Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

04 January 2009

The S-word

This is starting to look like VLF's feminist dictionary!

In the comments of my post on the C-word, the Evil Slut Clique asked me about my feelings on the word slut. Oy...

First of all I believe that the word slut is used by most people as a way to shame women for their sexuality. The stud:slut dichotomy has been discussed by feminists for years. That means that women need to either new to create a new word for positive women sexuality or reclaim a word. Should that word be slut?

As a sassy teen, I tried to reclaim it by using it to label myself. My best friend & I would call each other "slut" and "whore" as an attempt to throw it back into the faces of our classmates who called us that. It was our way of saying, "Go ahead & call us that, we don't care." But we did. At least I did and I still do. But I don't believe it is the word as much as the hypocrisy that went into the labeling. Getting called a slut was punishment for much more than just sex. It was appearing to have or like sex, public kissing, not dating the same dork for 4 years, short skirts, low-cut shirts, see-thru shirts, etc.

Despite the hurt that the word holds for me and I'm sure many women out there, I do think that if you want to reclaim it, go for it. I've tried to stop using that word to label myself because a dear friend asked me to. I could see that it was hurting her to see me use that label and perhaps it was also because I was using it to cut myself down instead of empower myself.

It's all a bit crazy for me, but if you are strong enough to use slut in a positive way, more power to you.

Other thoughts?

2 comments:

Here is the essence of being able to reclaim a word. If you can call yourself something with pride when others use that word to cause pain, then you're reclaiming it. But when you call yourself a slut proudly by voice, but your eyes mirror the pain and shame that your detractors want, you're affirming the negative without being able to take power. And its hard to be sexually strong and assured adult woman, let alone a sexually strong teenage girl. The word slut could mean "My pleasure is more important to me than pleasing you", but I've met few women or teenagers who could say that. And I totally count myself in that category.

I have no problem proudly proclaiming myself a bitch. None at all. I'm able to be strong, I'm not going to care if my opinion hurts your feelings, I'm not going to soften my edges to make someone else feel better about themselves. But I couldn't call myself or a close friend a slut while still holding that conviction. Calling someone queer has a sense of strength behind it that gay doesn't. Calling a woman a dyke also carries strength for me that lesbian doesn't. Until I can find the strength in the word slut, I can't help the reclaiming effort.

Thanks for addressing the question. Obviously we're in favor of reclaiming slut, but we can see other sides of the issue too. And we definitely agree that you can't really reclaim something halfway, or try to embrace a label because you feel like you should be able to when really you're still affected by the negative associations. Not really helpful to create a situation where women are just as uncomfortable with pressure to reclaim a word as they were with the word itself. But we do think that the word slut can have power in terms of owning your own sexuality, subverting ridiculous stereotypes about women who have sex, and just stating that whether you have 100 sexual partners or none (safely and responsibly and because you want to and for no other reason), nobody else has permission to make you feel bad about your sexual choices.