Girl Power?

A friend recently posted this article from xojane to my Facebook wall, saying she found it an interesting read. The author, Alecia Lynn Eberhardt, feels that women need to stop using “I have a boyfriend” as a way of getting out of situations with guys who seem interested in more than casual conversation. Eberhardt insists that using the mention of another male, present or not, real or not, perpetuates the idea that only another male matters in the situation, that a woman standing alone saying “I’m not interested” is not reason enough to stop attempting to get to more than just casual conversation. She encourages women, single or not, to stop saying “I have a boyfriend,” and instead stubbornly repeat “I’m not interested,” until it is understood that women can decide by themselves, for themselves, whether they want to pursue anything further with someone.

Seriously, she's not interested.

Seriously, she’s not interested.

In response to this article, I found I’ll Stop Citing a Boyfriend When My Consent Starts Mattering, by Heina Dadabhoy. Dadabhoy lists the number of reasons why repeating “I’m not interested” could be an unsafe option for women talking with men they don’t know. While she agrees that is certainly isn’t right that women can’t just be respected for saying “no,” she doesn’t think it’s safe for women to start expecting it and acting on it. (This makes me think about the Bechdel Test, where the last criteria is, “Do the women talk about something other than men?” Movies have been making it seem like the only important things women have to say are about men for years.)

Where do we go from here? I feel like Eberhardt probably wrote her piece because she feels what I often feel: a need to know what we can do, here on the front lines, in everyday life, to improve the broken image of women. She found evidence of the breakage, and suggested a patch, but therein lies the problem: it’s a patch, and a patch on the evidence, not the problem itself. Men not respecting women who turn them down is simply a symptom of the larger problem – women not being respected in general. Until we fix the larger problem, we’ll have to keep treating the symptoms (refusal to respect what women say, do, think, feel, etc. based simply on their gender), and sometimes the treatment of the symptoms is unsafe, as Dadabhoy pointed out.

How do we get to the real problem? How do we tackle it? I tend to think that media has a huge role in this large issue, but I don’t work in media and, as someone who works on a campground, I don’t even consume much of it. I’m limited to Eberhardt’s option: treating the symptoms I see around me. I work with schoolchildren almost every day who, before hitting puberty, have already decided that in teamwork situations, the boys should go first and then help the girls, whose primary job is moral support. I often bring it up and discuss it, pointing out that all-girl and all-boy groups have accomplished the same tasks they did, and maybe I get through to a couple, but if I only see them that one day, who knows whether the message sticks?

One thing that I find nice about the polyamorous community is that, overall, people recognize that it is a community where women are empowered by their ability to explore their personalities, wants, needs, and sexuality freely, since they are breaking so many relationship norms. Psychology Today even published a study on the topic. Polyamory may be one place where women are finding their voices; if media won’t allow it, what other spaces can we claim?

 

 

Thoughts On Slut Shaming: Respect, Infidelity, Logic, Gender Equality, and So Much More!

thoughtfulNow that my fear of slut shaming has been covered, I’d like to tiptoe a little deeper into the topic and share some thoughts I’ve had about slut shaming since I discovered the term.

My current theory: the slut shaming of women is related to the old “wife as property” idea of marriage. If a man is married and sleeps with someone other than his wife, well, what can she do? She’s his property – she has no real say. He has a mistress; that’s the way it goes sometimes, even if it’s not very admirable. In some cultures, men even take on additional wives.

But, if a married woman (the property) sleeps with another man…well, it’s a bit different. One man’s property is being used by another man, without any kind of compensation. I don’t even know of a word for the male equivalent of “mistress.” There is nothing but shame for the husband who has been “duped;” he’s a cuckold.  In Puerto Rico, it’s a common insult to call a man a “cabron”: a man who’s woman sleeps with other men. Are there equivalent words for women whose husbands cheat on them?

As a woman, if you have extramarital sex, you shame your husband, and you shame yourself, because you are his property. Perhaps this is part of the reason why slut shaming women is so much more popular than slut shaming men.

Or is it?

sad man

Slut shaming today does not only target women. I once began seeing a guy and was “warned” by a concerned friend that he slept around a lot. Because of that, this concerned friend thought that he wouldn’t be “relationship material.”

I was annoyed, not just because this friend assumed I was looking for a relationship, and not just because they assumed they knew what “relationship material” meant to me, but because this person was making a judgment of someone based on irrelevant information. The guy’s promiscuity should be viewed as just that: promiscuity. It should not be viewed as an indication of any other aspect of his character. It should not be assumed that it affects his relationship material-ness, which is vastly different for different people.

The definition and example of slut shaming posted on Urban Dictionary suggests that it is only bad because it means people will have less sex. It’s more than that, though. It’s an attack on character. For some reason, people associate what someone does with their sex life as relevant to the kind of person they are in other aspects of their life. It’s a cheap logical fallacy which is unfortunately used by educated people all the time. Be better than educated, people; be intelligent.

I think that one of the reasons why some may think slut shaming is only ever aimed at women is because it is more widely and vehemently done so. I haven’t conducted any studies or anything, but I feel that while there are probably plenty of well-intentioned people out there slut shaming men, telling them that they’re missing out on experiencing “true love,” informing/warning potential lovers away from them, and encouraging them to “be more respectful of women,” those people are labeled “cock-blocks” by popular culture. On the other hand, it’s much more acceptable for icons like Taylor Swift and even one of my favorite artists, Pink, to insist that self-respecting women certainly know better than to have sex. Apparently, being respectful of women, and women respecting themselves, means leaving their vaginas alone. What…err…cunt-bunters? Twat swatters?

People just need to respect people, regardless of gender identity, and regardless of how frequently they have sex. Part of ethical nonmonogamy and sluttery is that people are supposed to be considerate of one another’s feelings. Manipulating a person’s emotions to get them to have sex with you, or purposefully hurting their feelings afterward, is still unethical and disrespectful. Making it clear that you have no intention of being monogamous, being honest about who you are and what you feel or don’t feel, and finding someone who wants to sleep with you with that knowledge, is not disrespectful or wrong. It’s beautiful. Even if it happens 10 times in one week.

Slut shaming shouldn’t be perpetuated against anyone, but maybe it’s the way we interpret it and the way it is supported/unsupported depending on who it is aimed at that contributes to the sense of inequality we notice when it comes to slut shaming.