In the post, “Dirty Sluts in America,” Chellebell writes that while boys are allowed to sleep around, girls are supposed to be innocent and pure. Once a girl is found to be sleeping around she is labeled a “slut” or “whore,” which can be very harmful to her self-esteem. I agree with Chellebell 100% that this double standard is neither fair nor right. However, I think Chellebell fails to acknowledge that it is not only men who judge women. Women also engage in slut-shaming against other women in order to move ahead or secure their social status.
As a woman, I have witnessed women being very caddy with each other on occasion. If Sue does something to upset Mary by going out on a date with a boy that Mary likes, or if Sue embarrasses Mary in front of her friends, the invective Mary typically chooses to call Sue is “whore” or “slut, and she will likely use one of these terms, perhaps because she intuitively knows how easy and damaging it is to affix such a label to a woman.
In “Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation,” Leora Tanenbaum proposes that since men devalue women and their bodies, women in consequence also devalue their own bodies, leading them to hate themselves. Tanenbaum states that the only way some women can feel empowered is by having the power to make or break someone else’s reputation. Popular movies such as “Cruel Intentions” or “Mean Girls” depict women being ruthless to other women and getting pleasure out of it.
In a post, “Sluts!” on the blog Rage Against the Man-chine, Nine-Deuce argues that “Slut-shaming is one of the chief ways women attempt to compete with each other for male approval in a patriarchy that defines women’s worth by their physical attractiveness and limits their ability to distinguish themselves by other means.” At least among heterosexual couples, a lot of men love women who are innocent and pure, and saying that a woman is easy implies that she is dirty and not someone you bring home to meet the parents. An easy girl is not someone a boy wants to take out on a date, but someone who he sleeps with on a whim and later laughs about amongst friends. Therefore, no one wants to be called a slut. Women know the damage these words cause, perhaps even better than men, and some are willing to use it against other women, as a means snagging Mr. Right.
I do think that men are often directly responsible for degrading women and that misogyny is a serious problem that America must address; however, I think we as women need to realize that it is not only men who degrade us. Slut-shaming is a strategy of power, which is also deployed by women within a hegemonic system in order to attain and secure a position at the top of a social hierarchy. Women—not just men—threaten to characterize other women’s behaviors as slutty, some women are able to gain favor for themselves, thereby giving strength to the degrading ideas widely propagated about women’s sexual lives.
If we really want to stop slut-shaming, then, as women we need to look at ourselves first and truly understand why we are so hateful toward one another. Once women can do this, we will be freed to act in concert to stop the slut-shaming from men as well. It makes sense that women should be able to treat each other with love and respect before we can expect the same from men.
~ Freedom Fighter
The Class Blog Project, or CBP, is a blog featuring undergraduate students forming a critical dialogue with each other around ideas related to the sociology of gender.