I couldn’t help but cringe, once again, when Jarvis brought up the ‘personal empowerment’ argument as defense of the use and attempted reclamation of the word, ‘slut’, saying that: “For me to call myself whatever language I want, if I find it empowering, for somebody else to say that that’s not a right choice, when this is my choice. I find that problematic.” I believe that, in this short quip, Jarvis sums up much of that what has made me uncomfortable with Slutwalk from the get-go. ‘If I feel personally empowered by my personal choice, then no one else should have anything to say on the matter. It affects only me,’ is not a strong argument for feminism.
Slutwalk does, in many ways, resemble the same kind of privileged, individualist, ‘anything goes so long as it’s my choice‘ feminism which argues that prostitution is simply a choice like any other (or ‘work’ like any other kind of work), that objectification can be empowering as long as we are choosing to objectify ourselves, and that hey, if heels and breast implants make me feel great then everyone else needs to accept this as some kind of feminist act, because I say it is.
Reclaiming ‘slut’ is not only unnecessary as, I don’t believe we need a term for ‘people who enjoy consensual sex’, but, in removing the gendered aspect of ‘slut’ from the definition (they have not decided to reclaim/redefine the term to mean ‘women who enjoy consensual sex’ though I am not sure that this would be much better as, of course, I would prefer to believe that all women enjoy consensual sex….) it makes the ‘reclaimation’ of this word an impossibility. It is men or, at very least, a male-dominated, sexist, patriarchal culture which has used the word ‘slut’ to silence and shame women. This means that, were we all to agree that we wanted to ‘take back’ this word (which, to be clear, we have not) it would need to be a gender-specific reclaimation. Men have not been abused and shamed and attacked with this word. Women have.
I absolutely believe that we must work to end rape culture and victim blaming. As Slutwalk makes very clear, no one is asking to be raped. No one deserves to be raped. This message is important. It is, in fact, imperative. Taking gender out of the equation, focusing on individual empowerment (ie. the ‘whatever makes me feel good should go unchallenged’ argument) and, stating (not suggesting, but stating) that ‘ The term ‘Slut’ is being re appropriated: A person who enjoys consensual sex.’ doesn’t make sense to me. It seems to leave out some very important information. For example, the word ‘women’, or ‘feminism’.