Thursday, May 13, 2010

The S-Word

Not too long ago, I was having dinner at Harvest with a couple of women whom I had known since grade school.  We were discussing wedding planning (yawn) and my acquaintance (I hesitate to even call her my friend), Julie, casually said something to the effect of, "well, she decided against the little black dress because it was too slutty."  I just about dropped my wine glass when my friend, Angie, agreed with Julie.  I hadn't heard Angie use the word "slut" in years, much less utilize it as a descriptive term.  Since that time, I've noticed with dawning horror that this word is used fairly regularly (I even had someone write it in my comment section recently).

You could easily describe me as insulated in this respect.  I've challenged my friends and family so often on their use of gender-specific (read: feminized) derogatory language that they rarely, if ever, use words like slut, whore, or cunt in my presence.  I have a real problem with the fact that there are twenty words synonymous with slut and no real counterpart to describe men (short of male-modified terms like man-whore, and such).  It has been shown in countless studies that slut and words like it structurally maintain sexism in the English language; hence, I do not use them.  Similarly, I do not watch TV that glorifies that sort of language (it won't surprise you to learn that I do not own a television), and I've been known to walk out of movies that are thick with that vernacular.  It disturbs me.  Just as the use of the n-word disturbs me.  I feel there is no place for that type of language in a progressive culture.

Outside of my linguistic objections to these sorts of words, I largely object to what they symbolize.  The idea that a sex-positive woman must be put down, must be marginalized, must be controlled and thus labeled a slut or a whore.  I understand that some people have a less generalized use of the term (ie:  a slut is not simply a woman who has frequent sex, but a woman who has sex in a scandalous manner - ie:  with men in committed relationships), but I nevertheless believe that its use is inappropriate.  It is a far too emotionally-charged word to use lackadaisically.  Words of this ilk have historically been utilized to teach hate and oppression.  I'd rather not propagate that mentality.

To get back to the "slutty" dress, I don't even know what that characterization is supposed to mean.  What exactly is slutty attire, anyway?  Is it low-cut?  Is it tight-fitting?  Is it mid-riff baring?  Is it something that highlights the female form?  I honestly don't comprehend why we need to be protected from our bodies.  I don't understand why feminity must be hidden.  I have a friend who routinely gives me disapproving looks for my cleavage shirts.  She thinks I am dressing too immodestly.  Granted, this is the same woman who had to fight tooth-and-nail in the Middle East to be allowed to appear in public with her head uncovered.  These are all social constructs.  What does it matter what form they take?  At one point in time, a woman who revealed her ankles was being risque.  Personally, I believe that a woman (and a man, for that matter) should be allowed to wear whatever she wants, as long as she is covering up her naughty-bits.*  If you don't like it, don't look at her.  There are bigger things in this world to concern ourselves with than how much skin a woman is revealing.  

Om shanti.

*Actually, I think people should be allowed to walk around butt-ass naked, if they so choose, but I know that isn't entirely realistic at this time.