Slut-shaming. Younger-me is so guilty of this, but I have to give myself a little slack because younger me was also rather ignorant of the real world because I was very very very sheltered. It's easy to judge women even when you are one and you should know better than to cut down your own people but we're all guilty of it and now that I have a little more life experience a little more perspective and just time I get it. I really, REALLY get it.
In the news more recently there was a Toronto policeman who stated there would be less rapes if women dressed less provocatively. 17 year old me would have probably said, sure that makes sense. But the problem is that I spent so much time being told by my well intentioned parents that boys are disgusting sex driven beings that instead of placing the blame on their nature we place it on the victims of rape instead and that's a flawed system. Blaming the victim once she is made a victim doesn't change the rapist. It doesn't change whatever mechanisms are in place that have created this misogynistic view that a woman is merely the sum of her overall appearance.
And yes I'm glad my parents were honest with their opinions because I was incredibly scared of men/potential rapists for a long time...so it worked! But it builds a system of self-blame. It's my fault because I left my room. It's my fault because I wore a shirt instead of a gigantic shapeless parka. It's my fault because I have a vagina and the world is out to get me and that's possibly the most ridiculous world to have to live in. I live in America where supposedly I have freedom but I was so brainwashed into feeling everything bad was my own fault and had I exerted more caution that I would have been fine.
While I don't see the value in walking around with your genitals shaking around (you will definitely regret that choice once gravity really sets in) the fact is that we're a society that is quick to label any female a slut. You don't even necessarily have to have had sex to be branded a slut. Acting a certain way, dressing a certain way, talking to a man who is not your boyfriend, dating people...all of this can result in other women and men labeling you a slut in order to not only judge you but bring you down a few pegs. Sure we're bombarded with oversexed models gyrating all over Rap stars in every music video and ingenues greased up with Italian dressing on the cover of Maxim but God forbid real women in real life actually exhibit any normal sexuality or they will be labeled all kinds of terrible names. In case you don't believe me, name one male celebrity that is regularly decried for being a slut. Oh right, there are none. Don Juan? Playas? Even the terms for men who are a little hyper-sexual aren't incredibly negative. They lean a little more on a half jesting tease rather than a full on insulting term.
I am not saying all men are rapists any more than I am saying all women are sluts. It's bad to make sweeping statements but it's merely to prove the point that I've probably been referred to as a slut or a bitch or a whore 1,000 times more than any man has ever been called a rapist. How does it feel? Pretty terrible, right? It's horrible.
And really, what's wrong with a woman having and exhibiting her sexuality? Men do it and they're called "playas" and are generally applauded by their peers for their skills with the ladies.
Did you read "The Duff"? (I know, I have the weirdest reading list.) It's a teen book but given all the teenage sex in it I probably would not gift it to your niece for her birthday unless you want to have some slightly miffed parents calling you later. Basically the overall themes are about how these teens labeled each other. The Duff being an acronym for designated ugly fat friend which the story jumps off from. Duff is a dirty word in the book much like slut or whore but it's just a word that is used to bring this girl down. Before the word existed she was fine and she was happy within the confines of the life she was living and the friends that she had. Once the word is brought to the forefront of her attention then things spiral out of control because it begins to eat at her sense of self-value and she (like a normal teenager) lashes out and behaves in a less than Marsha Brady-ideal-sweet girl way. I don't want to ruin the book should you choose to read it but I'll warn that the movie is an entirely different creature than the book so I'd recommend the book just because it's a whole other beast. It's a pretty fair assessment of high school in this day and age.
So back to the original point, due to this Toronto cop's statement there have been a rash of Slut Walks, seeking to "take back" the term slut and stop the cycle of victim shaming. I don't really understand the taking back of the term part because it seems kind of extreme to call one's self a slut but I am happy to see that we're seeking to empower victims, empower women and shine a light on the fact that women should not have to be sorry for wanting to be themselves and dress the way they want and say things they want and sleep with whom they want to. A person who chooses to have sex before marriage has every bit the same right to consent as any other individual. I don't even have the perspective of being a mother to daughters but if I did I'd be furious about anyone slut shaming my kids. A little bit of cleavage doesn't mean you're asking to be assaulted. I know there's no true male counterpart to this but, I guess those guys who squeeze into those tiny speedos know people will be looking at their junk but I doubt anyone would label them all flagrant overly sexual deviants.
Again, I live in North America so no one wears speedos unless they're competing at an Olympic trial. The only guys who ever wear speedos in public tend to be flagrantly European or just old enough to not care what any of us think of them. I find it doubtful young guys are talking smack about that 55 year old Greek gentleman with the glistening ebony chest hair. Perhaps these perceptions are different from other corners of the globe. It's all so relative, right? I am so used to how our Puritan roots have created this kind of odd mixture of liberal freedom love side by side with severe Christian morals that sometimes other societies surprise me. If you have time to grab a quick read, I'd recommend Aziz Ansari's "Modern Romance" because it's got a few chapters on Argentina, Japan and France in addition to the obvious USA that are truly interesting. I thought it would be a humor book but it was truly an interesting sociological research based work about what it means to be a young person looking for romance in the modern world we live in right now with the twitter and instagram and facebook and prevalence of text message over voice calls and how they shape our relationships and our perceptions of other people. It's truly a good read even if you are not single. Like how bad spelling makes us immediately judge someone when in fact they could have just gotten a new phone and not mastered all those pesky auto corrects yet. We have so many ways to communicate but because of it we're more apt to make snap judgement that aren't really based on anything. We discard the idea of knowing people because their profile picture is lame or they insist on taking so many pictures of food. We even judge people when their pictures are TOO nice or their posts are TOO perfect because we all perceive them as fake and trying too hard. There's no way of winning.
When I was in college, yes there was Facebook; I didn't live in the stone ages but the worst thing we had was AIM Instant messenger and you could just log off of that thing and then not have to deal with the weird away messages that were cryptic song lyrics that might be about you.
Let's wrap it up, this is getting lengthy. Love yourself! Love others! Respect your body but whatever you do with it is your own business. I totally respect and admire people who fully embrace who they are without being apologetic and without hiding behind layers of false pretenses. If you want to party, go party. If you want to curl up with a book and a couple cats? Go for it. We all find fulfillment in different ways. Don't let other people's perceptions of you box you in to a category they made up for you. You're more than just a single diminutive insult.