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Feminspire | April 19, 2014

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To Slut or Not to Slut: Should We Call Ourselves the S-Word?

To Slut or Not to Slut: Should We Call Ourselves the S-Word?

The word “slut” is heavy and has a thousand meanings.  It is a word weighed down with many connotations. A slut is dirty — yet she can be powerful; she can be promiscuous; she can be anything you want her to be. Ask any woman what her exact definition of a slut would be, and you will get a distinct answer.

Defined for so long as a negative term, some feminists choose to use the term “slut” as a word of strength and defiance in an act of ironic subversion. Instead of dismissing this word as something to fight and be ashamed of, those of this stance have “reclaimed” it for their feministic purposes.

One has to wonder if such an unorthodox strategy is actually effective. What statement do you truly make in brandishing the word slut like a self-aware weapon? Does turning the tables on misogynistic labels create change and progress for women, or is it simply an inert attempt at regaining control over our bodies?

The famous Slut Walks established worldwide are a focal point in the issue of “reclaiming” such a controversial word. “’Slut’ is being re-appropriated,” according to the Toronto SlutWalk website, the city where these growing social movement was born. “The intent behind the word is always to wound, so we’re taking it back … Whether a fellow slut or simply an ally, you don’t have to wear your sexual proclivities on your sleeve, we just ask that you come.”

Sluts Across America, similarly, is an organization advocating women’s rights to use and have access to birth control and dispelling the stigma around birth control use. This self-proclaimed birth control advocacy project fashions itself as a “collective voice of the women and men in this country who use or support birth control, and are sick of being judged … If protecting ourselves makes us sluts, then it’s time to redefine what “slut” actually means.”

Again, this is an attempt to empower a traditionally negative word with new, women-friendly meaning.

What’s more, reclaiming the s-word may mean much more than its sensational appeal first implies. Reclaiming the power of such a derogatory word means not only using it to empower oneself, it also means seizing it from those “in control” of it — in this case, the misogynistic ranks of male-dominated society.

Proud Slut Even if one does not choose to use such a word to identify themselves, it would still be fair to have authority over this word if they so chose. You may not want to be a self-proclaimed slut, but as a woman, you have the right to ensure that elitist men cannot use this word as a weapon. The best way to do this, the reclamation theory seems to assert, it to drain the word of any potency by giving it new, positive meaning.

The energy and tension behind the reclamation of this word is palpable, similar to the movement of women who don’t want to wear bras or shave their body hair. It is an emotion made physical. It is a feeling of resistance and discontent manifested in reality, in something tangible that we can all view and interact with.

And yet, I still do not want to identify as a slut. Is this because of the institutionalized misogyny drilled into my subconscious after years of exposure to our sexualized media, or it just a simple choice? I’ll go with the latter.

Similarly, my strict diet without meat, shellfish, dairy, or eggs will classify me as a vegan, yet this is not a term I choose to wear on my sleeve. The choice to regulate my lifestyle around the food I consume is personal, and one I have decided is secondary to other identifiers. While I do consider myself a vegan as well as a patriarchy-fighting feminist, I do not feel the need to brandish “VEGAN” or “SLUT” as a primary marker of myself, although the requirements to fit into these “categories” would apply to me.

So is reclaiming the s-word effective, necessary, or acceptable? For myself, I just found the answer.

While it may garner you unwanted attention, even criticism, as the movement to reclaim this “dirty” word inches forward, it is still a personal choice that should be respected regardless of whether you identify with it yourself.

Again, “slut” is the word with a myriad of meanings. What it means to me will differ from what it means to you. And if this is a term that brings you a sense of rebellion, empowerment and progress, who am I to knock it?

Are women entitled to the word “slut” as a tool of empowerment? Answer in the comments!

Written by Kevynn Gomez 

  • http://twitter.com/CoreyLeeWrenn Corey Lee Wrenn

    Veganism does not always entail extreme negativity like the term “slut” does, I’m not sure what there is to gain by shying away from self-identifying as a vegan except to erase your much needed voice in support of animal rights.

  • Breana C.

    I don’t know how I feel about the term “reclaiming” in reference to slut, because as far as I know, it’s always been a negative word. I’m all for redefining it, however, and I hope that someday it won’t be so negative. Instead, it can be a word defining a lifestyle choice in much the same way as we use our occupation to define us, instead of an insult.

  • Funky Girl All Growed Up

    I think you miss much of why the word Slut is used in the Slut Walk movement. I do not host a Slut Walk because I am calling myself a Slut. No, I host a Slut Walk because of the deep hurt I felt as a woman that has endured rape and worked with so many that also endured rape when I am faced with our Police using the term Slut in context of Rape. I walk because i am outraged at women hating on women like somehow calling another a Slut makes them safer … Slut the word means a messy housekeeper … Slut as wielded by men and women world wide to demean, control and shame women into compliance and silence must be challenged… in any creative, shocking and in your face way that it takes for people to stop talking STUPID when it comes to humankind’s oldest and deepest shame … the sexual exploitation of women. children and the vulnerable …. You miss the point totally of Slut Walks all over the world… you miss the essence of the strong women and men that are working world wide to bring RApe Culture to the table … yes … No …Slut Walk is not about the simple reclaiming the word …. Slut Walk speaks to systemic apathy and collusion to silence women world wide and hide the deplorable shame of the practice of Rape and the need to deal with Rape Culture in our world! As a 5o year old woman that has been called a Slut since the tender age of 5 to rationalize criminal rape by adults when I carry my sign with the word Slut … I carry as the true representation of a SLUT – A women that has been sexually exploited by my fellow human-beings … this is the meaning of Slut and I earned my crown!

    • Bastet

      What I’ve noticed is slut-shaming has got way worse in the last decade. In the 90′s, I barely heard the word. Now it’s everywhere, especially on the internet. As much as I understand your reasoning, I think it’s seriously back-firing. I think we need to stop using the word altogether and make it extremely unusual to hear it, so it stands out and shames the speaker. Along with ‘bitch’, ‘bitches’, ‘ho’s', ‘whores’, ‘hussies’ and all other sex/gender specific shame words. These words are used so casually now that I’ve even seen signs out on the road, “Metal Bitch Car Wash” for a fund raiser. I personally believe the more these words are used the worse it will get.

  • Katherine Davis

    Reclaiming words and redefining their meanings seems like an ideal way to use negative and normally offensive words. The problem I see with reclaiming the word slut is the same problem I see with black people who try to reclaim the n-word. They try to reclaim it and turn it into a positive word for a friend or just a general term for men. However, as soon as someone who isn’t black uses it, the negative connotations and the basic definition of it are undeniably offensive. The same goes for the word slut. The definition of a slut is a sexually promiscuous WOMAN, the same way the n-word is used for a BLACK person. The words are targeting one group of people and it may temporarily work for them to reclaim it and use it towards each other, but as soon as someone else uses it, the true definition will be seen and it will once again be offensive. Besides, there will always be the people who will use those words in context of the original definitions and although they shouldn’t, they also aren’t misusing the word. The true definitions of these words will always follow them. Instead of reclaiming the word slut, women should choose not to use the word at all in an effort to delete it from everyone’s vocabulary. It’s not a positive word and it doesn’t even have legitimacy behind it. All it does is create a double standard and insinuate that women having sex is a bad thing, which isn’t true at all. If we need a new word for an empowered woman, then how about we create one from scratch?

  • Andrea Sandvig

    Personally, I choose to not use the word slut. I understand the side of using it to turn the tables on those who have said it with a negative connotation, but I feel like the issue is a little bit bigger. I feel like when we use labels like the word “slut” we are calling sexual behavior risque or naughty, when in reality it’s just the norm. I feel like giving power to the word slut is the same as giving power to the words “promiscuous” and “whore”. They all mean nothing. We’re all humans with sexual needs, and picking them apart into appropriate and innappropriate amounts just breeds shame.

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  • Jack is back

    Compliments ought to be re-appropriated and redefined and cast away this myth you have that its socalled harassment. There should be a way to get rid of the negative connotations that surround compliments even those about the body. Compliments could be purified if we got rid of that evil,satanic,unjust,etc. law.