Sluts, bitches and whores.

Sara Martínez 9/25/2020

For wearing a short skirt or too much make-up; for excelling at work or for voicing an opinion; for sleeping with someone, or for knocking someone back; for jumping the queue at a supermarket, or for calling someone out for jumping the queue at a supermarket; for not smiling, or for smiling at the wrong person... there are many, many reasons why you can be a slut, a bitch or a whore. Prime Ministers, politicians, journalists (bitches); nurses, models, artists, singers (sluts); daughters, wives, sisters, mothers...(whores). Terms that can obviously be used freely, loosely and interchangeably — as long as the target is female (or displays overtly ‘female characteristics’). Raise your hand if you've never been called a 'slut, a bitch or a whore’ before; If you've never heard any of those words muttered as you've walked past. Going one step further — let who has never uttered these words cast the first stone. Whether against a classmate, a work colleague, the girl who 'stole' your boyfriend when you were 17; or against that girl who, let's be blunt — was far prettier than you at school and obviously 'a slut’. The longer one lives, the more opportunities one has to be labelled a slut, a bitch or a whore.

Indeed, it's true that the world of insults is rich and varied: slag, skank, hoe, tramp, witch, tart; not forgetting the old favourite 'cunt' — this word, referring to the female genitals (obviously), is reserved for the worst of the worst. And make no mistake about it, men can be 'bitches’ or ‘man-bitches’ too. In fact, in the macho worlds of hip-hop and MMA, labelling your adversaries as 'bitches' or referring to another man as ‘my bitch’ is as common as boasting about the size of your 'gat’ or the power of your right hook. There are few more effective ways to taunt, demean and question the power or physical prowess of your rivals than by using an insult that's usually reserved for females. Inevitably, this use of the term has filtered down into youth culture as young men emulate their idols by partaking in a little bit more casual misogyny.

Regrettably, these insults are not merely confined to rap videos, pre-fight trash talk and men's locker rooms. A little over 2 months ago, Ted Yoho made use of the term “fucking bitch” on some steps across the pond. Nothing remarkable here — you might say. However, Ted Yoho isn't just some spotty, teenage boy, decked in the latest sportswear and desperately trying to impress his ‘homies’ by spewing out casual misogyny at passers-by in his local park (that would be bad enough). Rep.Ted Yoho is a 65 year-old Republican Congressman that has represented the state of Florida since 2013 and those steps lead to the Capitol — one of the most recognized symbols of democratic government in the world. The lucky recipient of such colourful language was Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She took to the House floor to deliver a powerful and dignified response in which she described a culture of abusive language against women:

“I have waited tables in restaurants. I have ridden the subway. I have walked the streets in New York City, and this kind of language is not new. I have encountered words uttered by Mr. Yoho and men uttering the same words as Mr. Yoho while I was being harassed in restaurants. It is cultural. It is a culture of lack of impunity, of accepting of violence and violent language against women, and an entire structure of power that supports that”. Violent, misogynistic language permeates every facet of life Even when unaccompanied by actual physical violence, it can cut just as deeply into our psyches. If it’s not addressed, it doesn’t only leave its scars on its direct victims, but on future generations and society as a whole. Because language is power — a way of exalting or humiliating, of possessing or liberating, of exalting or denigrating.

Isn't it time we all gave it the respect it deserves?

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