The Slut Shaming Avengers

I’ve been reading with great interest about Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans calling Scarlett Johanssen’s Black Widow character a “slut” and a “whore.” I was not outraged by this, I’m certainly guilty of jokingly using these words. But I’m trying to clean up my act because I know better now. The statements were a genuinely dumb thing to say, especially in an interview, but I certainly don’t hate these men and I will be one of the first in line to see Age of Ultron.

“Slut” and “whore” should be the “s” and “w” words that we never use again. Words can hurt. That’s why it was particularly upsetting to find so many comments telling people (particularly women) to “lighten up” and “get a sense of humor.” No, get some sensitivity and education. The world will not stop being a funny place if you stop using these words and other mean-spirited epithets.

I’m currently reading Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist and when this controversy started I had just read the part where she describes being brutally gang raped (as if there was another way to be gang raped) as a teenager. To make matters worse, the boys told everyone at school that she had sex with them. Guess what the kids called her from then on? Yup, “slut.” Even her teachers looked at her with disdain. No one stopped to think about how out of character this was for her, they just mindlessly joined the shame train. And what if she had voluntarily had sex with all those boys? Should she be ostracized for it? Someone should have reached out to her either way.

I’m not proud of it, but there was a brief period in my life when I loved watching VH1 reality shows such as Charm School, I Love Money, etc. It shocked me how the women would call each other “whore” when they fought. I mean, all of these women were sexually promiscuous, what were they accusing the other one of?

The question of whether a woman called a slut is actually using her sexuality for gain is irrelevant. She gets to do that whether you like it or not. Yup, in the comics Black Widow uses her sexiness over men. James Bond does the same thing with women. Other characters use their physical strength or superpowers and nobody calls them names. What is it about sexuality, specifically a woman’s sexuality, that makes it okay to use insults? Is there something particularly unfair about it?

In any case, I am glad that this subject is being discussed. In some places I see it being discussed maturely and in other places I see it devolve into some ugliness, but it won’t be going away soon.

 

Note: Please excuse the disjointedness of this post. I wanted to get it up while the topic was being discussed and it usually takes me days or weeks to properly edit my writing.

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