Slut Shame

  • SumoMe

slut-shaming

The less popular counterpart of the much popular word slut

Now that the Aam Aadmi Party has braved the confidence vote and come to power and Modi has been exonerated by the Ahmadabad court, the world is mostly at peace and is still reveling in the New Year spirit. Or maybe it’s the calm before the storm, but whatever it is I decided to let it be for a while. So, leaning back in my swivel chair, swinging with the mood, I lazily browsed through the internet, hoping for something striking to pop up which will shake me from my mild slumber.  And in a while it did.

Reading through the articles on women’s issues I chanced upon a different kind of project which started in the United States of America five months ago by Emily Lindin in response to the tragic suicides committed by young girls who were branded as sluts by their peers. Sure, we have heard of Slutwalks and even witnessed a few in India—in protest of the wrongly perceived notion that women incite rapes by dressing as sluts—but this one was different as it was referred as the Unslut Project. The project aims at bringing to fore the issue of slut shaming which is so rampant but is regarded as trivial and doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

Emily Lindin spearheaded the Unslut Project by sharing her own diary entries on her blog at the time when she was in middle school and was bullied by her classmates by being referred to as a slut. The diary is an account of the mental trauma which she underwent. She developed the project by encouraging other girls to share similar experiences of slut shaming and sexual bullying.

Take a look at the teaser video for this project.

Scrolling down the page, browsing through one story after the other, each narrating the same heart wrenching incidents of betrayal, the aftermath of becoming a social pariah, and being ostracized by one’s own peers. I was thrown into a flashback mode and the scene danced in front of my eyes like it was yesterday:

My friend was beaming with pride as he was sporting the latest hickey on his neck; the entire college knew that he had gotten laid. I was standing with him chatting about general stuff when another friend joined us and patted him on the back saying, “So, stud boy how was it getting laid?” I wouldn’t have been offended had he not said, “And who was the dirty slut?”  I was taken aback at the blatant display of the double standards that our society holds for one’s sexual demeanors. A guy who sleeps around is branded as a stud but a sexually active girl is stamped off as a slut. Do we even have a male equivalent for “slut”?

When I thought of it from the perspective of the Indian society, where every day girls tip toe and try to safely meander through the land mines of acceptable social behavior but more often than not are blown to pieces by the impending blast, it is nothing but obvious that the widespread issue of slut shaming isn’t even perceived as a problem despite the grave psychological effects it can have on one’s personality. Calling someone a slut may seem harmless. Slut-shaming may also seem to be useful as a kind of cautionary tale—helping “good” girls from making sexual “mistakes”, or even being sexually assaulted and/or raped, by making an example out of the “bad” girls. But, in fact, the very opposite is true. According to Leora Tanebaum, the author of popular book Slut!- Growing up female with a bad reputation, “A reputation acquired in adolescence can damage a young woman’s self-perception for years. She may become a target for other forms of harassment and even rape, since her peers see her as “easy” and therefore not entitled to say “no”. She may become sexually active with a large number of partners (even if she had not been sexually active before her reputation). Or she may shut down her sexual side completely; wearing baggy clothes and being unable to allow a boyfriend to even kiss her.”

A major topic of discussion in the U.S., slut shaming in India was touched upon by Anurag Kashyap in his critically acclaimed movie Dev D. Through the character of Leni (Kalki Koechlin), he had portrayed how bullying of a teenage girl by her peers and an intimate MMS gone viral played havoc in her life. The incessant nagging by her parents and name calling by society pushed her to the brink and she found solace in a brothel, ironically living up to society’s expectation of her.

To have a better understanding of sexual bullying and to know the grave ramifications of it watch this panel discussion by psychologists, sexologists, educators and activists:

So, next time you are tempted to label a girl as a “slut”, hold back your tongue for a second to think that she might be an innocent victim of an incident gone ugly or is a free spirit who lives her life on her own terms. Whatever it is, it is none of your business to gossip about it.

Ritika Rastogi

What according to you is a solution to slut shaming? Write your opinions in the comment box below.

Image Source [http://renegadechicks.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/slut.jpg]

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