Hey Slut! On loathing slut walk and the rest of it.

There are a few things that I really, really loathe about what’s happening in the feminist movement at the moment. Katy Perry as a feminist icon, thinking that ‘cos you’re a feminist you can totally put other women down without it being problematic and the ‘reclamation’ of the word ‘slut’. 

I would literally give all of the money in the world (which I’m relatively sure sits at around negative $2,000 plus HECS debt) if someone could just make it go away.

I loathe it for so many reasons, but the most recent comes from an unnamed source which broke my heart, I won’t say much except to say that outside of our contained world, where political correctness reigns and the tiniest misstep can lead to ostracisation from the ‘sisterhood’ slut hasn’t been reclaimed at all. ‘Slut’ is hurled at the feet of young women and it makes them feel dirty, ashamed and worthless.

There is no male equivalent, there is no way to make a supposed promiscuous nature into a reduction of worth for men. ‘Man Slut’ applied to men holds none of the same hatred, none of the same connotations, it can be held up as a badge of honour.

While we were marching chanting ‘I’m a slut, slut, slut’ young women in schools and their late teens/early 20’s were getting the same thing told to them, but they didn’t have the same luxury of chanting it proudly. For them they know what it means, it means being used, being abused, being worthless.

I understand that the point of slut walk is to try and make those connotations go away, but that’s not really how it works. We should be challenging the use of the word at all, not try and reclaim it. ‘Reclaiming’ the N word in the United States hasn’t make it feel any better when people hurl it at the feet of people. Relaiming the word ‘Wog’ in Australia hasn’t meant that racists using the term no longer feel free to use it.

More importantly, it keeps meaning the same thing regardless, should we really be willing to accept there being a word for women who have ‘a lot’ of sex when there isn’t one for men? Not to mention, that ‘slut’ isn’t really about sex anyway. It’s about the fact that men think they have the right and the ability to make you dirty with one word alone. “Don’t be like that, everyone knows you’re a slut”.

Slut Walk got a big crowd, I didn’t go. I got called a slut in high school. I know what it feels like, how they use it to make you into something less. There’s been studies done which show that for young women, particularly young low SES women, the label of ‘slut’ has similar symptoms as those exhibited by people with post-traumatic stress disorder. You didn’t feel that way? Good for you, other people do, and reclamation doesn’t work, it just makes it more acceptable for other to use to word.

I haven’t been called a slut for a lot of years, but I remember what it felt like. I know what it feels like for young women who are still called it today. Slut Walk didn’t even appear on their radar, they were too busy knowing what it really meant to be called that.

One of my friends went to slut walk in Melbourne in 2011. I asked her how it was and she said, “Yeah, at first it was really fun, but after a while you’re just yelling slut over and over again” and crumpled her face.

I’ll bet you all the money in my pockets, against all the money in your pockets, that her feeling won’t change no matter how many times we march. Make it go away, some words shouldn’t be reclaimed because some feelings can’t be. Slut is absolutely an example of this. We need to make it stop.

 

 

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11 thoughts on “Hey Slut! On loathing slut walk and the rest of it.

  1. Tara Swain

    Noni. Thank you. This word is insidious. I loathe everything about it, and anything to do with it. I would never participate in any kind of walk, run, skip, jump or anything with that word in the title. Everyone knows what it means, and I agree with you totally that anyone who has been called that word would understand the links with PTSD.

    I am sure these “walks” (I can’t even type the word, let alone prance about chanting it) draw a crowd for their audacity and shock value. However, I really believe it makes things worse. Anyone who has the decency to never use the word is appalled by it, and the people who do use it to label women stand back and snigger, that’s what they always thought about women anyway.

    There are parallels with the ‘N’ word. However many young people have “reclaimed” it, there are scores of people like their parents who busted their butts to have it eradicated from the vernacular.
    I feel the same way about the “S” word, my grandmothers, mum and myself have not been fighting for this word to be deleted from mainstream vocabulary just to have the young ones bring it through as some kind of shock and awe campaign in an attempt to normalise it. Woeful.

    Good on you for saying what a lot of us have been thinking.

    Reply
  2. Emma Di

    I really enjoyed reading your opinions on this. I’m going to Slutwalk for the first time this weekend and I had no idea that we’d be shouting “I’m a slut” over and over again. Your thoughts about reclamation are very interesting and true – especially when it comes to race. I think in that sense the true notion behind Slutwalk – saying that dress sense doesn’t equate to rape – gets a little lost from the get-go with its name. I know I’m going because I want to protest against the idea that how you dress determines how someone is allowed the treat you – and hopefully other people are too, not to just have fun reclaiming a word that hasn’t stopped being hurtful.

    At least there are wonderful protests/rallies like Reclaim the Night which do protest against sexism and sexual assault. Hmmm. I guess Slutwalk has just caught on so quickly because the title causes a stir, which might get more publicity for the message at the heart of it.

    Reply
  3. helen

    I agree entirely! I hate the word! It’s not like slut once meant something nice and now its turned bad, slut always has been a revolting term. Who wants it? I have a real problem with the “reclaiming” of the word, how can we take something back that from the very beginning was used against us. Besides that, my opposition to the slut walk taught me a great lesson. I once voiced my opposition to the slutwalk on facebook, in the context of a feminist post mind you, and I started to get a bit of hate mail. This one girl was posting on my pictures saying things like “opposes the slut walk and yet feels like its ok to have these sort of photos on facebook.” It was then that I learnt that there was no real message coming across in the slutwalk agenda. How is slut helpful? What was learnt from slut walk? I agree that women should have the freedom to act the way they wish to act, but I refuse to connect that with a word that has so much hatred attached to it.
    My idea is to do the opposite, the ****walk. A day where we push the fact that “slut”, “bitch” and “whore” are terrible things to call someone. “You’ve got to stop calling each other bitches and whores, that just makes it ok for guys to call bitches and whores.”. Make them forgotten and move forward to better things like “powerful” “strong-willed” and my personal favourite “femisist!”

    Reply
    1. ryry

      Actually, as a whore, I dont find that whore is neccessarily a bad thing to call someone. yes it might be bad for someone who is not a whore to call me one if they are not my friend and dont mean it with respect, but as someone who admires the strength, power, and amazingness of all the sex workers in my life i don’t think whore neccesarilly has to be a ‘terrible’ thing to call someone. As a sex worker, Id actually rather be called a whore than a feminist. Coz I dont know any whores that have actively campaigned for the criminalization and higher police powers over other groups of marginalized women. But I have known feinists to get organized and do just that.

      Reply
  4. Ruth

    Great piece – Slut Walk happened before I really became entrenched in becoming a feminist, but even then I was a little hesitant to put support behind it. I thought there should be be more emphasis on creating awareness around female sexuality and that women are entitled to have sex as much as they like, rather than gaining traction through the use of a word like that.

    Reply
  5. Renee Moretti Jones

    Interesting article Noni!

    Making the decision to run SlutWalk in Canberra was a really difficult one for me. My own experiences with the word slut are varied, but at its most extreme I was called a slut by my rapist to invalidate any claims of assault I would of made at the time. I wrote about this a while ago here: http://seedproject.org.au/?p=38

    Ultimately, I had decided that the response to SlutWalk’s all over the world was so overwhelming that I had to participate in it, in my own way. I cannot speak for other SlutWalk’s, as each one is organised by different people, however the SlutWalk in Canberra chose to not even mention anything about reclaiming the word slut. Our focus was on victim blaming and ‘slut shaming’ (ie, the way our societies frame women’s sexualities). There was no chanting of “I’m a slut”, at any point in time. One of our speakers even talked of why reclaiming the word slut is problematic, however she still felt comfortable to sign SlutWalk Canberra’s manifesto because we did not mention reclaiming the word slut. At the end of the day, SlutWalk turned out to be a highly adaptable campaign for us, and prompted an enormous dialogue on sexual violence within our area. After sharing my story with others for the first time, other survivors of sexual violence approached me to share their own experiences and the care and love that was shown to me on that day can still evoke happy tears to this day. I know that there has been some seriously problematic SlutWalk events, but I don’t think they are universal.

    However, I would never ask or push for my feminist sisters to ‘reclaim’ the word slut. My own article mentions it because for me personally, it is what I needed to do. For some women, slut can never be reclaimed, understandably so.

    Reply
  6. Dauka

    First, please don’t equate the word slut to the n word. Don’t. Racism ain’t sexism and when women and feminists do this it drives me red.

    Second, you don’t seem to fully understand what Slut Walk is about. It’s challenged the word slut more than anything I’ve ever seen before. I’ve talked to lots of young women who feel like they have a place in Slut Walk because they know what it feels like to be called slut, whore, easy and it’s terrible. That’s the point. From what I see people do what they want with the slut word, they hate it or reclaim it because what works for one person doesn’t work for another.

    That well intentioned piece you wrote at the start about not putting down other women? Well you just did. Especially all those women who have reclaimed words for themselves.

    Reply
    1. nuswomens Post author

      Dauka, I won’t respond to the rest of the your points, except to say thanks for adding to the debate. I just wanted to note that I wasn’t equating the words as being similar. I was equating words born out of hate that have attempts at reclaimation. And how successful people feel those are. Particularly women.

      Reply
  7. Dauka

    AND I just saw you tagged this under faux feminism. That IS putting women down! Calling women you don’t fully know faux feminist is putting them down big time.

    Reply
  8. Pingback: Slutwalking « A life unexamined

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