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bad day kitten
edited to add: no flaming of responders, please--reasoned debate only!

Also edited to add: I address only female negative speech, but that doesn't mean I don't care about the negative speech used against people of color, GLBTs, people of various religious and ethnic backgrounds, or the differently abled--far from it! I'm against hate-, scorn-, and ridicule-speech whoever it targets. I simply selected that directed at women because I'm on a feminist roll here.

Original post:
Those of you who read my post of November 7 of 2006 have an idea of what I'm going to say, and those of you who know me from the SheroesCentral.com message boards have a really good idea of what I'm going to say on this subject. And for those of you who have read my book TERRIER, you may be a bit confuzzled, because I managed to use all kinds of words that mean this same kind of thing in that book. I'm not happy about it, but I'm dealing with a rough, low-class part of the world, in a medieval-type setting. There's just no way to get around that kind of language, particularly when your main character is acquainted with a lot of working girls. I do try to maintain some kind of historicity.

That was then; this is now.

I hate the words. I hate also cunt, skank, slag, pussy, girlyman, mama's boy, and any other term that is used to say that any part of being feminine is filthier than filthy, lower than low. I hate seeing these words used to make women and girls feel less than human. When men say them to women, I want to push their teeth in. When women say them to each other, I want to shake them till their teeth fall out and ask them what's the matter with them?

We don't own these words when we use them on each other; we perpetuate them and their shameful usage. We make it okay to use them, and those who hear them think it's okay--only when they do it, often it isn't okay.

How many times have you cringed when one of these words is turned on you in irritation, especially when it comes from someone who's supposedly a friend? How many of you were called a slut by someone, or one of its derivatives? I was, and I bled from it for years, where no one else could see. I got called a slut when what I was really doing was owning my sexuality--but that was my time. In my time, girls who tried to own their sexuality could be called sluts, and could still believe it in some corner of themselves. I imagine quite a few of them still do today. If that's so, how can being called ho, whore, tramp, hussy, even as a "joke" sit well with them?

And when it doesn't sit well with us . . .

Has anyone here read Leora Tanenbaum's SLUT!, about girls who were proclaimed sluts in middle or high school? She found a number of women who, like her, had been named sluts and got their stories, during school and after. Some came out ahead. Some are walking wounded.

Good men don't use these words on women. They believe it's "ungentlemanly." Why do women do it to other women? Out of jealousy, out of envy, out of competition for men? It's destructive. It's self-destructive. It gives men the illusion that we still fight for their favor. It keeps us at odds with one another when we could be supporting each other, and it keeps alive a vocabulary of viciousness.

If we really want to support each other, let's eradicate the vicious vocabulary. I'm not saying it's easy. I slip occasionally (I refer to myself as a "dance slut," for one thing; "bitch" in referring to a woman I really dislike is as hard to give up as cigarettes), but I do it less as years go by. I know there's a movement to own "cunt" as a part of the anatomy. It doesn't have to be a pejorative for a person.

We don't have to judge each other this way. "Stupid" works, and it isn't gendered. And there are plenty of other words just as good, that have nothing to do with the sex of the bearer.

No more sluts. No more whores, even if they're working girls. No more bitches, or girlymen (less because they're feminine). That's not so unreasonable, is it?

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Comments

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inaurolillium
Jun. 16th, 2007 04:12 am (UTC)
I've taken to using "bitch" as a complimentary term for a strong woman (only with those who know what I mean), and taking it as a compliment, because "Black Bitch" is one of the names given to my patron goddess, Hekate (in context, it means simply that one of her forms is a black female dog). (It's amazing how annoying it is to a jerk who's just called me a bitch for me to give him a big smile and a thank you.) I'm also strongly in favor of using the word "cunt" for that part of my anatomy, because as far back as I can trace the etymology (back to its IndoEuropean roots), it continues to mean the same thing, unlike many of the other slang words for it and unlike vagina, which is Latin for a sheath for a sword (not an association I care for).
I'm with you, though. Those words are, generally, awful, and while I do slip and use them myself, I try not to.
iqeret
Jun. 16th, 2007 10:41 am (UTC)
True, 'bitch', at least in my universe, seems to be transforming into a positive term: 'woman with mind and attitude'. At college, one of our sayings was: 'Ain't no bitch like a Bryn Mawr bitch."
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stardance
Jun. 16th, 2007 04:16 am (UTC)
Hear, hear. I try to call my siblings on it when they use them and I try not to use them, even in reference to myself (because I don't believe it's possible to reclaim a word by calling yourself a dyke, a fag, a bitch, a nigger, or any other word people in power use to knock disenfranchised groups down, although cunt and bitch are perfectly acceptable to me as long as they aren't referring to a human being). I don't think most young women realize how much those words hurt until it's too late.
tammy212
Jun. 17th, 2007 05:56 pm (UTC)
What you said.
camlina
Jun. 16th, 2007 04:28 am (UTC)
Out of curiosity, how do you feel about women who use them in jest? I know lots of women who use whore and slut in a joking fashion - one of my friends in high school, for instance, would answer her phone with "hi whore" or "hey slut" etc. OTOH, the same friend got upset if someone (esp a male) used those terms in a negative way to refer to a female who slept around.

Personally, in general I tend to be okay with the words so long as they're not used to imply fault with the sexual habits of a woman - for instance, "dance slut" would be fine in my book. I've never quite understood why the words themselves should be offensive when taken out of offensive context.

Also, I should probably mention that I'm a bit wary of a response, as I've gotten flamed not a few times before for expressing this sort of view on Sheroes. But I'm really interested in what you feel about the words used in non-sexual, and to some extent de-gendered, ways.
anonshadow
Jun. 16th, 2007 04:15 pm (UTC)
I was going to try to write a response that made sense, and then I decided to see whether Rachel had responded instead. And she has, and I basically feel the same way she does.

I'm also not sure how using these words can perpetuate any stereotypes at all if friends are just using them when they're together in a private setting. (I am aware that they are not always, but when they are...)
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fangirlsdaja
Jun. 16th, 2007 04:50 am (UTC)
I read that book. My sister suggested it a while back, when I was being harassed in school for being the 'feminist' and 'gay club kid.' (my school was small and conservative. Feminism was the F word) One of the worst bullies happened to be a girl, a person who did call me all those names, told me to die of AIDS, threw things at me in class to the support of the other students. In the end, though, she came to me in tears, sincerely apologetic, and I forgave her. We never became great friends, but there was no resentment or animosity in our future conversations.

Change is possible. It seems like half my time in high school was spent speaking out against sexist, racist, classist, or homophobic comments. But in the end, people listened. Hateful words hurt too much to not be seen for what they are.
tammy212
Jun. 17th, 2007 03:17 pm (UTC)
>>Change is possible. It seems like half my time in high school was spent speaking out against sexist, racist, classist, or homophobic comments. But in the end, people listened. Hateful words hurt too much to not be seen for what they are.<<

Some of it is just that people don't think about the longterm effects. If we can just get them to think, they will reconsider, and that's the whole point.
draconifers
Jun. 16th, 2007 04:58 am (UTC)
You know what? It's true. More and more people/friends are using these words on each other, even jokingly, sometimes truthfully. It really does suck, and I hate it when it happens to me, so I refrain from saying these words. Since when did it become okay to call ladies these names?
anonshadow
Jun. 16th, 2007 04:22 pm (UTC)
I hesitate at responding--not least because I'm sure that at some point, I'm going to have to take a step back because I'm going to end up frustrated.

Even so--

Since when did it become okay to call ladies these names?

Personally, I am much more uncomfortable with being called a lady than I am with being called a bitch. And, by a similar token, since when did become okay to tell people what they should and should not be called? Since when did it become acceptable to treat women who don't mind friends calling them "bitch" as if they were toddlers unable to understand what was going on around them?

It is obviously usually a bad idea to call someone something they don't want to be called. It is also obviously a bad idea to force someone to call you something that they aren't comfortable with saying. When did it become a bad idea to tolerate consensual name-calling (for lack of a better word)? Is it really anyone's place to protect someone who doesn't need or want protection? To assume that women can't identify being called something bad if they try?
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kadymae
Jun. 16th, 2007 04:58 am (UTC)
When we chose the name Sequential Tart, we were well aware that one of the connotations of Tart was "whore".

And it's always been fun, when somebody calls one of us a whore, to flip it back on them by telling them they're being redundant, or say something like "You knew from the outset you were dealing with a Tart."

Takes the wind right out of sails, it does.
kadymae
Jun. 16th, 2007 10:36 pm (UTC)
As an aside, I heartily encourage everyone here to hit nbc.com and stream episode #10 of Friday Night Lights.

"It's Different For Girls" deals with everything we're talking about here. You won't be hopelessly lost by not seeing the previous 9 episodes.
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ryuutsurugi
Jun. 16th, 2007 06:19 am (UTC)
While reading your entry, I can't hep but make the connection between women who call each other nasty things, but are outraged when a man says those same words. I take this one step further in my mind, by taking issue, although a bit less violently than Don Imus, with the lyrics of most rap music.

In my comparative class this year, we discussed the female awareness of the content of rap music. Most of the kids in my class listened to rap music. The girls acknowledged that the music was against women. When asked why they listened to it, they said they liked the beats. These are smart women, but they buy this music.

I think what I'm trying to say is I see self propelled aspect to the use of this words against women. In order to fix it, girls need to stand up for themselves. Not just "feminists" but the popular girls too. Please note that I am not say that any woman called a slut or a whore deserves it, because they don't. I am just calling for a more activist female mindset.

/end rant.
tammy212
Jun. 17th, 2007 06:12 pm (UTC)
>>I take this one step further in my mind, by taking issue, although a bit less violently than Don Imus, with the lyrics of most rap music. <<

No arguments here. I have a few rap songs on my iPod, and occasionally I'll try something, or buy something I've heard elsewhere. All too often, though, I'll be listening to something; I'll like the presentation, the beat, the music, and then comes the lyrics about the bitches, the hos, the slaps, and I'm boiling over with fury. How can any women listen to this? How can they watch the videos in which men are backed up by droves of scantily clad women writhing for male pleasure?

I infinitely prefer Salt `n' Pepa and Queen Latifah and their sisters, the women who say "we are real and tough. We are not toys." And even the tough women rappers will refer to "bitches," either to establish themselves as serious badasses, or to depict other women as curs. They don't see the negative perceptions when they use the words can be as deadly as when the men do.

>>The girls acknowledged that the music was against women. When asked why they listened to it, they said they liked the beats. These are smart women, but they buy this music. <<

So when their boyfriends or even their girlfriends turn similiar words and attitudes against them, at least they can't say they're surprised.

>>In order to fix it, girls need to stand up for themselves. Not just "feminists" but the popular girls too.<<

It definitely has to go beyond feminist circles!

>> Please note that I am not say that any woman called a slut or a whore deserves it, because they don't.<<

I didn't think you were!

>> I am just calling for a more activist female mindset. <<

I speak out on this thing whenever I get the chance. I hate seeing girls and women connive unknowingly at their own bad treatment. At least they have to think about it and come to their own decisions.
rengirlie87
Jun. 16th, 2007 06:31 am (UTC)
" I bled from it for years, where no one else could see. I got called a slut when what I was really doing was owning my sexuality"

worst when you can see it is someone's eyes, that they think so little of you, are disappointed........
tammy212
Jun. 17th, 2007 06:15 pm (UTC)
>>worst when you can see it is someone's eyes, that they think so little of you, are disappointed........<<

And yet one day you have to ask, what right do they have to judge you on what you've done with your body? If you've made a mistake, that's for you personally to decide and live with, and for no one else to rule on. You need to learn to own yourself with pride.
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tammy212
Jun. 19th, 2007 12:50 am (UTC)
>>In Australia, at least the area where I come from, the word "cunt" has very little gender baggage, if any. People use it mostly the same way they use "arsehole" i.e. "That person has been acting like a total cunt".<<

It's that way in the British Isles, too. I just don't get it, myself. It's a commonly used term for the most intimate area of female anatomy, and it's used as a common negative term. And British women aren't bothered by that?

>>Not the ideal situation by any length, but I have to keep reminding myself that when I casually drop the word into my LJ (like "my computer is acting like a stupid cunt of a machine") I have to be mindful of what it means to everyone else.<<

Reading "The Authority" makes me daffy, because they use the word at least once a page, or it feels that way to me. But truly, how can women not make the connection and take it personally? I'm not trying to be accusatory or condemnatory, okay? I just don't get it.
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wrenae
Jun. 16th, 2007 07:26 am (UTC)
I hate gendered insults, but sometimes when people use them against me, I like to think about what they are really saying to me.

I wrote a post about the word "slut" in particular over at my other blog... I think that these words are used to control women, but if you look at them as being a statement that I am owning myself, I know that I are on track as a feminist...

Of course, it would be nicer if people didn't call me a slut at all. :)
eumelia
Jun. 16th, 2007 07:37 am (UTC)
The only words I use for myself (and on occaision other women) are "Bitch" and "Cunt" and only in positive forms.

I've long ago accepted the moniker of "Bitch", because the only times in my life I was called that was when I was going against the consensus which I didn't agree with. So, I feel bitch is reclaimed in my sense and any time someone calls me bitch in order to offend, I tell that person that if they are intimidated by my awesomeness it's their deal and not mine, so not to use those words in order to insult me, it use doesn't do any good.

"Cunt" is different, I only use it to describe my anatomy, if anyone uses it as an insult and I'm in the room, they will usually get a mouthful from me.

The other words you mention in the post are generally to do with sexual promiscuity, as though having a sex life, or being sexual and sexy are negative things and I agree should be treated with much the same attitude in which racial slurs are used.
There is nothing positive in calling a woman the S-Word, just like there is nothing positive in calling a black person the N-word.
All it does is reduce to person to something they are not, thus objectifying them and basically canceling them as actual people and with that I have, to put it mildly, issues.

Basically, I agree with this post :)
anonshadow
Jun. 16th, 2007 04:25 pm (UTC)
There is nothing positive in calling a woman the S-Word, just like there is nothing positive in calling a black person the N-word.

Ah, but I know plenty of black people who call their black friends "nigga." There doesn't tend to be any negative intent mixed in with that.
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imaginatrix
Jun. 16th, 2007 08:52 am (UTC)
In Greece "bitch" is NEVER used as a positive term - I have found that to be a strictly English-language peculiarity.

I don't mind being called a "bitch" - that simply means that whoever calls me that considers me a strong, agressive woman and is intimidated. Often, too intimidated to actually ARGUE against what I'm doing. (I often respond with "woof" when I'm called that, or with a smile showing ALL my teeth.)

"Cunt" is a word I would ONLY use deliberately against a woman who ONLY depended on her sexual attractiveness to men to get by on life, and who criticises other women who choose to actually WORK for a living. In this day and age, I find that inexcusable, and I will call her as I see her - a piece of female anatomy that only exists to be plugged by a man and not much else.

"Whore" I will call a woman who CONSCIOUSLY and DELIBERATELY goes out to hurt another woman by seducing a man or who gives him an opportunity to hurt another woman, or who consciously and deliberately sleeps her way to the top of her profession and then brags about it. That is NO way to act and gives ALL of us women who are aware of their sexuality and comfortable with it a BAD NAME.

In Greece again "cunt" (mouni) is used as a very derogatory term for a woman or even a man (only in rare cases, however - it's even worse than "fuck" which is used pretty much the same in both languages) or to describe something that is bad quality or generally fucked up - "gi'afto einai etsi mouni o kosmos" (That's why the world is so cunt) (That's why the world is so fucked up) or "Ta'kana mouni" (I made a cunt out of it) (strong way of saying "I fucked it up"). In the latter case, I have used it myself when something has gone VERY wrong (making the tea kettle explode. AT WORK. Ouch.), but not in general.

A "sex worker" is a "sex worker", not a whore or anything like that. To my mind, a "whore" is a woman who consciously uses sex as a financial tool or bargaining chip in a situation where it's uncalled for.

(OK, now I'm going to get flamed, but that's just what I think.)
starletfallen
Jun. 17th, 2007 09:39 pm (UTC)
Well, I don't think you're gonna get flamed, even if some women disagree with you, if only because the ladies (are there any gentlemen?) who frequent Tammy's blog are intelligent and classy and will respect her request for NO FLAMING.

That said, I agree with you to the point where there are some situations where there is little to say about a woman other than derogatory things. However, I think even using them in an "acceptable" context is making things worse.

I do, however, agree with you on the matter of "bitch" - I take it as a compliment to my intelligence when someone calls me that. And when my girlfriend calls me a "bitch" in bed... *grins* Well, I have NO complaint with that, because it's generally followed by her proving that she can top me - in more ways than one. ;)
juno_magic
Jun. 16th, 2007 09:06 am (UTC)
I have to say it again: great post.

Something that I've seen more and more often is that women call each other "whore" or "bitch" as a joke. When asked about that, they often say (as some of the other commenters indicate) that they are reclaiming the word or that it's empowering or that it's not negative.

Maybe I'm overly sensitive there, but it bothers me a lot to see and hear those words used as a joke like that. I don't think that's funny.

If I'm a strong woman, I'm a strong woman. I am not a bitch. If I enjoy chocolate, I'm not a chocolate whore. I just love sweets.

I just fail to see how using such terms, even in joke, can be positive or empowering.

Sometimes it feels as if women are just trying to say it first. As if they'd rather be the ones saying it first, in joke, before another woman or a man uses those very same words on them without joking.

Or maybe I just don't have a sense of humour. ;-)
beautifuldorian
Jun. 17th, 2007 02:20 am (UTC)
The thing is, these words SHOULDN'T be negative. It's really nobody's business how much a girl likes to have sex, or if she wants to charge for it. There's nothing wrong with being promiscuous, or even a prostitute, or a bitch. But there IS something wrong with turning these things into insults and using them to hurt others.

I think that it's really a good thing to be a bitch - a prickly, standoffish, bossy woman. Mostly because I know I'm doing good when I'm pissing people off... but that's me personally. I take pride in being called 'freak'. And there's nothing wrong with being a freak. Nothing wrong with being a slut, either. It's just another way in which women are expected to be monogamous and family oriented, and males aren't. I'm not saying that any usage of the word redeems it, just that we should redefine these words and what kind of weight we should need to give them. Personally, I long for the day when abnormal sexual behavior means none at all, and nobody bothers anybody else about what they do in the privacy of their bedroom/shower/dungeon/whatever. And maybe sometime soon after that people will stop being mean to other people - and then I'll run out of hallucinogens and have to wake up. -.-





/random
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tammy212
Jun. 17th, 2007 03:35 pm (UTC)
>>I have this gal friend who has, uhhh, lost count of her previous sex partners (she actually told me she lost count), but for some reason I've never associated her with the word 'slut.' Never. There are times when I've really disliked her choices, but I've never said anything like that. Is that odd? A good kind of odd, nonetheless.<<

Maybe because you think of her as a person who is expressing her sexuality, instead of a person who is transgressing against some church-mandated (and therefore male-possessive-mandated) morality. In other words, you know her body is hers to deal with as she chooses. You may not like her choices, but you know they are hers to make.

I don't think that's odd. I think it's nice. And a sign of a good friend.

>>I don't really get why, except that I love her... Maybe the solution is more love in the world? o.O<<

It couldn't hurt!
kazeneffera
Jun. 16th, 2007 11:55 am (UTC)
I don't know if this is a regional thing or what, but cunt remains one of the strongest words in my vocabulary. Whilst someone could quite easily call me a bitch or a whore as a joke, I would be absolutely outraged if someone called me a cunt. I know I'm not alone in this, as one of my friends finds it particularly offensive. It's not a word I ever want in common usage, just as I don't want the F word to become a common term for doing the deed.
toliver
Jun. 16th, 2007 12:40 pm (UTC)
I'm of the generation in which it was never appropriate to call others offensive names, not gender or color or religiously or mentally or physically based, and that really hasn't changed much for me. It's rude and (to quote your mother) says a lot more about the person saying it than it does the person on the receiving end.

So you call someone a cunt. Do you really want to be drug down to that grunting unimaginative name-calling level? At least develop some wit and creativity for your insults.
tammy212
Jun. 19th, 2007 12:58 am (UTC)
To me it's a boomerang thing--do I want that name coming back at me? No way.

I wish I'd grown up in a world where it was verboten to call offensive names. Unfortunately, blue collar America in my childhood was frank--and racist, and sexist. And I had a maternal grandfather who was in the KKK.

Funny--you'd think you'd get hardened to that stuff, but I never did.
q_sama
Jun. 16th, 2007 02:01 pm (UTC)
The word "slut" has always intrigued me, because it's simply a word that means "your morals are lower than my expectation of them to be", and I think it reflects so much more on the user than the recipient. Of course, I've been told that the linguistic origin of slut means "messy" or "sloppy", and I think there SHOULD be a word to indicate messiness or sloppiness in conjuction with sex and love and emotions - but I can't go around calling dear friends sluts without explaining myself. It has less to do with promiscuity in my mind and more to do with the way in which the sexual activity/relationship is handled. So I just avoid it. ;)

"Cunt" and "pussy" are words I don't use at all, and I'm trying to take "dick" out of my vocabulary as well. If I don't want women's behavior to be defined by their anatomy, I very well can't do the same to guys.
norikos_author
Jun. 16th, 2007 04:52 pm (UTC)
'Slut' is a meaningless noise.
It really is. Its entire semantic content, when used as a pejorative, boils down to 'You have more sex than I think you should have'.

It carries no meaningful information, because if one person says to another, "She's a slut," the second person has no idea what that means. Does it mean (as it did when many of the people in my high school used it) that the girl involved has had sex once? Does it mean that she _hasn't_ technically had sex, but that she's willing to engage in oral sex on the third date? Does it mean that she's slept with every male in the school, half the girls, and is working her way through the nearby school districts? Or does it mean that her ex-boyfriend was pissed that she dumped him and spread rumors to ruin her reputation?

The second person doesn't know which, if any, of these is true. They can make a guess, from what they know of the first person's beliefs, but it's entirely subjective.

Which, if you think about it, really removes the power of the insult. If there's no objective meaning to the term, there's no way it can carry any objective value. Yelling "You're such a person who has more sex than I think you should!" at someone really isn't much of an insult, is it?
Re: 'Slut' is a meaningless noise. - phloxyloxy - Jun. 16th, 2007 10:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
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sdn
Jun. 16th, 2007 02:17 pm (UTC)
women are meaner to each other than anyone.
tammy212
Jun. 19th, 2007 12:59 am (UTC)
>>women are meaner to each other than anyone.<<

They can be hard. It's the slave mentality. Keep us ripping at each other, and we never group together to overset the power of men.

At least now we're learning, bit by bit!
superfinemind
Jun. 16th, 2007 03:23 pm (UTC)
We don't own these words when we use them on each other; we perpetuate them and their shameful usage. We make it okay to use them, and those who hear them think it's okay--only when they do it, often it isn't okay.

This has always seemed sort of obvious to me, and yet it so often needs stating. I'd love to know how the notion got started. (I'd guess it started with racial slurs, but I really have no idea.)

I found it particularly striking in a post a friend of mine wrote (friendslocked, and old, and I can't find it) after performing in "Vagina Monologues" at our school. It was particularly relevant since some school official had censored and excised all of the "violent" content-- it was almost entirely pieces about empowerment and reclaiming and so forth and lacked pretty much all of the material about rape, abuse, and violence against women.

I apologize for boiling what began as good interesting thoughts to a couple of bad paraphrases, but the bits I remember:
"Yelling 'cunt' onstage isn't going to change anything."
"The advertising, and the whole focus of the thing, objectifies women: is having a vagina the essence of being female?"

...Every time I read one of your posts, Tammy, I get gladder and gladder that I have such awesome friends.
anonshadow
Jun. 16th, 2007 04:33 pm (UTC)
Most of what I feel has been said in comments to others, but there is one thing I want to stress:

Context, context, context.

In some contexts, saying "fuck" is not a bad thing. If I'm with friends, it pops out every couple sentences. There are other contexts in which you would never say it--in front of my grandparents, for example. The same is true for talking about sex--in front of your kid brother? Nope. In front of your friends? Why not? "Nigga" is okay, when used between black people who don't mind the term. When it's used to hurt someone who is black--not okay.

The same is true for most of the words you're talking about. I've never felt that bitch had to necessarily be an offensive term. It could be, but then, so could "gay." The same is true of many other words--and when I'm surrounded by people who feel the same way that I do, well, why wouldn't I speak naturally?
wytchchyld
Jun. 16th, 2007 05:00 pm (UTC)
Unreasonable, no. Difficult ... yes. It's difficult to remove a word from your own spoken vocabulary and even more difficult to influence those around you to help them learn to remove those words.

I spent this year fighting my 9th graders on exactly one word. (Well, two, but I didn't hear 'fag' again after I explained to each of my classes the history of the word.) 'Gay'. When I initially explained to them that I would react to that word just the same as I would react to them using spic, nigger, or any other recognized hate-word, the immediate question I was asked was 'What, are you gay or something?'

The fact that I was fighting this word on two fronts -- one, as an insult directed at classmates and two, as 'gay = stupid' -- didn't help matters at all.

It's difficult to fight against speech patterns when everywhere around you, you're being swamped with those words. Your friends, your parents, the media, your celebrity idols, and so on.

Once I read a comic called 'Vamps' and there was a quote that this reminds me of ... something along the lines of 'A man only calls a woman a bitch if she doesn't take any shit from him.' To a large extent, this is the truth -- and to a certain extent, this is even why women do it to each other.

There are a lot of other words that can work but when people really want to cut each other verbally, they reach for the words that are loaded with connotations. And these words are. Why say to your friend 'It hurt and disappointed me when you dated my ex-boyfriend right after we broke up.' when you can use bitch or slut or whore and hurt her in in response for the hurt that she did to you?
tammy212
Jun. 19th, 2007 11:43 pm (UTC)
>>I spent this year fighting my 9th graders on exactly one word. (Well, two, but I didn't hear 'fag' again after I explained to each of my classes the history of the word.)<<

Congratulations!

>> 'Gay'.<<

You don't pick the easy fights, do you? 8-\

>> When I initially explained to them that I would react to that word just the same as I would react to them using spic, nigger, or any other recognized hate-word, the immediate question I was asked was 'What, are you gay or something?' <<

Yeah--it figures.

>>The fact that I was fighting this word on two fronts -- one, as an insult directed at classmates and two, as 'gay = stupid' -- didn't help matters at all.<<

No, I'm sure it didn't. And they're at the age where only the looniest, or the most secure (in 9th grade?) are even going to lay claim to being gay.

>>It's difficult to fight against speech patterns when everywhere around you, you're being swamped with those words. Your friends, your parents, the media, your celebrity idols, and so on.<<

It is, but I'm glad you did it!

>>'A man only calls a woman a bitch if she doesn't take any shit from him.'<<

Which is what the posters here who argue for reclaiming the word say. I'm just so soaked in it as a negative that I can't see taking it back, even with this context. And I've had characters who use it this way!

>>Why say to your friend 'It hurt and disappointed me when you dated my ex-boyfriend right after we broke up.' when you can use bitch or slut or whore and hurt her in in response for the hurt that she did to you?<<

This is so true--but then it keeps those words alive, to be used against me, or people who don't deserve them, or my daughters. Better to find something else and let these words go.
beautifuldorian
Jun. 16th, 2007 05:52 pm (UTC)
Wow. I came to offer you a piece of fanfic, and there's this. That means I get to offer my opinion too! A double win.

I was called many, many things in school, no matter how many of them weren't true. I'm twenty and still a virgin, but that didn't matter to the boys in the hall who would scream things like 'slut' and 'whore' at me. By the eighth grade I was in the habit of laughing at people and saying, "I couldn't be a whore, no one would pay to have sex with me." Which was absolutely nothing short of the truth, and also served to shut them up. They expected me to be wounded by their words and I chose not to. Now, right now in my life I'm of the opinion that a word only means what you decide it means; offense can only be taken, not given.

That does not, however, make it right for people to slander others. There are many, many things to call a person to make an insult, and for any given person at least half of them are true... if you're going to make the effort to insult someone, you should at least be accurate. I could never blame anyone who called me fat - it's the truth. But it's really just more proof of how sweet and wonderful human beings are, that we can't feel superior by acting better, we can only feel superior by making others feel inferior, which to me looks like we're all digging out from under everyone else's feet, but nobody's making an effort to climb up out of the cesspit.

P.S. I did read [and love!] Terrier, vulgarity notwithstanding. A prostitute is a prostitute, and a slang word for one doesn't have to be a slur for one.

In other news! I did say I came bearing fanfic. I know you're one of those authors who won't sue me for it (for which I'm grateful, believe you me) so, in the interest of... sharing the plot-bunny... ^_^''' However, it won't all fit in one comment, so I'll put it in another one.

tammy212
Jun. 19th, 2007 11:50 pm (UTC)
>>I was called many, many things in school, no matter how many of them weren't true. I'm twenty and still a virgin, but that didn't matter to the boys in the hall who would scream things like 'slut' and 'whore' at me. <<

And no adults stopped them? I know--they were never around.

>>By the eighth grade I was in the habit of laughing at people and saying, "I couldn't be a whore, no one would pay to have sex with me." Which was absolutely nothing short of the truth, and also served to shut them up. They expected me to be wounded by their words and I chose not to.<<

::hugs::

>> Now, right now in my life I'm of the opinion that a word only means what you decide it means; offense can only be taken, not given. <<

You have a point, but other people don't have the equanimity or the judgment that you developed (or the scar tissue). I'd like to make it easier for them if I could--I wish I could have made it easier for you.

>> I could never blame anyone who called me fat - it's the truth.<<

I can blame them for being rude and addressing something that is none of their business.

>>we can't feel superior by acting better, we can only feel superior by making others feel inferior,<<

Like a monkey that's been beat on, who will rush to beat on a weaker monkey. It would be really nice to get past chimp behavior, don't you think?

>>nobody's making an effort to climb up out of the cesspit. <<

Some of us are. And we can hope, if we spread the word, that there are a few more every day.

>>P.S. I did read [and love!] Terrier, vulgarity notwithstanding. A prostitute is a prostitute, and a slang word for one doesn't have to be a slur for one. <<

Thanks! I know people in Tortall use those words for slurs, but I don't have to write them. For Beka they're just what other people say and job descriptions.

And thanks for the fanfic! Normally I don't read them, but this one was really nice!
(no subject) - beautifuldorian - Jun. 20th, 2007 10:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
beautifuldorian
Jun. 16th, 2007 05:54 pm (UTC)
and here's the fanfic!

I re-read 'The Will of the Empress' yesterday, and had this rattling around in my brain since. I had to write it down. I'm hoping you'll read it, and maybe even like it.

It has no title, just the dubious honor of being mildly shippy, and rather sappy.


...and it STILL won't all fit in one comment, blast and bebother.


beautifuldorian
Jun. 16th, 2007 05:55 pm (UTC)
fanficcy goodness?
The blissful stars overhead had no appreciation for the lingering heat of the summer night. Trisana Chandler scowled up at them, breezes playing around her and the quiet camp, but nowhere else for miles. It was bad enough she was sore and still healing; now she had to sweat on top of it, too. Naturally a light sleeper, the midsummer heat made getting any rest impossible for Tris, so she had given up and sat up in an attempt to cool off a bit. After setting loose a tiny wind from one of her braids, the stifling dead air was alleviated somewhat, but it was still unfair that it remain so hot so long after the sun had set. She would be glad when they had passed this last stretch of grassland before home. Dancruan had been trying, to say the least, and she couldn't have been happier to leave the border behind. But the further south they got, the more oppressive the summer, until now. Tris was almost tempted to find a storm, but there was no rain for miles, and fiddling with it wouldn't be good for anywhere that gained or missed rain, so she could not in good conscience make it rain. This made her even less happy, and finally, to have anything to think about other than the heat, she collected some lightning from one braid into a tiny ball, and hovered it in air over the pages of a book. Reading would distract her. It always did.

The light didn't wake him, but it made him realize he was awake. Briar shifted, blinking, the last vestiges of dreams fading away. This far from civilization, nightmares about the war were less prone to haunting him, and instead his nights were filled with the idle growing dreams of the plants all around him. It took a moment to remember that he wasn't made up of leaves and stems, and to figure out that the light wasn't the sun, but something else. At first he mistook it for Sandry's night-light, but after a scrub of the eyes he saw that it hovered over Tris' head, gilding her red hair. Even now Briar had to smile. Rising from his patch of grass, he wandered over to her, yawning once before he spoke.

"We have to ride at dawn, and here you are reading rather than sleeping," he observed, amused. Wind danced around her as it did nowhere else on this quiet night; without it the heat would have been suffocating. Not waiting for an invitation, he sat down next to her, smiling.

She didn't jump. She did look up, though, to shrug at him. "It's far too hot to sleep," she said, sounding mildly offended, as though it were so warm just to annoy her. Honestly, though, she was glad to see Briar; she'd read this volume ten times, and it wasn't so entrancing as to distract her entirely from the sweat rolling down her temples. Briar, though, he would say something witty or ironic, and she could laugh, and that would be easy. So she set the book down, and turned to look at him, eyes thoughtful behind her spectacles. "Is that why you're awake?"
Re: fanficcy goodness? - beautifuldorian - Jun. 16th, 2007 05:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: fanficcy goodness? - tammy212 - Jun. 19th, 2007 09:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
<3~! - beautifuldorian - Jun. 20th, 2007 02:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
phloxyloxy
Jun. 16th, 2007 10:31 pm (UTC)
What I don't understand, which I guess just goes to show how commonplace these terms have become, is when they are viciously used against someone who doesn't even have any sexual experience. Or someone who has been celibate for a while.

What is the point of it then? Terms like "slut" and "whore" aren't even a comment on that person's sexuality - they're just flat-out insults, intended to hurt.

...I guess that's always the case though, which is the point. This is just another example of how societally "acceptable" it is to use these terms against someone, either as a moral judgment or not...and how it all perpetuates into the terms being used more frequently.
tammy212
Jun. 19th, 2007 09:52 pm (UTC)
>>What is the point of it then? Terms like "slut" and "whore" aren't even a comment on that person's sexuality - they're just flat-out insults, intended to hurt.<<

I don't even think it's right to comment on someone's sexuality. For the rest, these words are loaded with the potential to slash, because they come from our history, when men and women judged each other constantly on moral grounds, with an eye to failure, and when a woman in particular was consider susceptible to sexual looseness and criminality. It's still in religious codes, and women die for these words elsewhere in the world. It doesn't matter whether they're true or not. That someone uses them means they feel they have the right to judge their target and the way that woman governs her own body.

>>This is just another example of how societally "acceptable" it is to use these terms against someone, either as a moral judgment or not...and how it all perpetuates into the terms being used more frequently.<<

And I'd like it to become unacceptable. I'd like these words to become historical artifacts, signposts of how far we've come since then.
tekanji
Jun. 17th, 2007 01:31 am (UTC)
Good men don't use these words on women. They believe it's "ungentlemanly."

I'm sorry to bring the mood down more, but I don't agree with you here. Well, I agree with the first part, but the latter part smacks of chivalry and in my experience those kinds of "good" guys have no problem degrading women that they think were "asking for it".

Degrading the "good girls" is "ungentlemanly" but degrading the "bad girls" is just par for the course, because they apparently give up their rights to human dignity as soon as they step outside of the strict "virgin" image and transgress into the "whore" one.

And there are plenty of other words just as good, that have nothing to do with the sex of the bearer.

I have a list of non-bigoted slurs up on Iris' forums (if anyone can think of more to add to the list, please feel free to post them here or in the forums themselves).

I'd just like this opportunity to point out that it's not just gendered slurs that's the problem, but racist, homophobic, ableist, and a whole host of other kinds of slurs that we think of as "normal". "Lame" and "retarded" are slurs I hear used frequently, but they are no less harmful than gendered slurs like "pussy" and "cunt".

That's not so unreasonable, is it?

I don't think so, but this sort of thing is something that we've had people leave the forums over (that and victim blaming, which we're very strict about not allowing).

The thing is, women are taught from the time we're in diapers -- by everything from the media we consume, to the relationships we see, to what we're told by family and friends -- that women are "catty", "backstabbing" and in general not good people to be friends with because they're mean and untrustworthy. And because of this image, we fall into two patterns: 1) we try to form relationships more with men than with women, and 2) we treat other women, and expect to be treated by other women, according to this paradigm, which only serves to reinforce it.

And, of course, everyone has a different experience based on their personality type and the environment that they grew up with, but movies like Mean Girls wouldn't come out if they didn't have at least some cultural relevance (even if it is mostly just in how we perceive female homosociality).

This inability to meaningfully connect with women has a purpose: it helps to maintain the sexist status quo when men aren't around. We become self-policing, which means that we're constantly looking to exploit other's flaws and use those awful words on each other in order to feel better about our place in the pecking order. When we agree with the boys and say, "Girls today dress like sluts! They need to be punished because they're making real girls like me look bad!" or "You're such a fucking attention whore, it's your fault that we aren't taken seriously!" they get heaps of praise. They feel like they have earned Real Person status, or are "one of the boys".

And, on that level, I get it. No one wants to be the Second Class Citizen. No one wants to feel that they are forever condemned to being almost good enough to be a human being simply because of their gender expression.

But what they don't think about -- or try not to think about, because it inevitably happens to them -- is how their special status is one conferred by men on the whim of those men. They may be a golden girl one day, and then laughed at as a slut or attention whore the next. And, really, that just feeds into the problem, because instead of turning the blame on the men who are pulling the strings, these women often turn their hatred on other women, falling back on the "if you weren't such an attention whore, I would be taken seriously" line.

Anyway, this has turned into a mega rant. I'm actually in the process of writing a blog post about it, but it's really a tough subject to tackle because I don't want to fall into similar traps. Maybe one day I'll finally write enough about it elsewhere that I can bring it together into a thought provoking post. o.o;;
juno_magic
Jun. 17th, 2007 10:25 am (UTC)
Interesting idea about that prejudice of women being meaner to each other than men ever could be.

Do you know if there's been any research about that?

It's definitely an approach that would make sense within limits, at least.

2) we treat other women, and expect to be treated by other women, according to this paradigm, which only serves to reinforce it.

I said "within limits" above because I doubt that human behaviour (either male or female) can be predetermined completely, either by their genes or by society. Speaking from my personal experience - while I've encountered two or three truly devious men, the women of this nature that I've had the misfortune to meet were meaner and crueller by leagues. A woman simply knows better than a man what will hurt another woman most.
(no subject) - tammy212 - Jun. 19th, 2007 11:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tekanji - Jun. 19th, 2007 11:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tekanji - Jun. 19th, 2007 11:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kitmf - Jun. 17th, 2007 02:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tammy212 - Jun. 19th, 2007 11:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kitmf - Jun. 21st, 2007 01:51 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tekanji - Jun. 19th, 2007 11:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tammy212 - Jun. 19th, 2007 11:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tekanji - Jun. 19th, 2007 11:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
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