Correction: This article was changed at 4:00 p.m on Wednesday, October 10 to correct Chelsea Reynold’s quote, which said “activism” when it should have said “slacktivism.”
The term slut is defined as a woman who has had many sexual partners, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The word has been used to shame and put down women, but recently, women have been organizing events like the Amber Rose SlutWalk to reclaim such derogatory words.
While marching together may give women a sense of power and confidence, the idea that the word slut can be reclaimed is overly optimistic and misguided. Empowering women requires much more work to be done and if real change is to be made, derogatory words such as slut, need to be removed from common vocabulary all together.
The Amber Rose SlutWalk became a movement after Toronto police officer, Michael Sanguinetti, spoke to students at Osgoode Hall Law School on personal safety and said, “I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”
Statements like this, needlessly blame the victims of sexual assault. The Amber Rose SlutWalk was an event held last week that is meant to empower women and aims to remove power from offensive terms and put a stop to issues such as victim blaming, gender inequality and derogatory labels.
Victim blaming is never right. If a woman reports a sexual assault, they need to feel like they’re not going to be blamed for that assault. It is important to bring awareness to these issues so that it hopefully sparks some kind of change within modern society.
Chelsea Reynolds, assistant professor of communications at Cal State Fullerton, said that while bringing attention to social movements like SlutWalk is important, having women parade down a street isn’t going to make any critical changes for women’s issues.
“I think SlutWalk does create media discourse and public discourse around women’s issues, including rape culture, abortion [and] feminism. But in the same way that social media activism is a kind of slacktivism, I think that these SlutWalks and parades are also, kind of a cheap and ineffective way of achieving representation,” Reynolds said.
It’s understandable why women would want to take the power and negativity away from a word such as slut. Nobody, male or female, needs to be shamed or judged for how many people they’ve had sex with, but it seems that men don’t worry about receiving this type of criticism.
Unfortunately, slut has been used too often throughout history to create a stigma around women having multiple sexual partners for it to be successfully reclaimed.
In a letter published by Black Women’s Blueprint in 2015, a human and civil rights organization, it stated, “As Black women, we do not have the privilege or the space to call ourselves ‘slut’ without validating the already historically entrenched ideology and recurring messages about what and who the Black woman is.”
Reynolds said that a parade won’t change votes but actual voting is the only sure way to accomplish a real change. Women need to vote for representatives that will be able to make choices that will benefit all females.
Despite its problems, the SlutWalk is a good start because it brings awareness to these issues, but the only way to ensure that things will change to support women’s rights is to know and vote for people who will advocate for women within politics.
Women should be able to have as many sexual partners as they want with no stigma or terms attached. Reclaiming a word doesn’t modify the meaning. True empowerment and equality starts with acknowledging the word slut as derogatory and not using it to shame women.