who I choose not to have sex with, I refuse to be labeled a “slut” because these attacks are not being thrown at me because of my sexuality, they’re being thrown at me because I exist as a female. The term “slut” is a word used to demean women and shame them into silence. Women who enjoy sex are not “sluts,” they are human beings. Women who do not enjoy sex are not “sluts” either, they are also human beings. While the term and the popularization of SlutWalk aimed to portray those viewpoints, reinforcing the use of the word “slut” sexualizes consent, contradictorily enough, lacks  any kind of structure and organization, is extremely inclusive, and demonstrates the problematic view of sex positivity. 

To classify women who have sex as “sluts” reinforces the patriarchal idea created by men, often reiterated in virtually every porno to ever exist: all women want sex, whether or not they know it. It’s easy to slap on the “slut shame” phrase when regarding Belle Knox, but the underlying problem within this choice feminism is that she is a privileged female college student who chose to willingly enter the sex industry, while most women are not as fortunate. On one hand women say they are liberated as they participate in pornography, on the other hand, roughly 2 million children are exploited every year in the global commercial sex trade, 98% of these victims being female. While a middle-class porn star can claim her “rough sex” scenes are “feminist,” the women and girls violently shoved into prostitution cannot attest to the same.

By telling men to not “slut shame” a woman, liberal feminism is essentially saying “I am a slut for having sex/wearing clothes/not wearing clothes/existing, but you shouldn’t shame me for that”!, and that’s sending the wrong message. Women aren’t “sluts” or “whores” for having sex, and I refuse to label an entire population of rape victims that because pop feminism is what sells. It goes along with the popular phrase “sex sells,” or in other words, “objectification sells.” Fun feminism enjoys labeling lipstick and sexual promiscuity as feminist activities and claiming personal liberation is above all liberation; however, sadly, this ideology lacks concepts vital to basic feminist theory and logic. Just because one woman labels her actions as empowered doesn’t mean they actually are, and the concept of feminism where women find everything a woman does, especially under patriarchal standards, as empowering is completely missing the point of feminism and in return may end up as a satirical headline on The Onion.

The term “slut shaming” fails to recognize the institutional and systematic issues that exist in rape culture. Embracing the harmful term “slut” further embeds the slur in cultural sexism and allows men, the perpetrators, to keep using the hurtful word. Reclaiming words that have harmed, beaten, raped, and murdered women since the dawn of time doesn’t liberate females. This is not activism, this is passivism. Men do not harass women that are “sluts,” they harass women because they are solely women. Instead of claiming the word as a term of empowerment it should be labeled as a term of hate, because that’s exactly what it is. Normalizing a hurtful slur that has damaged, raped, and murdered thousands of women isn’t helping a woman “claim her sexuality” or “give her sexual freedom/liberation,” it is used to further dehumanize that woman and claim she’s a slut for doing all of the above.

I understand that the term is meant to bring attention to the sexual injustice women face from the minute they are born, but feminism that ignores where all these patriarchal standards for female sexuality came from in the first place fails to recognize that repackaging a term developed by men and dropping a pound of glitter on it isn’t going to liberate them. Instead of slinging around the slur some more, terms such as sexual/sexaulity policing or body policing would be more suitable for labeling an attack against a woman’s sexuality. However, when it comes right down to it, this kind of shaming is used against females as a way to further control and enforce the purity myth upon them, not because their shorts are too short or because they have a naturally big chest, it’s because they are women, and this sexual harassment is woman hating.

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    “Slut Shaming”: Why We Should Be Shaming the Word “Slut” Instead – Candor News

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