Slutism: MMH YES

“And then our arrows of desire rewrite the speech, mmh, yes” – Kate Bush

There are a couple of ways one can go about deflecting a basic insult or charge of malfeasance. One is to say, “No, I’m not” or “No, I didn’t.” Another is to accept the charge, but redefine it and make it your own. The former approach was famously called out for its ineffectiveness by none other than linguist and political agitator Noam Chomsky who noted that no matter who has the truth on their side, mudslinging has the peculiar effect of making it appear as if the mudslinger always wins. Noam Chomsky is often wrong about a lot of things, but all one has to do is a 2-3 second thought experiment imagining the picture of a person saying “No, I’m not” to a verbal attacker to realize this is one of the things he got right. The latter approach, notably expounded by Eminem in “What I Am” has a confrontational dimension and probably is worth going into in some detail as Slutist gets off the ground with a gesture of middle-finger-raising reclamation. Why would anyone want to proudly call themselves a slut?

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It’s always good to start by diving right into the nasty, and language can be pretty nasty. It’s unfortunate (for several reasons) that ‘double entendre’ slides nicely into our daily vocabularies while ‘sextuple entendre’ is nowhere heard. This wouldn’t be the place for extended forays into critical theory, suffice to say words and images are slippery. If they weren’t, we’d argue with one another a lot less about what someone “meant to say,” what a holy book “really means” or whether wearing a swastika to a Halloween party is acceptable. European philosophers practically spent the entire 20th century obsessing over this, and if you’ve ever spent a single day on the Internet, you know that not even another century’s worth is likely to provide anyone with a clear way to navigate the treacherous territory of images and words.

A man reads the newspaper "The Sun" in L

So why ask to be called a slut when there are so many other names to adopt? Won’t this put people off? Won’t it keep the message from being heard, the message that those who have dominated gender and sex relations for too long have determined challengers? The answer to that is quite easy: yes, of course it will put some people off and some will shut out the message. Slutism begins when you realize that, given the slipperiness of meaning and the proliferation of interpretations made possible by digital information flows, anything you say about anything will inevitably put a group of people off. Slutism starts by accepting you can’t please all the people all of the time and you shouldn’t even try. It requires a nimble literary-mindedness that can interpret context on the fly, in contrast to literal-mindedness.

The usage of the term ‘slut’ by yesterday’s masters was filled with outrage at the very thought of a woman’s body being her own, reprimand of any behavior deemed unladlylike, and contained marching orders for how the woman was to conduct herself in order to avoid being called a slut. The conversation in many quarters of today’s feminism, especially online feminist publications, rings loudly in tones of outrage, reprimand and marching orders. This is disappointing since third wave feminism did so much to emphasize a plurality of feminisms. The embrace of slutism is one way out. There’s a shortage of “YES!” in the conversation because it’s a fact that anyone who’s ever gotten paid by the click can tell you, “YES!” doesn’t get clicks quite as well as “OMG LOOK WHAT THIS ASSHOLE SAID ABOUT RAPE.”

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Slutism first says “fuck you” to the masters who defined the slut according to what goes on between a woman’s legs. It invests the word with a sense of liberty, and it says “I am whatever you say I am.” But the person who says “I am whatever you say I am” really means the opposite. They mean, “I’ll bludgeon you with your own weapons.” This is semiological aikido. It’s a disposition that embraces its appetite for cultural, intellectual, and physical joys because one coordinate resetting in-sight is worth a hundred kneejerk shoutdowns.

The debates on whether or not reclamation gestures “really work” are often beside the point. The parameters of the debate already provide the answer. Is it OK for rappers to use the n-word in a song? The very fact that the debate so heavily centers around usage in rap music already suggests that the reclamation of the word has been both positive and effective. They are talking about hip hop and not lynch mobs because the terms of the conversation were reset by those who were originally the victims through a vast, multipronged array of approaches: from extra-legal direct action to legal precedents to changes in the way we hear and use words that once were instruments of oppression. At this point in the discussion, it’s popular for someone to interject that the hard work of legal precedents and direct action probably should be weighted more than calling a rap group N.W.A. But it’s worth reminding those people that just because one prong might pierce deeper, it still takes all the prongs to bleed the beast.

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You’re currently reading a website called Slutist: if you’re taking what’s written here seriously, you’re part of the “YES!” and it doesn’t really matter who is put off. This is here to get you off.

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2 thoughts on “Slutism: MMH YES

  1. The greatest contribution to empower a movement to exact change and change minds comes from the ability of its proponants to translate and express its meaning to sympathizers who don’t yet know they are. Brava on this article! The human adaptive brain has no choice but to process the word as offensve, then neutral, and then positive as it is verbally repeated or heard over and over again in new contexts. In the past two weeks I have heard the word “slut” used 5 times in the most unexpected mainstream television programs even in a complimentary way. America Idol judge, Keith Urban said, “I like that sort of slut-chick thing you have going on there,” after a female performance. He was smiling kindly as the “compliment” came from his mouth. A few heads turned, the contestant blushed slightly connecting with the “old” emotional content of the word through her long established cultural filter, then amazingly, she smiled and thanked him profusely as she re-defined the word as a compliment and the crowd roared with applause. The only thing you can count on in cultural is change.

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