Why Is It Still Okay to Call a Woman a Slut?

Call a gay person a faggot and it’s hateful. Sling the n-word at a black person and you are a racist. But call a woman a slut? Follow it up with slander about her sexual appetites and put in a request for YouTube videos of her “banging it five times a day”. That’s just …? What exactly is that in America? Business as usual? Lately it seems so. But whatever you call it, no one is likely to call if sexism – though clearly it is. Few will see it as hate speech though if you ask a woman how it feels to be called a slut for using birth control, she is likely to feel degraded and vilified for the “crime” of exercising her right to self-determination or merely just taking legally prescribed medication for a physical ailment.

Rush Limbaugh‘s recent slut problem is hardly the first time the shock jock has taken gratuitous pot shots at the female gender for the sake of pandering for a living. He’s a misogynist. A lot of men his age are. I would even go so far as to say that it would be difficult for men of a certain age to not take their preferred gender status for granted and have incorporated the tenets of sexism to such an extent that they truly don’t really most of the time that they really have no respect for women. That’s not to excuse them. Racists of the pre-Civil Rights era were blind to their racism to some extent as well, but it doesn’t make their participation in it innocent.

Thanks to the recent Komen backlash and the even more recent birth control versus the Catholic Church and Rick Santorum uproar, women of social media means near instantly ignited the public’s fury, which has resulted in Limbaugh’s rather predictable non-apology and the less predictable disavowal of him by his advertising sponsors, who are dumping him in droves. It’s heartening to see women uniting and demanding that sexist rhetoric have consequences in the same way that anti-gay rhetoric provokes outrage or racist diatribe earns the rebuke it deserves.

But I fear, that gender slurs where females are concerned is still not seen as too big of a deal. It’s 2012 after all. Did women win their freedom back in the 1960’s? They got the pill and burned bras, right? Or maybe it was when the government deigned to allow us the vote barely 80 years ago and only after they bad publicity of beating suffragettes and force feeding women on hunger strikes made Uncle Sam look too evil to do anything else.

No, wait. It was in the 1970’s. There was Title IX, which allowed little girls to play school sports and the Equal Right’s Amendment. Didn’t Helen Reddy sing something about roaring women to celebrate that victory?

Except there was no victory. Female collaborators like Phyllis Schlafly barnstormed the country with stories about housewives turning lesbian and little baby fetuses piling up in the gutters and people like my Dad voted against ERA and the Constitution remained blissfully male oriented.

But man means “woman” too.

Except when it doesn’t and that’s most of the time.

When I graduated from college in 1987, North America was firmly entrenched in paying lip service to the notion that “women could have it all” but only the most foolish of my gender went out into the world and didn’t soon discover that to be completely untrue. And twenty-five years later, it’s just as untrue. Our so-called equality is as shallow as an episode of The Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Sure, we can have it all as long as we stay thin, don’t appear to age past 40, bring home our share of the household income and do more than our share of the housework and childcare. Be sexually attractive but never appear to enjoy sex or discuss it or anything else to do with our “naughty bits”. Don’t ask and don’t tell and if anything “down there” needs looking after, be prepared to cover the expense ourselves. At that includes pregnancy and wellness checks and contraception. Don’t ask and don’t tell. If you ask, we’ll know you are not a “good girl” and if you tell, we’ll know for sure you are a slut.

You can’t call a gay person a faggot or a black person the n-word. But you can call a woman a slut or a whore or cunt or a bitch. You can sing it even while barely clothed young women grind poles (or each other) in the background on a YouTube video. You can expect a woman to make a video of herself for your “entertainment”. You can do this because of men like Rush Limbaught and Rick Santorum. It’s possible because of collaborators like Pamela Gellar and Angela Morabito. You can do this because the Catholic Bishops have a long history of female suppression (almost as long as their support of priests who like little boys). You can do this because everywhere in the world, women are universally seated in the back of the metaphorically bus and we’ve accepted it or been brutally suppressed when we didn’t.

Rush is taking his lumps for being caught with his old school pants down, and it may or may not cost him his job – I’m going to say “not” – but the essence of the problem has not changed. Women stopped fighting for their rights much too soon. We settled for crumbs and we are paying the price of it.

Why is it still okay to call a woman a slut? Because we’ve allowed it to be.

About these ads

10 responses to “Why Is It Still Okay to Call a Woman a Slut?

  1. Well said, Ann. I think you found all the right words.

    Thursday was International Women’s Day, a century-old recognition of working women around the world that is barely mentioned in the US.

    • The US, it seems at times, is less aware of women, their rights and achievements than the most backward of theocratic or 3rd world countries. They would not think that is so and there is the problem.

  2. I have avoided writing about this topic because others – like you – are writing about it and much more eloquently than I can.

    I agree with your response to your ruffled commenter – the problem is systemic. It isn’t partisan. It isn’t a religious issue. And women are almost as likely to malign other women as men are.

    The fight is far from over.

    • You bring up the excellent point about how women are just as much a part of the problem as men are and just as likely to use demeaning language as a weapon in the war.

  3. Hi,
    I actually saw when the ‘s’ word was said, and I am sure my mouth dropped open, it was shown here in OZ on one of the 24 hr news stations, I just couldn’t believe that word was said without a second thought, truly unbelievable.

    • It is and it’s not just the radio guys (Howard Stern is notoriously anti-woman for instances and so was the late, unlamented Don Imus). The pseudo-commentators like Bill Maher and Keith Olberman routinely sexually slur women they disagree with in a way that they wouldn’t dare with men.

      Rush and Rick are just “du jour”, but they are hardly unique.

      Americans in particular like to believe that we are open and fair and equal in regards to the male/female thing, but that’s not true. The hyper-sexuality and crudeness just masks the fact that Americans are still as Victorian or Puritan as their ancestors in regards to women and their place.

  4. I wish that WordPress used ‘love’ buttons. I would even settle for a ‘Really Super Like” button. Unfortunately, I will have to push plain old ‘like’ and tell you myself how awesome I think this post is.

    • I am glad you did. I’ve held back on writing about the sexism thing for a while b/c I didn’t know if I could find the right words. it’s disheartening that my daughters face a world that is only slightly less hostile to women than it was when I was growing up and a young woman.

      You made my day though. Thanks!

  5. Your arguement would have more validity if you had included the MSNBC anchor calling conservative radio female talk show hosts “sluts” or ├╝ber liberal HBO comedians referring to Sarah Palin as “c”*nt and other derogatory terms. When did it become OK to demonize one side and not the other?
    None of this is acceptable.
    Your opinion about how this debate was framed does not encompass that the liberal press and President do not want to talk about the real issues (jobs, the economy, gas prices) so diversions are created. Granted the Republicans are not bright enough to fall into the trap, but this isn’t about a “war on women” or women having the choice for birth control. It’s about deflection of the issues and the operatives behind it are doing a masteful job.

    • I just used the most current and obvious examples. I actually don’t see this as a right or left but a systemic issue. I could care less about taking a side. Men, in general, harbor latent sexist views that few of them can even see to acknowledge. Perhaps it is not really their fault. They wake up every day endowed with genetic entitlement that doesn’t allow them to see much of the rest of the forest. However, I do feel that religion and unrealistic conservatism drives much of the current backlash against female self-determination.

      I am not misled or buying into any deflection. I have felt this way for years. I was harshly critical of Obama’s general wooing of women in 2008 because I was, rightly, skeptical about his commitment to our issues (and I hate the term “women’s issues”. We don’t have “issues” that are any different from men’s. We want a the same right to be judged on merit and the right to autonomy over our persons.)

      Oh, and for the record. I defended Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann when the criticisms of them veered away from politics to focus on them merely as females. And, I am not a fan of misogynist comedy. This is not the issue today and the exclusion of them doesn’t invalidate my points. It just offends you on a personal level b/c you see it as an unfair attack on your beliefs, which isn’t the case. I asked questions. You deflected by bringing oranges into a basket of apples.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s