The other day I heard a group of 11-year olds talking. One of them turned to another and said “Who is Megan Fox?” The boy replied “She’s that slut.”
I was a little taken aback to say the least. I had to think quick on my feet. “Slut” isn’t exactly a swear word but it is not a word I feel I should ignore when I hear young kids using it.
“Hey, you shouldn’t say that” I told the kid. “She is not a slut and that is not a very nice word.
It was obvious the boy used this word in a negative way. He was quite embarrassed when I addressed him about it. In fact, all the kids in the surrounding vicinity blushed and giggled and were uneasy with the fact I heard the use of such a word.
The whole incident left me thinking about words and the “rightness” and “wrongness” associated with them. Words have power. They invoke in people certain feelings.
It seems trendy these days to throw this word around like it’s “just a word”. On May 25, the annual “SlutWalk” took place in Toronto. I have no issue with its mission but, as hard as I try, I can not get comfortable with the name.
The walk started last year in response to a police officer who suggested women “dressing like sluts” were inviting their own victimization. A group of (understandably) offended women started the walk to fight back against victim blaming.
I’m very liberal-minded when it comes to sex. As long as no one gets hurt, I am accepting of people’s rights to live their lives, including their sexuality, as they see fit. I disagree with shame connected to sexuality and am fully aware of and perturbed by the double standard that exists between the genders.
But this term slut is not something to be celebrated. It has strong negative connotations. It is an insult, a judgement and is disrespectful toward women. It is unpleasant, abusive and condescending. No matter how hard people try, it will never be viewed as anything but a put-down.
I tilt my hat to today’s younger generation of women who are more comfortable with their sexuality than previous generations and who are trying to remove the double standard that exists in our society.
But I am just not convinced that attempting to neutralize the word slut (not to mention attempting to rebrand it as something positive) is the right path to achieving fairness, equality and acceptance.