It’s appropriate that International Women’s Day comes just after a tsunami of misogyny has swept through the more moronic sections of American society. While it’s traditional to focus on those places where being a woman seems almost unbearable – rural Afghanistan among the Taliban, or in the Democratic Republic of Congo where a rape epidemic never seems to end, for example – we’re reminded that the Western World isn’t quite as advanced as we like to think. Indeed, it seems that many women-hating morons in the West are only staying quiet about their true feelings as part of the ongoing crusade to paint Muslims as less civilised than we are.
Slut-hate reached fever pitch in the US last week when right-wing moronjock Rush Limbaugh labelled Sandra Fluke, a contraception advocate, a slut. Even more extreme, he said that she was a prostitute (since she was calling for her contraception to be paid for by taxpayers) and demanded that she post videos of herself having sex in return.
Rush’s moronic minions echoed his slurs online. Bizarrely, many of those screaming at Fluke were the same ones screaming that Muslims disrespect women. The American Taliban is nothing if not hypocritical.
Slut-hate has been around as long as morons have, and words like slut, whore, ho, tart, slag and many other derogatory terms are thrown at women. And yet, the base meaning of Slut is: a woman who is promiscuous. To be a slut therefore, isn’t a matter of shame – the problem isn’t with the meaning of the word, but that it is used as a hate term.
When I was a teenager, a radical school student magazine called Blot existed for a little while. It ran a feature dealing with the British word Wanker (wanking means masturbation). The article made the point (obvious in hindsight, but not to a 1980s teenager) that almost everybody, male and female, wanks; therefore the shame isn’t in the act, but in the use of the word as abuse. It concluded by suggesting a comeback for anyone labelled as a wanker: “I do: don’t you?”
Similarly, the word Nigger has been a derogatory term for centuries; by reclaiming it through hip-hop (and respelling as Nigga), black Americans have, at least partially, defused its potential to sting. While once, white racists could throw the word and cause pain, today, they’re reduced to whining: “Why can black people say it, but if I do, I’m a racist?” (to which the correct answer is: “You’re a moron”).
And finally, Slut Pride has arrived; in 2011, the SlutWalk movement burst into life. Sluts proudly marched in Toronto, and then the movement rapidly spread worldwide. SlutWalk was a small part of a social revolution that ignited globally in 2011; but it was still very important. Reclaiming the S-word from bigots was a vital step towards female equality; for decades, feminists have rightly complained that men can be “sluts” without shame, and yet women can’t. SlutWalk made a statement that echoed around the globe: there is no shame in being a slut.
SlutWalk introduced a new, powerful vocabulary: slut is no longer derogatory. Bigoted attacks on sluts, like Limbaugh’s, are referred to as slut-shaming. Hatred of sluts is slutphobia. In a stroke, the tide had turned: the accusers became the accused. SlutWalk provoked rage – not just among fundamentalist morons but among the anti-sexuality wing of the feminist movement, who found themselves taking a remarkably similar line on SlutWalk to the fundamentalists.
Women cannot be free until they are sexually liberated, and don’t have to deal with slutphobic bigots who take an unhealthy interest in other people’s sex lives. We react in disgust when a raped woman in Saudi Arabia faces corporal punishment; but the slut-shaming antics of Limbaugh and his army of bigoted moron fans are little different. Limbaugh attempted to carry out a public lynching of Sandra Fluke; but here’s the good news: he failed. The American Taliban may still be powerful, but it now embarrasses the American mainstream, and it’s in retreat.
International Women’s Day must highlight the poor position of women in poor countries, but it also should highlight the problems in America. After all, this is a country that partially justifies its ongoing brutality in Afghanistan from a women’s rights perspective, and may again play this card when it attacks Iran. The US was once a global thought leader; it no longer is. It needs to get its own backyard in order rather than try to dictate to the rest of the world.
My next podcast (edition 3, if you’re counting) will be on the subject of sluttishness; you can subscribe via iTunes so you don’t miss it.