La Vida

Reclaiming the Word Slut For Our Daughters?

Could this make for the perfect Bat Mitzvah, Super Sweet 16 or Quinceañera gift in 2025? Trends point to yes.

I remember the first time a white person used the n word in my presence. He didnt say it to offend me; rather, he was trying to express some sort of affinity with me, followed by his superiority over me when I told him to go f*ck himself.

He was a midwestern kid whod moved to L.A. sometime in the early 90s and felt emboldened by his mixed tapes, on which Snoop Doggy Dog featured prominently. By virtue of living within proximity to black people in the big city he felt that he had enough cred to use the word around a homegirl like me without being utterly offensive. He failed.

It occurred again some months after that en route to Brooklyn, NY for New Years Eve. A boyfriend of a girlfriend of mine started fretting over the local n words circling our car and then explained that he was allowed to use that word because he was probably more black than me as I grew up the middle class daughter of a doctor and lawyer and he grew up in hood of Montgomery County, Maryland. You can read all about Mo Co here and while Im not one to cite Wikipedia, I can factually verify that even the seediest parts of the county do not qualify as the ghetto. Not that his hoods level of ghettoness had anything to do with it.

I spent a lot of time being the only black person in a room or on a road-trip, enough that Ive witnessed white people saying and doing some pretty crazy sh*t from locking the door because a car full of black people drove up alongside their own to excusing their flagrant racism because, as John M put it on the way to see The Cure on their Disintigration tour, I can call then n*ggers because my best friend is black.

It was hard enough growing up with a proclivity for the dark and gothic, but literally being dark and gothic in situations like that cast me into emo heaven, or hell. Cant decide which.

But it was the 90s and the kids mentioned were either rebelling against the political correctness of their parents generation, or parroting them. Now that theyre the ones having children, it will be interesting to see what linguistic taboos will be broken next. For mine, the n word has emerged as some kind of iconic gangster folk song. Next up, the c word? The re-appropriation of the s word, as in slut, suggests that cooing c*nt with kindness is not too far behind.

It you havent heard of the SlutWalk debate, might I suggest an article that ran on The Root today. In it, Zerlina Maxwell cites an article in the Crunk Feminist Collective explaining why women of color, in particular, might feel excluded from the SlutWalk movement.

the idea of reclaiming an incendiary word like slut [is] hard for many black women who have [historically] been understood to be lascivious, hypersexed, and always ready and willing to stomach: When I think of the daily assaults I hear in the form of copious incantations of bitch and ho in hip-hop music directed at black women, its hard to not feel a bit incensed at the how-dare-you-quality [of the protests]. Black women would never organize a mass ho stroll, she argued.

Damn straight.

Moreover, when a photograph of a scantily clad white girl in a bikini holding a sign that read, Woman is the nigger of the world, referencing a John Lennon song by the same name, it took me back to those sad, lonely days of being the minority in the back of someone elses car faced with the task of telling white folks whats what. By the looks of her, shes too much of a hipster to really get it. If she did, this chick would be the first one to pull the reclamation card. I was an art history major with a minor in Yoruban art, she might say. Im so not a racist!

 

Alright honey, whatevs. See you on the L. But I gotta tell you, sister, youre not making the world a safer, more inclusive place for our black and white daughters of tomorrow.

Maxwell continues,

A movement that seeks to reclaim the term slut sends a mixed message to attendeesthe sad truth is, reclaiming the word slut doesnt necessarily lead to the end of victim blaming [the movement’s intent].

Words matter. Not every woman is empowered by identifying as a slut. The SlutWalkNYC sign effectively proves that offensive language still offends. No matter how many times people have tried to reclaim the word nigger in popular culture or by the NAACP it remains a word that causes an intense emotional response. If the goal of SlutWalk is to end victim blaming, then a name that detracts from that goal may do more harm than good.

I agree. Has re-appropriating the n word helped younger generations of African Americans, broadened the wider scope of discourse and understanding today and for my kid ten years down the track? How about the s word for our daughters? Pinning the appropriation of offensive language on the empowerment placard does not feel like a step forward, rather it feels like an awkwardly placed step sideways. Its clumsy and kind of fug.

I, for one, am not looking forward to raising a generation of sluts.…

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