Three Paragraphs Every Woman Needs to Know by Heart

Mar 15, 2012 • Causes, Culture

the slut manifesto

The following words were written by Soraya L. Chemaly, a feminist, writer and media critic. While we’d find it difficult to select only one of her columns as a must-read, this is a passage that needs to be read by women the world over:

Every woman knows the word slut has power. Whether you love it or hate it, the word “slut” is an evocation of a gender double standard used to control women and no woman alive hasn’t thought about what it means to be labeled in this way. In some cultures, where honor killings take place, it is a matter of life or death.

If you’re a “good” woman, don’t kid yourself. It means you’ve spent your life and will continue to spend your life calibrating your appearance, speech and behavior so that you are not a slut. By not acknowledging how the word is used you are embracing its power over you and other girls and women. And you will pass that corrupt and misguided abuse of power on to your daughters and mine. That’s because you know, deep down, that at any point that word can be used against you. Every woman is a slut waiting to happen. Women who abhor the word, find it vulgar, and fear it, the ones who slut-shame others, gain a little bit of power by participating in a system that denigrates them.

Other women, and their male allies, reject the power of the word and the social structures that perpetuate its harm. These women and men know it for what it is — a word used to control women and their bodies, and it is useless as a weapon against them.

Read it once. Read it twice. Read it as many times as it takes you to internalize this crucial message.

Header image by Joel Gillman.

  • Guest

    While those three paragraphs are 100% correct, I think it ignores the potential side effects social shaming can have.   Sure you can ignore other people calling you a slut and it can have no impact on you at all. It has no power over you.  But what about the ways co-workers suddenly treat you differently?   What if the guys at work suddenly think it’s ok to be really forward towards you because you are now labeled a slut?  What if your complaints of sexual harassment fall on deaf ears because you’ve been labeled a slut? What if your day care provider refuses to take your kids because you’re a slut and it goes against her belief system? What about the guy two doors down that is now pissed off and obsessed with you because he found out you’re a slut but you rejected his advances?  It sucks and it’s wildly unfair but it’s also the way things are.  Other people are going to treat you differently and you can’t always control what other people you have to interact with on a day to day basis.  
    It can potentially impact your life in many negative ways to be labeled a slut.  So I can understand why many women would try to avoid that public tag. No matter how they may behave in private, they don’t want that information public.   Reject the social structures that perpetuate this all you like, but you can’t change other peoples behavior and other peoples behavior can impact your life.