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Posts Tagged ‘terms’

Slut. The word is like one of those neon billboards, blinking tastelessly back you. It’s hard not to just gape at it as it burns the letters into your mind so that even after you’ve left it behind, it’s still there when you close your eyes, blaring on the backs of your eyelids. It sticks with you.

My mind started buzzing about the term after I came across this article from Sociological Images titled “Resistance, Language, and the Toronto SlutWalk” (click here). According to Lisa Wade, the women and men of Toronto formed the “SlutWalk” event “in an effort to bring attention to word and  its use as a mechanism of control[ing] girls” a couple of weeks ago. The “SlutWalk” was apparently trigger by an unfounded comment made by a local police officer essentially blaming women for the way they dress–“dressing like sluts”–for being victimized.

Of course, there is the whole issue of the fact that the way one dresses is no excuse for inexcusable treatment of them. When people see business suits, suitcases, and well put-together men, should they link these business men with Madoff and take their angry out on them? No, that would be stupid and uncalled for. Yet obviously some think that is completely and uneqivically acceptable, at least in certain situations (such as a woman dressing in a way they consider “slutty”). But today I’m more curious about the term than the stupidity.

What does “slut” mean in today’s society?

It’s become too common in today’s society, much like fast-food chains and advertisements. It echoes through the halls at schools and has been smeared all over the internet like some kind of black plague on sites. Just check out these statistics on the usage frequency of slurs against women on some notorious game sites brought to our attention by Go Make Me a Sandwich (Google Results-misogynist language used on major game sites).

When was the last time you saw a male politician photoshopped into a sex object?

Whether or not everyone knows the precise definition of the word, I think we all understand the meaning and how it is commonly used. Most of us probably know it as a put down, a nasty label that degrades a girl or woman to something less than others, something dirty, cheap, and easy that deserves no respect. I use the word “something” on purpose; the term “slut” is just another way to dehumanize someone and take their power away. Take female politicians for example. If someone doesn’t like a female politician, what better way to take away her dignity and power than to label her a “slut.” Some buried deep in the depths of their man caves even add the extra touch of taking the time to photoshop pictures to add to the point.

Although fictional, "Mean Girls" did portray the behavior of some young women, including calling each other sluts.

But aside from the ugly usage of it, did you know there is a movement by some women to try to “reclaim” the term “slut?” This does not mean it would be ok for a woman to use it against another woman, but instead reinvent the meaning of the term. Some have cast away the meaning of “a dirty woman” or “immoral woman” for a modern revamp of, basically, a person who is at ease with sex and feels it is nothing to be ashamed of. Here are some I came across:

“in the pursuit of their own pleasure”–The Sluts & Goddesses Video Workshop (sex info video)

“a person of any gender who has the courage to lead life according to the radical proposition that sex is nice and pleasure is good for you” —The Ethical Slut (sex and lifestyle book)

(On the other hand, there are other women and girls that are trying to adopt “slut” on as a joke term that would be ok to use on each other, much like the word “bitch” is used by some nowadays. Honestly though, does it make a person feel good to hear that from her friends, even as a joke?)

While it is an interesting and worthy endeavor to change the usage, I struggle with the concept of wiping clean the repulsive term “slut” into something good. It is certainly not out of humankind’s reach to completely reinvent the idea of a commonly used word, just look at what we’ve done to the term “gay.” But can we flip a word from a stinging slap into a pat on the back instead of the other way around for once? I have to wonder if the reinvented term of “slut” will be wholly embraced or if it will simply become a poor cover up on the black stain that is the history of the term.

What do you think?

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Wedged between the phrases “feminazi” (see my “About” page for a definition), “man hater,” and the thought process “feminist=ugly,” is the capital phrase “special treatment” on the shelf of words used by those who are befuddled by the thought of why women should be treated equally. It is flung into arguments against feminism with such vigor, like some harpoon of justice that completely undermines the crazy plots of scheming feminazis (though it is more like an annoying stick used to poke people while they try to get some real work done). For those of you fortunate enough not to have this idiom thrown at you, here is it used in a sentence:

“Men will start respecting women once they stop accepting special treatment.”

This quote was taken off a forum in response to the article on a gaming website called Kotaku under the title, I’m an Anonymous Woman Gamer (http://kotaku.com/#!5782957/im-an-anonymous-woman-gamer). A firestorm of sexism, feminism, and everything in between was unleashed after the article discussed the insulting and demeaning treatment female gamers receive by some male players on video games that allow players to interact with each other such as World of Warcraft.  Contrary to what some responders seemed to think from their sputtering reactions, the woman gamer interviewed in the article was not demanding all the world’s gold, but only that she thought female gamers “should not have to hide [their] gender to play games.”

But what a crazy idea! Like little elementary boys on the playground fearing the dreaded cooties said to rub off in near proximity to girls, some grown men, too, reel in disgust at the idea of women involving themselves in what has been considered male dominated areas. Thus, these boyish warriors are forced into bring out the “special treatment” defense!

Although the exact origin and definition are unknown today, evident by the fact that many seem unable to embellish on what “special treatment” includes, many seem to equate it with the word “chivalry.” The definition most commonly used of “chivalry” that I snagged from dictionary.com would be “courteous behavior, esp. towards women” and this is what the dictionary I own has under “chivalrous.” Note that it is the act of being courteous more notably towards women, but not excluding men. So, this “special treatment” women shamefully partake in would be simple things like having someone hold a door open for them. However, this feat is something I see practiced every day by both men and women alike and it has become a common, but polite gesture for people in general, not something partial to a certain gender.

Ye Old Chivalry (This comic is not my own.)

Strange. The thought to be courteous to each other seems to be such a lost and foreign art that many think it so extraordinary that it could be considered “special treatment” (that, or they do not understand the meaning of chivalry). Doubly strange since chivalry is indeed a rare art that appears all but discarded in today’s society yet still a usable thing to hold over the heads of women who ask for equality. What is chivalry, but being polite to another person, something we don’t see enough of anymore?

But the issue is that women accept these generous acts of godly benevolence. So, from now on, women should freeze upon someone opening a door for them and gape at the hapless door-opener in disgust and demand, “What do you think I am, some kind of feminazi?”

Yes, some women may want some sort of “special treatment” from men, but I have this radical thought that if many women were given the choice between equality and a man holding the door open for them, those women would take hold of the door themselves and say with a satisfied smile, “Go right ahead.”

Yet there exist other curious theories on the translation of this mysterious phrase. Some see it not as chivalry, but define “special treatment” as how society treats women like that porcelin doll on the shelf at grandma’s house (“Don’t touch!”) and men more like the old rag doll that can take two or more generations of wild children throwing it off the balcony (“Don’t worry; it can handle it.”).

“If a guy insults another guy by attacking his manhood (verbally, not physically), it’s just another insult. But if a guy attacks a woman’s womanhood, it’s automatically a much worse insult and immeasurably more personal and hurtful. That is special treatment.” Argued another user on the same Kotaku forum. “Insults should be unacceptable equally!”

Aka man-hating is just as bad as woman-hating. True. Sexism is sexism no matter what gender it’s directed at. Just watch commercials; women are sex kittens stuck in a tree to be saved by a guy who looks and acts like he hasn’t left his man cave in years (Thank you, Keystone Light!) and men are worse than monkeys in the smarts department and can’t even open a bag of Cheerios (And thank you, Hardee’s!).

But why is it considered “special treatment” if women ask not to be called vulgar names or sexually harassed every time they step into a male dominated area or to be paid the same rate as fellow male employees? Should women lay down like useless sacks of potatoes and take it? No one should, not men nor women of any race.

Explaining “special treatment” and its precise definition may prove impossible. It remains such a general term, explaining it perfectly would be like knowing every inch of this planet like the back of your own hand. Watch out though! It’s wielded like guns in this country and like guns, not every user knows what he’s doing with it.

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