Sensitizing Swat to the word Slut

What do you feel when you hear the word “slut”?

I get angry. I sat down writing an essay at Tarble, Swarthmore’s snack bar, just minding my own business, but kind of becoming intrigued when a couple was talking to a friend of theirs about what would happen if they broke up. The discussion was along the lines of: she would be able to hook up with more guys than he would be able to hook up with girls. Why? Because she would be able to be a “slut,” and guys like that. I had to leave. I could not listen to such an extensive conversation about this subject. What was horrible was that he was in a frat and fulfilling a stereotype, and she was not upset that he used such insulting terminology to describe his girlfriend!

On the other hand, I have told my partner (who is also in a frat) various times that if he ever uses that word in front of me, he would suffer the consequences. Ever since my mother caught me using that horrible word in 10th grade, I have stopped using it. Part of the reason is because I respect my mother, part of it is because I respect women, and the last part is because I respect myself. On a personal note, it feels horrible to be called a “slut,” especially in 8th grade when you barely know what it means to have sex. Thinking about it, how come I knew what being a “slut” was before I had sexual relations?? The s-word is so easily thrown around.

How can a woman accept that term? Along with “hoe,” “bitch,” “whore,” etc, it is a word to specifically outcast women as lesser beings and downplay women’s sexuality. There is no comparable word to identify a man. And if you say “manwhore,” it’s just adding the word “man” to a word that describes women. There’s no such thing as “womanwhore” because it’s inherently a female term. And how come it is not an issue that is highly addressed? It’s wonderful that events like slutwalks exist, but I think that schools and workplaces need to have serious discussions about the implications of using the s-word. And that will help people understand why using the word “slut” in “slutwalk” is empowering towards women.

It’s not okay to call anyone a “slut.” And it’s frightening how powerful this word is, even leading some young girls to depression or suicide, such as in the case of Megan Meier when it was used so frequently by an adult neighbor pretending to be a young boy. And it’s poignant that young girls who don’t understand the meaning of slut or the connotations of what a slut is are being called or using the word. Or both. As in my case.

I really think that people need to be educated and understand why it cannot be used, whether for personal or rational reasons. Come on, Swarthmore. You can do better.


How I Learned to Love My Body

This post is for the National NOW blog carnival for Love Your Body Day 2011

As a young girl, I used to hate my body. I still dread looking at old pictures of me from the 9th or 10th grade (even middle school years) when my face was oily and pimply, and I was about 15 pounds heavier than I am now. I often wonder why I hated my body so much – I wasn’t really made fun of in school and people still *liked* me, especially as those bosoms started popping up and I started utilizing them to my advantage. Maybe it was because I wasn’t blonde. Maybe it was because I was a bit on the chubby side because I didn’t play sports and wasn’t a perfect quadruple 0. Maybe it was because I have a bump on my nose from my Jewish side and my Mexican grandmother told me I needed a nose job when I was 10.

I hated looking at myself in the mirror, and I know that there are many girls (and women) out there who still feel that way. Not because they are necessarily comparing themselves to their classmates, but because of what they see in the media. You see people like Kim Kardashian modelling girls’ sneakers. You see Britney Spears clad in…nudity?…on stage with a nice body (and the plus of being blonde!). And who can forget the likes of Angelina Jolie, Rihanna and Scarlett Johannsen?? I could actually probably go on forever listing names of celebrities who are “perfect” and make girls, like the young version of me, hate their bodies.

So how did I come to love my body? Well, let me first start off by saying that sometimes I have doubts about loving my body. Seeing images of what is societally beautiful and then seeing pictures of me in comparison brings me down again, but I just try to avoid those pictures. Or I approach them and think about how real I am in comparison. And how I’ve come to understand each body is different. I’ve come to love my not-DDD breasts, my non-JLo booty (I can’t say I’m a bootylicious Mexi-Jew), and my non-0 waist.

The worst part is hearing people tell me when my body is not what they think of as perfection. Like, when I was in 11th grade and I couldn’t finish a mile in 8 minutes, so they made me run another lap because I failed. My body wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t in shape. Who are they to decide that my body isn’t good enough? Who is the state to determine that I am overweight? I took care of myself, but I cried as I finished that last lap and was late to my chemistry class.

This “loving my body” process really began, and is still continuing, in college. The body can do so many amazing things, and each body is different. And this is when I started to realize that my confidence in myself will lead to confidence in my body and love of and for my body. And I realized that not fulfilling a national expectation did not make me healthy or unhealthy and did not mean that I was flawed. I knew I took care of myself, living with a health-freak mother (who is 52 and still runs a faster mile than I do). I realized my potential as a woman and therefore the potential my body had. I began to realize that because each body is different, I should not make my body into something that it’s not and hate it because other people want to change themselves. Their body is not my body. And the state does not control my body, either.

This body has gone through countless things. It has been loathed and abused, but it survived and has come out stronger than ever. It has been apologized to. It has been loved…by me and by others who love me. It has its’ imperfections, but I’ve come to love (many) of them (not including stretch marks and cellulite which MANY if not ALL women have. And ladies, those stupid creams won’t work. Just embrace yourselves). It has gone skinny dipping, gone climbing a mountain to a waterfall, and carried me through every moment of my life. I LOVE my body.

As a closing note, I am the President of Swarthmore Feminists, and for our main event, we had a parlor party (a mini-party where we have free food and an artsy event). We bought cranberry juice, tea, strawberries, pretzels, and made chocolate fondue (yum!). We also made a poster where we had 3 sections: what I love about my body, what needs more love, and a pledge to take care of my body. And the results were amazing. It opened a discussion about why people dislike certain parts of their body and why, and evidence that the more we love a certain part, the less we’ll feel conscious about it and even start to emphasize it. Right now, I LOVE my nose. It has character. It is me. I love that mini-roll on my belly – it’s going to help me give birth to healthy baby feminists someday. I love my vagina, my feet, my big toe that cracks every once in a while, my eyes, my hair, my smile, my lips…and all of those little things come together to make, well, this beautiful body.

Not Your Grandma’s Feminism: Why Feminists are NOT Anti-Choice

On my way home from working at the National Organization for Women (where I was a summer intern) one day, I saw a bumper sticker on a car that said “PEACE begins in the WOMB”. I had been questioning for a long time if someone can be a feminist and anti-reproductive justice. To make a side note, I will start off by saying that I have anti-choice friends and we have all mutually agreed that having a baby means being able to provide a good life for the child because everyone has a right to a good life. However, not all of those friends have called themselves feminists. For those who say they are, I have long-accepted their decision because it was either that they were opposed to abortions for themselves but not others, or they at least accepted birth control and preventative methods. Our difference was always that they said the woman shouldn’t keep the baby and I say the woman shouldn’t have the baby.

However, after seeing the work that our NOW leaders have done first-hand and really learning what “pro-choice” means, I am coming out to say that no, you cannot be a feminist and anti-choice. And the reason that I put “pro-choice” in quotes is because it’s not just one choice you’re making; as a feminist, you have to make many choices and you don’t have to be pro-choice on one issue. This particular issue is pro-reproductive justice.

Let’s first define what a feminist is: A feminist is someone who advocates or supports the autonomy and equal rights of women. Someone who is pro-life values the life of a fetus over the life of the person who is carrying the fetus. People who are pro-life deny women the right to their bodies and to decide what happens to their body. Not only that, but organizations that cater to these values do not accept the real reasons why women get abortions and spread lies about all things abortion and preventive care and family planning. YOU CANNOT BE A FEMINIST AND OPPOSE THE BASIC RIGHT TO BODILY DECISIONS.

(And by the way, men do not have restrictions on their bodies and have to make these decisions or are not stopped by the government, so why are men for the most part deciding what women get to do with their bodies? Why is there generic Viagra which has more health concerns than an abortion??)

Feminists are pro-reproductive justice because feminists believe that women not only have the right to choose and the right to a good life, but also the right to be trusted with their decisions and their autonomy. And this does not mean that feminists have to choose abortion for themselves; it just means that they shouldn’t remove that choice from other women. Groups that don’t support women in making their own decisions are completely demoralizing them, making it seem like it is so easy for the woman to choose an abortion. It’s not easy. It is a moral decision, choosing what is important and how to create a good life for the parties involved. It’s about choosing a path for yourself, whether or not it is a mistake. But women who are supported don’t regret their abortions because they get the necessary help afterwards and people do not attach stigmas to their names. They know it is a moral issue, choosing when life becomes significant and whose life is more significant. Women should not be prohibited. Moral judgments should not be made for them.

Children have a right to a healthy life: as one woman I met in Germantown, Maryland expressed while we were peacefully demonstrating, “Every Child Wanted, Every Mother Willing”. The stigma of abortion needs to be removed: it is basic health care and not a form of contraception. It is a hard decision, and women must be supported when they make it.  If you do not support the woman, if you do not advocate for bodily autonomy, if you do not give a woman power to make choices and trust her to make the right decision, then you are not a feminist.