I found this comment piece (below) on reclaiming the word 'slut' really interesting. It's written by two teachers that go around schools educating young women about how to reach a comfortable idea of their own sexualities. They think that the word slut is "damaging" to teen girls and "so deeply rooted" in the patriarchal "madonna/whore" view of sexuality that it is beyond redemption."
Dines and Murphy think we can focus our feminist energies better to create a positive female-originated view of women's sexuality. Women's sexualities are as varied and complex. But no more complex than men's.
This would be great, except for there is little movement towards this happening. Also, rejecting the word 'slut' seems to me to be reacting to the constructs of patriarchy that mean 'slut' is taken as an insult. That's giving our power away. Isn't it better to be proactive and take the sting out of the word, take the power of the word has in society, for ourselves?
I feel that the feminist movement has suffered from in-fighting, po-faced, black-or-white views (on prostitution, for example), and a stuffy kind of academic debate over semantics that has been going on too long.I like the concept of Slutwalk for its unique combination of the absolutely serious and earnest, coupled with humour. Let's not underestimate humour as a campaigning tool (Read: Small Acts of Resistance by Steve Crawshaw and John Jackson).If you want to hear some of the protesters' reasons for attending Slutwalk London, you can hear them in my contribution to @PodDelusion podcast (around 11.25 mins in).See the placard slogans from Slutwalk London below.
- Slutwalks have energised feminists in this country as no other niche movement has in recent years. Or even decades.For that reason, and its inclusivity, and the way it challenges women to band together and not to judge each other, I think that Slutwalks are a powerful idea.The energy behind the marches is more important than haggling over the meaning of 'slut', and whether we want to reclaim it. Why not take the momentum that is forming and direct it?That's why I agree with the comment piece below by Asiya Islam, which also brings up very interesting considerations on the racial and cultural implications of how accessible the Slutwalk movement is.
If we are teaching young girls about sexuality, I think it should be to tell them that their sexuality is much more powerful than they realise. Perhaps they'd feel less pressured and "damaged" - regardless of an over-sexualised culture - if they were taught to ask: "what do I want and how am I going to get it?"
I think that is what Penny Red was talking about when she was giving her speech at the Slutwalk London Rally:
Define your sexuality and sexual power in your own way? Don't play by the patriarchal rules? Pretty much any woman who does this is at risk of being called a slut.
Maybe we can re-frame 'slut' as 'sexual adventurer'? I have always believed that if men can do it, so can women. That's just the kind of feminist I am.
Frankly, any woman that has ever been called a 'slut' or who has called another woman a 'slut' can identify with the resonance of the word. It pulls our strings. Even if this was a bad thing at the time, it can transform into a good thing if it helps us channel our energy in a positive way to stand together to oppose violence against women.Chloe Angyal discusses the way we can neutralise the destructive power of the world 'slut' in the Christian Science Monitor.
- It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was in the park with my friend Kate, who was telling me all about the party she had gone to the night before. I hadn’t been invited, and I wanted to be caught up on all the new gossip about our classmates and friends. “You should have seen how Bridget was dancing with this guy,” Kate told me, her face screwed up in judgment. “His hands were all over her butt.” “What a slut!” I said. We were 13.
I can relate to this. Personally, I have found that women are harsher critics of other women than men are.But even worse than the unsisterliness and bitchiness of undermining other women, Angyal writes, is the false sense of superiority and security that calling a women 'slut' can give. "Good girls" can get raped too.
- When women hurl that word at other women, we aren’t just buying into the lie that some of us deserve violence more than others. We’re also lying to ourselves about our own safety. We’re pretending that rape could never happen to us – that it’s something that happens to other women, women who bring it on themselves. And by endorsing that myth, we make it easier for men like that Toronto police officer to pick and choose who sees justice and who doesn’t.
- It's time for women to be wiser, and kinder to each other.At the Slutwalk I heard a lot about how emphasis should move from the victim of rape to the perpetrator. This is true. But I also think that we all need to continue to push through a cultural shift away from blame culture further - and towards a more compassionate way of relating to each other.I was impressed by campaigner Tamsin Omond's heartfelt blog post reacting to Slutwalk. She said:
How would things be different in society if all woman stood up together? The sensible ones and the short-skirted ones, the "good girls" and the sexually liberated ones?
Maybe it's time we all embraced out inner Madonna and inner whore, and, well, make friends with them? In the maze that is human sexuality, there may be a bit of the chaste and a bit of the lascivious lurking in there in all of us, among the full spectrum of sexual desire.
We could celebrate chastity; it has its pleasures. But celebrating our 'slutishness' is closer to celebrating our enjoyment of sex.
I love what Alice Walker had to say about it:
- Alice Walker: I’ve always understood the word “slut” to mean a woman who freely enjoys her own sexuality in any way she wants to; undisturbed by other people’s wishes for her behavior. Sexual desire originates in her and is directed by her. In that sense it is a word well worth retaining. As a poet, I find it has a rich, raunchy, elemental, down to earth sound, that connects us to something primal, moist, and free. The spontaneous movement that has grown around reclaiming this word speaks to wom
So no, I don't think reclaiming the word 'slut' is a "distraction" from 'proper' feminist causes, such as pay in the workplace or sharing the demands of running a home - as the writer Christina Patterson says in the below film.
- Of course equality in the workplace and the home are crucial to modern day women (and benefit men and the whole of society). But violence against women is hardly a "distraction".Once again, let's not get too caught up in the semantics. In this country the rape conviction rate is only a shameful 6.5 per cent, we have women who are trafficked working here as sexual slaves and domestic violence is experienced by one in four European women.Still, we have it pretty good. What about our sisters in war zones, in places of civil unrest, and those without access to healthcare or who are forced to undergo FGM?This week the results of a survey by Thompson Reuters revealed the five worst places in the world to be a woman.
- The fight against sexual violence is just beginning. And I, for one, hope Slutwalks are going to snowball into something much bigger.