Category Archives: women’s rights

How “Slut” Reveals Our Sexism

Yesterday, I celebrated my 26th birthday. My friends and I threw a wonderful party, and as we sat around discussing different topics, the conversation eventually moved to talking about women in “slutty” Halloween costumes.

There were six of us talking about this: four women, two men (myself included), all college-educated adults, all endowed with a decent sense of humor, and all Christians who usually shy away from casting judgment on others.

(For my non-Christian friends reading this, don’t worry; this is not about to launch into a Christian post.)

The gist of our discussion was how Halloween isn’t an excuse for women to dress like “sluts.” My five friends were in agreement on this, and I couldn’t disagree more, but that’s not the point of this post.

When I voiced my disagreement I said, “I don’t think dressing that way makes you ‘slutty.’”

As soon as the statement left my mouth, I immediately regretted it. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. It wasn’t that I disagreed with the opinion I was trying to get across but that I had indirectly validated using the word “slut.”

“Slut” is not a term of universal characterization. On its own, it’s almost always used to describe women who sleep around or, at the very least, are perceived to sleep around.

The word represents a double standard that has gone dramatically unchecked by both men and women: that uncommitted men who sleep around face little societal backlash but uncommitted women who sleep around are seen as immoral and/or unclean and unworthy of respect.

In fact, men who sleep around are almost always publicly accepted and even admired by both sexes. It’s seen as a sign that the man in question is attractive and charming.

Case in point: Joey from “Friends” has a running gag on the show of having multiple sexual partners over time, and it’s nearly always portrayed as an admirable quality. Can you imagine the three main women in the show (Rachel, Monica, and Phoebe) getting the same response? Not likely.

Quick note: There’s a difference between “sleeping around” and “womanizing.” For simplicity’s sake, “sleeping around” is having multiple sexual partners in a short period of time but under equal expectations between the partners in terms of relationship status. “Womanizing” is sleeping with women and effectively using their emotional vulnerability for sexual purposes.

The conversation among my friends and I, as previously stated, was launched over our opinions on women dressing “slutty” for Halloween. My friends felt that women who dress provocatively or erotically for this holiday are in the wrong.

This made me take pause, though. If men dressed for Halloween in only a Speedo, it would certainly get attention and commentary, but it’s doubtful it would be seen as morally wrong. It would probably be mocked for revealing far too much but not because it expressed an inappropriate sexuality.

And more often than not, the response would be one of humor, not offense.

But a woman dressing in a short skirt and high heels for her costume is seen as “slutty,” even though that would be revealing far less skin than the man in the Speedo.

Some readers may point out that men can be called a “man slut” or “horndog.” Well, let’s look at those.

“Man slut” is a modified term, and it’s implications are just as hurtful to women’s sexuality as the word “slut.” When you say “man slut,” you’re saying the man in question is acting like a “slut,” or a woman that sleeps around. But much of the time, “man slut” is used in a humorous manner. It’s not often used to deride a man for their sexual habits. On the other hand, calling a woman a “slut” is almost always seen as derogatory.

“Horndog” is the same way. It’s used to describe a sexually promiscuous man but is, more often than not, meant to be humorous. It’s used to describe men who are less than suave.

James Bond would never be described as a “horn dog,” but a woman sleeping around as much as 007 would definitely be called a “slut.”

Why are we so afraid of women’s sexuality?

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Where are all the women?

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This is a question I’ve been asking myself, lately… where are all the women? Observing any indicator of influence or power in our world, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that women are getting the short end of the stick:

Percentage of women in the U.S. Congress? 16.8%

Percentage of women in the Fortune 500? 3.6%

Percentage of Judiciary Branch that’s female? 31%

Percentage of senior military officers who are women? 5.3%

Percentage of U.S. Presidents and Vice Presidents who are/have been women? 0%

Number of women who have been a major party’s candidate for president or vice president? 2.

But what really puts this all into perspective is the fact that women make up more than half (50.8%) of the population of our country.

More than half.

So, how is it that women still constitute so little of the power hubs in the United States? I’m not sure I can answer that adequately, but I can say there are clear consequences to women having negligible representation in these hierarchies:

– Women, on average, still make 19% less than men.

– Women are still restricted from 20% of all U.S. military active-duty jobs, despite expert opinion from retired senior military officers supporting changes that would allow women to serve in combat arms.

– There were an estimated 19,000 sexual assaults (95% against women) in the U.S. military, last year, a number that continues to climb and seems aggravated by a culture that fails to support victims when they come forward.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

How can we tell our young girls that all under the law are equal when it’s clear that women don’t enjoy equal rights in this country?

If you feel as strongly as I do about this, here are some organizations working to ensure that women have just as great a shot at success as men do in the United States:

National Organization for Women – Since 1966, NOW’s mission has been “to take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men.” The organization currently has over 500,000 members and 550 chapters across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Service Women’s Action Network – SWAN supports, defends, and empowers today’s servicewomen and women veterans of all eras, through groundbreaking advocacy initiatives and innovative, healing community programs.

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