Harriet Walker: March yes, but that word you use is helping no one

The word holds nothing for us but humiliation and subordination

Share
Related Topics

Most women know how it feels to be called a slut. Whether it has been spat vituperatively at them or bandied supposedly in jest, the emotion remains the same.

And there is nothing remotely empowering about it. The sentiment behind the "Slutwalk" is admirable. It is also correct, current and crucial. But its marketing has let it down.

Prompted by the advice of a Toronto policeman – that women, in order not to be raped, should avoid "dressing like sluts" – the Slutwalks craze sweeping the globe is designed to be provocative and help send the message that rape is not brought on by clothing choices, but forced upon women by the men who hold them down, drug them or drag them into alleyways.

It is encouraging to see young women massing in this way; to show that the spirit of feminism lives on, even in a generation who, thus far, have had more freedom than any of their antecedents.

But the battle is not yet won and protesting off-piste at the lexicon of sexist terms – that is, attempting to reclaim the term "slut" and give it positive connotations – is like starting an ancillary blaze when a forest fire is raging nearby.

Let's not bother reclaiming that word: it holds nothing for us but humiliation, subordination and the weight of centuries of sexual inequality and oppression. We demean ourselves by applying it to one another.

"Slut" is not a generic noun – it is applied distinctly, according to a value system instigated and perpetuated by men. And likewise, the race riots of the Sixties were not carried out in slave costumes or Black and White Minstrels get-up, whereas basques, corsets and stockings are a common feature of Slutwalks. Why should we appropriate archaic clichés when we can come up with our own feminist code of sexual ethics?

This is increasingly important at a time when women are encouraged not to think of themselves as feminists. But the lesson here has already been proven: despite the relative sexual freedom enjoyed by both young men and young women nowadays, there is a lingering inequality in the way people react to it. No one will high-five you for calling yourself a slut.

For that reason, disown it. March for your safety and your rights but never, ever call yourself a slut.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower