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Men Aren’t the Only Ones Slut Shaming Women

Men Aren’t the Only Ones Slut Shaming Women

If there were any silver lining to find in the wake of the tragic Santa Barbara shootings, it’s the conversation about misogyny and sexism that has been ignited.

Thousands of women have rallied around the hashtag #YesAllWomen on Twitter sharing personal stories of the everyday harassment they face. The response has been overwhelming and put a spotlight on the sexist culture we live in where a young man resorted to murder for being rejected by women.

Sure, not all men are like Elliot Rodger (there’s even a hashtag to prove it: #NotAllMen), but there is no denying that we live in a society where women are targets of violence and shamed for their sexuality. Women are called sluts for having sex and, like Rodger angrily proclaimed, sluts for not having sex, at least with him. Either way we’re sluts. But as the two studies below prove, men aren’t the only ones responsible for slut-shaming women. Sometimes we women are just as guilty.

The first study published in the Social Psychology Quarterly tracked the lives of 53 women attending college at a Midwestern university and found that women often participated in slut shaming one another as a means of maintaining their social status. The findings suggest that high-status women, those women who participated in Greek life on campus and often came from upper-middle class backgrounds, used slut shaming as a means of bullying lower-status girls and keeping them from climbing the social ladder.

On the flip side, high-status women were also far less likely to be slut shamed by their lower-status peers despite engaging in more sexual relationships. It stands to reason then that lower status girls were targets of slut shaming regardless of whether or not they had sexual experience. Lastly, while high-status women with more sexual experience defined their lifestyle as “classy,” their low-status peers who tried to mimic this behavior to fit it were immediately called “trashy.”

This study illustrates that the ladies are also guilty of creating a culture where women are stigmatized and defined by their sexuality. If women are calling each other sluts as a means of pulling social rank, what are their sexual partners saying about them behind closed doors? Does the fact that women are calling each other sluts make it OK for the men (or women) they are sleeping with to do so? If the Mean Girls assembly taught us anything, then yes.

“You’ve got to stop calling each other sluts and whores,” says Tina Fey’s character. “It just makes it OK for guys to call you sluts and whores.”

It may not make it OK, but it does create a culture where slut shaming women is acceptable.

Another study from a think tank in the UK has found that women are also guilty of slut shaming one another online. The study tracked the use of the words “rape,” “whore” and “slut” on Twitter for about a year and found that 12 percent of the tweets containing these words were intended as a direct threat or insult. What was more alarming, however, was the finding that women were almost as likely as men to send tweets with these words both casually or offensively.

In an effort to make sense of the findings, Time magazine looks to Kate Farrar, the vice president of campus leadership programs at AAUW, a non-profit focusing on women’s empowerment, who argues gender based insults have become s0 ingrained in our culture that it’s the norm:

Words like “slut” and “whore” are thrown around so frequently they “become a part of our cultural conversation [about women] from the time we’re very young…there often aren’t instances that we’re told that it’s not okay or that there’s accountability for that.”

And thanks to our culture’s paradoxical attitudes towards female sexuality, where women are expected to be sexy, but not overtly sexual, one of the most effective ways for men and women to bully, judge and degrade a woman is to brand her a “slut” or “whore.”

Luckily, as far as I’ve seen #YesAllWomen has been a girl-on-girl crime free zone and done a great deal to shed light on the everyday harassment women face. A hashtag, however, can’t last forever, so let’s continue the conversation and not forget that while women are often victims of a sexist culture, we are sometimes part of the problem. I for one will admit that as a college, and even high school, student I used the word “slut” very casually and as a means to put down other women, even if they weren’t actually promiscuous. I wish I could say I hadn’t, but like Farrar points out it was so ingrained in how we spoke that I didn’t think twice, and I was never told it was wrong.

Well, here I am now, saying that it is wrong. Defining a woman by her sexuality, or worse demeaning her for it, is wrong whether you are a woman or a man. It’s high time we speak up when someone calls a woman a slut and analyze our own reasons for using this language. In doing so, together we can all help change the sexist culture that inspired Elliot Rodger’s mass murdering.

Related by Care2:

Chilling New Website Documents What Happens to Women Who Reject Men’s Sexual Advances

The Profound Disconnect: #YesAllWomen vs. #NotAllMen

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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365 comments

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7:49AM PDT on Jun 27, 2014

and to sandra. you are right - and wrong. i am more and more convinced that we create our reality with our thoughts, words and deeds. if i declare that men and women are friends and want to work together, that is what i experience. i personally have never been threatened or abused by men. neither have lots and lots of women. other women, on the other hand, indeed experience what you say. and part of it is because they expect it and thus have the attitude of victims. it's what you focus on! i am an ardent advocate of the principle " our consciousness determines our being". yes, it is not easy. men ARE bigger and stronger physically. AND - they are also often afraid of us women - and deep down they. too, want peace and love between the sexes. and for the women who ARE abused, i wish with all my heart not as much protection but strength and the consciousness that they need only stand up, get together and assert themselves. it takes training, but there are ways to get there...

7:31AM PDT on Jun 27, 2014

to federico: prego!
to MNJ: so? if according to your definition I am a feminist, so be it. my definition is a different one, but it's ok, the definition is not the important thing...

4:59AM PDT on Jun 27, 2014

Domenica O:

Why do you say, "I am not a feminist," and then follow with, "I am a woman who is proud and glad to be a woman. i neither want to look up to men nor down on men. i want to be on equal eye height, as we say in switzerland, with our male partners."

That's like saying, "I am not a vegetarian," and then describing yourself as someone who only eats fruit and vegetables and won't eat meat.

Guess what, Domenica. You're a feminist and you didn't even know it.

10:12AM PDT on Jun 16, 2014

noted

5:31AM PDT on Jun 14, 2014

those and many new organizations founded in recent years to protect women and children from male abuse and murder. Boys must be taught to respect women and life in general, rather than following the rich classes´ mandate to make war for power and gold. War, battle and rape (war of the sexes) is in the male blood. The Universe, always. eventually, brings one what they´ve earned with their deeds, and men are now, mysteriously losing testosterone, the killing/raping hormone. As one does, so does one reap. Not vengeance, only justice. Brave words solve nothing. Join groups to preserve women and children from male violence. War is everywhere. Rape is everywhere. Brave words solve nothing. Join groups to preserve women and children from male violence. Male warring is everywhere, male raping is everywhere. Despite the army´s intent to cover up the massive rapes of women in the military by their fellow soldiers and officers, the hideous situation is finally coming into the light of day and being punished with criminal sentences. Rape has always been women´s nightmare reality with their own fathers, uncles, brothers, boyfriends and husbands. Justice is finally waking up.

5:21AM PDT on Jun 14, 2014

Domenica, what you say sounds wonderful, but after ca. 9,000 years of no rights, of being slaves, childbearers and forced whores, controlled in every facet of their lives by fathers, uncles, etc. who bought and sold them like cattle...it´s not easy for women to suddenly feel self-empowered in less than 100 years. New Zealand and Finland, I´ve learned, were the first countries to give women human rights in 1910 or so, followed by the British and US Suffragettes in 1918!! Men are physically bigger and still enslaving, raping and murdering women every minute of the day world-over. Prostitution is one of the top world businesses, growing huger every day with kidnapped little girls and teens becoming the prized fodder. Nice to know there are women such as you, but you are a rarity. Women are still easy to rape and kill, even you, unless you permanently pack a pistol. Men worldwide still have to be indoctrinated to realize that NONE of them would even be alive if they hadn´t had a mother who carried them in her womb, birthed them in pain no men can stand for 5 minutes (proven in lab testing), and then fed and raised them to independence. NO creature of ANY species would even exist without the care of a mother. Men can´t give birth and have always been too busy out somewhere killing and making wars to care for children. Brave lady, use some of your admirable thinking and join Chime for Change or One Billion Plus founded to protect women and children from male

4:57AM PDT on Jun 13, 2014

Grazie per la condivisione.

1:05AM PDT on Jun 12, 2014

I am not a feminist. I am a woman who is proud and glad to be a woman. i neither want to look up to men nor down on men. i want to be on equal eye height, as we say in switzerland, with our male partners. we need them and want to love them - they need us and want to love us. the rest is war, and it is in ourselves that peace has to begin. so, when a man calls me slut or whore, i remain unimpressed. it is how i receive it that matters, what i make of it, nothing else. so don't even let it in, fellow women!!

11:26AM PDT on Jun 10, 2014

Absolutely sad.

And I might say, as a male feminist - to the person Vasu, also apparently male ... from my perspective, no man has the right to tell any woman what to do with her body.

As to the specifics of abortion ... every culture in history has celebrated birthdays, as opposed to "conception days", an implicit understanding that, effectively, life begins at birth.

If you reject that principal, the where does it begin? With semen and ovaries? Should masturbation me made illegal because it is wasting life?

And before anyone suggest that I am being ridiculous, bear in mind that what I just suggested IS the official Roman Catholic position ... and the reason they are against birth control.

I personally don't like abortion and don't favor it being seen as a great method of birth control or of dealing with unwanted (or undesirable) pregnancy, but it isn't my business or my right to tell any individual woman "You must have that baby" because my opinions and beliefs trump yours.

10:28AM PDT on Jun 10, 2014

This is so crazy! Stop the slut-shaming and misogyny.

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