A week ago, I encountered my first internet fight. Not bad for a 22-year-old, a gal whose birth year mirrors the web’s own early-nineties start. Me and the internet, the internet and me. I’ve had screen names and Live Journals and even a Xanga profile, a Facebook and Twitter and one undeleteable Myspace. In years of wasted online time, I’ve managed to keep a low profile and high standard of etiquette, never committing cyberstalk or a subtweet or the false modesty of a humblebrag. I’ve always been good until last week, when I read a blog post to completely change my internet presence. From docile lamb to foul-mouthed lion, I went on a tirade from the confines of a computer screen.
Last week I read the blog of a barely-acquainted Facebook friend I once worked with in high school. The majority of his writing was harmless enough, partial to the sentiment of a twenty-something college student through posts on texting protocol and the newest Drake album (he hated it). I read his blog for the most part with disinterest, not out of laziness, but out of the inability to identify with the majority of his posts. I don’t know a thing about Drake with the exception of a stint on Degrassi.
But then it happened: a post on something completely uninformed and infuriating. A post that I have been arguing for days from this side of a laptop in the moments I punch at a keyboard. A post whose issues I’ve been attempting to boot since I’ve realized the weight of gender, a system of rules clear as the silicon of a boob implant…
I’m talking about slut-shaming.
In his post, the blogger insulted, degraded and shamefully dehumanized half the world’s population. He also engaged readers to disrespect an icon by completely nullifying her despondent biography. Whether this pièce de résistance came to him in a dream or nightmare, the blogger managed to insult women everywhere in just a few disgraceful paragraphs. This paragraph was both the best and worst, the one to kill my spirit and leave me foaming at the mouth:
“Now its easy to see why these hoes idolize Marilyn as her hoe-ness is almost overlooked because of her status in society…she was a hoe just like those we see strolling around college campuses at 7 am holding their heels in hand and trying to quietly creep back to their room. Hoes love Marilyn quotes because they basically all say “Keep fucking all these dudes and don’t let nobody tell you its wrong”. Hoes feel that if they tweet these quotes enough or leave it in their bio long enough that they may somehow achieve what was achieved by Marilyn but they are sadly mistaken.
You’re probably thinking I shouldn’t have bothered. That this kind of talk isn’t worth the time of a microwave dinner or the millisecond flash between the light and darkness of a bedroom lamp. And you’re right, I normally wouldn’t. I usually ignore this sort of talk, the junk splashed across the internet and the bus stop around the corner from my apartment. But in this case, there’s a face to associate, one compelling me to turn my own and yell like a crazy woman.
To those unknowing and hopeful few, slut-shaming is the idea of guilting a person for being sexual, having one or more sexual partners or wearing provocative clothing. Slut-shaming even goes as far as pitying individuals for acknowledging sexual feelings. It is most important to realize that both men AND women can fall victim to slut-shaming, yet it is incredibly more likely to happen to women from the longstanding line of double standard. We all know it, some of us support it and we should all know better than to give it a hand. Don’t you dare give me some analogy about a lock and key.
When it comes to how and to whom sexual slurs are applied, a standard has existed and will continue to with the help of ignorance, like the blog post of a deleted Facebook friend. The kind of mindset believing men are allowed to engage for any reason and women, only if in a relationship. This sort of cluelessness, whether meant jokingly or in seriousness, will only continue to support the ideology of one set of rules for men and another, unequal set for women. It seems the solution to slut-shaming isn’t to tell those guilty to take a second glance at perspective, but to tell women to stop sleeping around, to cover up, to refrain from going out at night alone. These rules teach women that they are responsible for what happens all too often, as their dress, their sexual history, the fact that they didn’t say “No” was basically “asking for it”.
I never said no to winning the lottery but here I am, still broke, eating ramen for dinner most nights of the week.
Women aren’t just targets of slut-shaming but often perpetrators themselves. Women are calling each other “sluts”, “whores” and other names from what seems to be a huge collection of slurs saved for females, words coated in hatred to deem others inferior. Even weirder is when women call their friends sluts. Homegirl, that isn’t the slightest bit endearing. Take heed to the word of the great Ms. Fey.
That can’t be right. Hold on, I’ve got it somewhere. Here!
We all know how the internet works. We find someone to hate and we go off on them. It’s exciting, a thrill to make you feel rebellious at once and comfortably part of a group. Online or off, the consequences of slut-shaming go beyond anything personal. By using words like “whore” or “slut”, you’re helping shape societal discourses on rape, abuse, and harassment. How many times has rape been discounted because a woman was deemed a slut? How many times are women called whores while their partners beat them? How often are women’s sexual histories used against them in harassment cases? The sexual double standard is a lot more dangerous than you’d probably think. And if you hold these words within your vocabulary, you’re helping maintain it.
It’s really not all that difficult. The blogger who rained my otherwise clear parade of conscious-put feminism as “woman on some power type shit”. My father thinks feminists are Nazis. My mother will think this post is slightly extreme. I’m no extremist, just a human wanting everyone, regardless of gender, to be treated with utmost respect. It’s really not all that difficult, you just have to think, and you better. Hit it, Aretha!