We were getting ready for Halloween when one of my friends began to doubt her costume choice. I told her she looked sexy as hell; why change?
“Ugh, I don’t know… I feel like I look like a huge slut.”
As a handsome slice of my work reveals, I’m pro-slut. Not that, as a feminist, I’ve quite settled the issue of the word’s redeemability — I haven’t. But my hunch is that if we are to defuse the pejorative terms used by hateful people, the groups to which those terms refer should consider reappropriating them — recycling hateful words to give them positive vibrations. So, to be clear, I am entirely against the word’s stigmatizing upshot; if you — disregarding your sex — hatefully call a woman a “slut,” anticipate my discontent.
I’d like to open a new discussion about the dicey word in question; a word about which, before college, I wasn’t so opinionated. To make matters a bit simpler, though, I’m only interested, for the moment, in the word “slut” as it refers to a woman wearing revealing clothing. I’d like to open this discussion — welcoming to it both women and men — because I hold it pertinent to the advancement of women’s issues that we finally register how verifiably fucked up it is to condemn a woman’s body and the clothes in which she dresses it with the “slut” tag.
Full disclosure: pre-2013, I’m sure I used “slut” as an insult on more occasions than I’d like to admit. If the girls sitting next to us at Yura were wearing too-short skirts, they were sluts. If I bumped into a woman at Le Bain donning thigh-high boots and a minidress, she was a slut, too. When I got to college and had my first memorable experiences with sexism, I began to re-evaluate how I spoke and thought about women. And it didn’t take me long to recognize that when you mindlessly scan a woman’s outfit and announce that she’s a slut, you endorse every sexually aggressive, vile gesture directed towards her body in that outfit. You imply that because she’s dressed like a slut, because her clothes broadcast her womanhood too loudly, she provoked that unnerving slap on the ass, that deliberately conspicuous up-down followed by that nauseating lick of the lips, and that derisive catcall.
This is not the voice of an uncompromising feminist inflating a non-issue or mincing words. Rather, this is the voice of an unnerved young woman to whom it’s always been suggested that the onus is hers to dress and act for the appropriate reactions — that if she fears being labeled a “slut” and the implications that come with it, she’d better cover up.
I am 20 years old. I am a woman. And as a 20 year old woman, my clothing is not an invitation. I don’t care how far my butt cheeks hang out of my shorts — the amount of skin I choose to reveal does not equate to how welcoming I should be to your sexual advances.
I am not any more sexually available — I am not any sluttier — in my shortest dress than I am in my baggiest sweats.