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The Ugly Truth About Slut Shaming: How We Can Redefine The Bond Between Women

“Slut.”

It sounds blunt and unforgiving for a reason. It is possibly one of the vaguest insults and its definition is inconsistent. It is different for you, different for the person next to you, and it is different for me.

But why should we even concern ourselves with the sexuality of other people? Why are women made to feel dirty because they own their sexuality? Why do people feel the need to promote someone else’s transgressions on social media?

Women are proactive in their quest for equal power in the world. We enjoy all of the hair flicking and foot stomping in Beyoncé power anthems, we follow Hillary Clinton's political career, and we desperately want to see more female CEOs in the spotlight.

We are trying to promote equality, not popularize hypocrisy. We cannot say one thing, only to find ourselves the culprit of female hate crime later. We are quick to point the finger at men for derogatory comments, but when a woman does the same, we don't exactly know how to react. It very much becomes a case of one step forward, two steps back.

We see this all the time, especially with our daily emotional punching bag known as social media. We see, as Tina Fey would put it, “girl on girl crime,” and there are plenty of rage-induced statuses floating around on our timelines.

There is this mystical myth around women. We should be empowered, but not angry; we should be competitive, but not power hungry; and we should be sexual, but not obviously so.

Of course, we don't fit nicely into slots. We can't be tagged with #slut or #whore. We are real people with histories, and we cannot be confined by labels.

Women have been called a number of slurs in jest, sarcasm and in catty remarks by both men and women. If you're okay with it, you don't find it an insult and you own your sexuality, then more power to you.

For most of us, though, it is not okay to use a socially damaging term in a public forum to undermine another person, no matter what he or she has done. Whether it is against a man or a woman, it just isn't acceptable.

Most of us have been called a derogatory term at some point in our lives, but not everyone has thick skin. We have all let our sharp, silver tongue slip in the heat of the moment, and we have all said things we regret. The point is, we are meant to learn from it, and by the time we hit our mid-20s, we are meant to have grown a little, even if we still haven’t learned how to use a washing machine. The term “grownup” is also slightly vague, you see.

Using damaging information against each other is not a positive execution of female power. It is an easy perpetration of language. When done in public, it can enjoy maximum impact, and it can have sour consequences.

Recently, I found myself outed as a “bitter slut” on social media because I had an opinion on a topic that had nothing to do with mine or anyone else’s sexuality. Instead of a well-informed debate, what I got in return was a hateful and inappropriate response. Most of us have experienced hate in some form. We have felt the absurdity of strangers' ill-informed remarks, and we have felt the hot sting of betrayal by our friends.

Suddenly I felt that skin-crawling anxiety of the information held about me. I saw an immediate threat, and I worried. I cared less about my reputation and more about the immediate consequences of the word and how this would affect my relationship. I cared that my history would never be left buried, but then who would I be without my experiences?

People of course have asked me, “Why do you even care?” I care because of a few very simple reasons. I care because this person was a friend, I care because it was done on social media instead of to my face, and I care because I am human. We have to stop asking ourselves why we care because that only deflects the blame and ultimately will only take the problem out of the offender’s hands and into ours.

Did I out my offender in return? Did I throw her some shade on Twitter? Of course I didn't. Personally, I don't care for slandering another woman simply because she did it to me. I will wake up and know that I was a good friend, even when that person didn't deserve it. Her behavior wasn't tolerated, and it is doubtful we will speak again, unless due to social obligations.

Don't surround yourself with people so willing so drag your name through the sticky sludge of slander, and don't make empty excuses for their words. Women need to protect each other; there is plenty of hate in the world already.

Women are wary of other women, either in a constant state of attack or defense. We want a balance of power, but we won't get it if we don't help each other out. There's always someone waiting for us to stumble; there’s always a disbeliever waiting to prove we are the “fairer” sex.

Remember that if somebody you trust does this to you, then he or she was always a fair-weather friend and guaranteed to shy away as soon as clouds appear. Remember that your sexuality is yours alone, and you owe no explanations. Never forget that you are better than one person's hateful remarks.

The problem is that no matter what you do, someone will always think you are a slut, and will have no problem saying it to you or the world. Negotiation is futile; a person's opinion is a hard thing to change. The person saying it may be a woman and she probably won't apologize for her double standard against her own gender.

She won't be embarrassed, and she will glorify the brutal pedestal that she thinks we belong on. That's the truth, and it's not okay. The ugly truth is that we have all probably done it at some point, and we should stop.

Was I slut? Were you? That's not really anyone's business, and it's definitely no one's place to talk about it.

Do to others as you would have them do to you, and if you slip up, make sure you keep it off Twitter.

Photo via We Heart It

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Shelley-Marie Phillips

Contributor

Shelley is a contributing writer based in Cardiff, United Kingdom. She graduated from Swansea University in 2012 with a degree in Media Studies. She enjoys telling stories on her blog, consuming toffee nut lattes, and playing with chubby puppie ...
Shelley is a contributing writer based in Cardiff, United Kingdom. She graduated from Swansea University in 2012 with a degree in Media Studies. She enjoys telling stories on her blog, consuming toffee nut lattes, and playing with chubby puppie ...

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