One of my favorite topics is women in media. The way they’re represented, the way they’re treated, the tropes they’re force fed, the ideas given to young girls, the over-sexualization of women in everyday media, it’s my favourite kind of brain-food.
As someone who has spent a lot of time studying tropes and the effects of media women (and by studying, I mean collecting knowledge through the power of the interwebs and experience), I was exceptionally excited to learn that to start off our newest PLP Project we were going to have a look at the use of the word slut.
This week we started off by looking at three examples over modern history (1960’s-1990’s) of people using the term “slut” in the media. We started with the SNL skit that became a North American classic Jane, You Ignorant Slut, then moved on to Golden Girls: Long Live The Slut, where the girls discussed how having 50-something boyfriend’s makes you a slut (or not?), and then on to Sex and The City where there was a discussion about what makes someone a slut; does sleeping with a lot of people make you a slut, or are you just “romantically challenged”?
In each of these examples, the s word is used in a different context by different people. In SNL, it’s a man calling a woman a slut. In Golden Girls it’s a woman referring to another woman (+ in a friendship context). In Sex and The City it’s a woman referring to herself. Each of these things are important to recognize when deciding whether or not the use of the word is correct or incorrect to each person.
Personally, I don’t like the word slut. I find it crude and unnecessary. Before this week, I thought everyone was like that. I thought that the s word was considered a derogatory term that sexualized women without proper reason and I thought most people agreed (unless they were, in fact, a slut-shamer). Then I found out that there are some women who are trying to the word back, much like LGBTQ+ people took back the word Queer. I found that quite interesting, because I never really considered it the kind of word you take back. I find slut to be a bit too double-standardy to just take back and claim as a title, because it’s aimed solely at the sexualization of women and never that of men. Why is it that when a woman is sexually active with more than one partner in a certain amount of time they’re called a slut and scrutinized, but when a man does it they’re praised? I don’t think it’s right, and I don’t think that until it changes we can really take back the word slut, or any other word like it.
As interesting as it was to learn about the history of the word slut and how it has changed from being considered derogatory and rude to a word to take back and use to gain media attention (even for great causes ( See: Slut Walk)), I still stand by my original opinion that it’s a word that is used harshly and too one-sidedly to be taken back and worn proud, but good-on the people who are working to do it. I will never be one to bring other women down, especially when they’re working to be heard and seen.
If you’re from North Vancouver and want to learn a bit about some local sexism and slut-shaming in our political parties, have a quick look at Jane Thornthwate‘s recent sexist comments towards Bowinn Ma in a BC Liberal Party Zoom call.