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.