Monday, May 17, 2010

Why we hate sluts (but also want to be one)


What sensible person of moral righteousness could deny the countless events of havoc and misfortune caused by the slut? The Egyptian Queen Cleopatra employed an irresistible charm to worm her way into the hearts of great men and subsequently, to dynastic rule. Throughout history, mankind (no, literally man-kind) has crumbled miserably at the feet of ruthless and manipulative vixens, causing entire empires to fall with the defiant sway of the hips. Recently also, the Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, attributed the tragic occurrences of natural disasters to the baneful temptresses of contemporary fashion, reasoning that “many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray and spread adultery in society which increases earthquakes.”

It seems that from the dawn of time (when Eve plucked that apple and doomed us all), women have been regarded as the perpetrators of much of the world’s problems. But let’s forget the men for a moment. Women love to hate other women. The catty obsession with naming Angelina Jolie as a ‘whore’ and ‘home wrecker’ demonstrates the social phenomenon of slut-shaming – the cheap and easy way for women to feel powerful. Tanenbaum (2000) explains, “if you feel threatened by the sexuality of a female rival, or even insecure or ashamed about your own sexual desires, all you have to do is call a girl a ‘slut’ and suddenly you’re the one who is ‘good’ and on top of the social pecking order.” The countless fan pages dedicated to promiscuous women on social networking site Facebook, displays this bizarre behaviour, with hundreds of thousands of women publicly subscribing to pages labelled, “I hate sluts,” “Relationships = a guy, a girl, and one slut that gets in the way,” and “You are a slut, get hit by a car.” Ironically, while many women consider sexual promiscuity to betray feminist values, the occupation of attacking one another within an oppressed group is a necessary component in keeping these groups oppressed. Women are encouraged, through internalised sexism, to distrust each other and fight for male approval. In this patriarchal society that defines a woman’s worth by her physical attractiveness and sexual availability, the ability for a woman to distinguish herself by other means is consequently thwarted. We learn from a young age that we must dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of “male approval,” which we feel translates into a form of power.

What, then, explains the popularity of crotchless underwear, hyper sexualised media and casual sex among women today? Although this phenomenon directly conflicts with slut-shaming, the motives appear to be the same: garnering male approval. With a culture that simultaneously glorifies both modesty and promiscuity, it’s no wonder that women begin to struggle with the internalisation of two opposing ideals. Perhaps this explains the popularity of one of my favourite Facebook fan pages, boasting over 790 000 supporters: “When sluts hate other sluts for being sluts.”

23 comments:

  1. haha, oh my goodness what an amazing post. Do you think it's become more acceptable to be a 'slut' since the birth of Samantha in Sex and the City?

    You know what would also be an interesting topic of conversation? What inspires women to 'cocktease'? Is that a result of wanting to feel the power of a 'slut' but ultimately not being able to follow through for fear of shame?

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  2. Perfectly put! I couldn't have said it better! And what a great introduction to your site for me. Glad I found my here...Through Publish or Perish, btw.

    As a woman, I have been faced with this paradox my whole life. And now I have a daughter...What to do...?

    Michele
    SouthernCityMysteries

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  3. What an entertaining and (ahem) true post. Keep them coming!

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  4. GREAT POST!!! follow youu
    xx

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  5. I really loved this post and insight! Great job, val!

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  6. Yes, great insight in this one. You have written so many interesting, insightful pieces. I only wish I was up to the task of leaving constructive, well-thought out comments lately.

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  7. So men are meant to be attracted to "sluts"? Not this one.

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  8. One of my main characters is a "ruthless and manipulative vixen" and it was so much fun ti write her. She brought so much to the story. You're right!

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  9. Very insightful post! As the mother of two daughters, I wholeheartedly agree we need to fight society's influence that teaches our girls they need to dedicate themselves to seeking male approval.

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  10. Fantastic post, something I'm sure has crossed every woman's mind at some point. It's kind of strange, our world today... we're supposed to be equal, yet we seek approval. We are supposed to be powerful in ourselves, yet we put ourselves down, on purpose, setting standards that are almost impossible to achieve. What line do we draw? Do we have casual no-meaning sex, following the example of many a man in the past? Or is that another facet of trying to please?

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  11. excellent thought provoking post. I ask my daughters not to use words like bitch and slut as they are essentially misogynistic language that implies contempt for women and it just panders to male views of what is appropriate behaviour for women.
    thanks for sharing
    martine

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  12. Hey Val! Another great post about an interesting issue. It's funny how society says we need to be sexually attractive beings to please men but on the other hand, we need to be modest and chaste about it at the same time. Just because you've never had sex doesn't mean you're free from the struggle of male approval. All it does it demean you as a woman and as a person because in some Eastern cultures, some men prefer women who are virgins. A non-virgin woman is seen as "used" by another man, like a car or a piece of equipment, and so her worth is determined by what she has between her legs rather than who she is inside, which I find very chauvanistic and male-centric.

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  13. A word on behalf of men. We do not all see females as objects of desire some of us see you as woderful inspiring people who stimulate and it is when people are in harmony neither seeing or caring male and female that wonderful things occur.

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  14. Ooooh, very good post.

    Would I agree with certain bits... oh yes. Wonderfully astute and very witty at the same time.

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  15. "Women are encouraged, through internalised sexism, to distrust each other and fight for male approval."
    gahh so true. love this! you're funny and honest.
    found you on blog catalog,btw. :)

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  16. Hey Valerie, this is soo good and a very honest piece. You write so well and so clearly, i really liked this. My aunt's got this saying, "Women are their own worst enemy" and i think it really does apply to this, we use words to degrade other women, when we should be finding a way to break out of that. After all, these moral codes on how a woman should act have been constructed by men, and women still imbibe them to restrict other women. Thanks for posting this up...hope this problem changes soon = )

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  17. I call myself a slut in the mirror all the time to try and boost my ego.

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  18. another awesome post...but yea..eve didnt pick an apple lol nowhere in the bible does it say bible lol it's jus mentioned as a fruit=)
    my 2 cents
    wonGie

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  19. This is a great counter for the Chasing Lolita post. I thoroughly enjoyed both.

    I thought I was following you; guess not. I've fixed that. Thanks for the entertainment.

    .........dhole

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  20. Very interesting post!The women examples you bring: Eve, Cleopatra, Angelina Jolie are greatly enlightening the matter.
    Well done!

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  21. A challenging post. I think it is worth considering the different construct of promiscuity betwen the sexes and what may be acceptable for a man, clearly isn't for a woman. I suspect this goes back to the construct of woman being nurturer/ gatherer as opposed to hunter/aggressor. Every major belief system follows this premis and as such places man as the powerful dominator - his role to defend and protect. I agree totally with you when you refer to paternalistic societies and I believe the feminist movement of the 60's, whilst challenging and fighting for the rights of women, did ultimately a great dis-service to the women who came after them. The reality is, we 'can't have it all'.
    Just as an observation, some of the great femme fatales were controlled by men and men's expectations. Mata Hari, the infamous spy, seduced her targets following orders from her male superiors. The Hollywood moguls of the 30's. 40's and 50's used their starlets as currency.
    Women have never had an even playing field - and those doing the labelling and stereotyping may do well to explore their own sexual values.

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  22. I don't think it is all about women seeking men's approval, but more a evolutionary and biological reaction to "slutty" women's behavior. For most of our history we haven't had the pill or birth control and if a woman got pregnant there was a high chance of death when delivering the baby and if she didn't have the support of a man to help with raising the baby there was a high chance that they baby wouldn't survive. Thus it is in a woman's interest to be able to prove who the father is. So because of this evolutionary reality that women devolved the instinct to degrade other women who allow themselves to risk pregnancy and death so easily because they will now have to go the "slutty" girls standard and risk possible harm. Basically its the similar to men who go above and beyond on valentines day and raises the expectation for all the other men.

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