COLUMN: This Pink Shirt Day, let’s stop with the slut-shaming

It’s the 21st century version of ‘witch,’ our columnist writes

Today we are going to talk about sluts.

Everyone paying attention?

There’s a secret about sluts.

Shhhhhh.

Get real close so you can hear.

There is no such thing as a slut.

Sluts don’t exist.

A slut is a myth.

The reason we are talking about sluts is Pink Shirt Day – an event that encourages people of all ages to stop and think about bullying, how to prevent it and eradicate it from our schools and our communities.

When it comes to bullying girls and women, there are few missiles as effective as the word slut.

Let’s just strip that label down. (And who doesn’t enjoy a romp along the fascinating trail of feminist etymology?)

Slut was first used as an adjective in the fourteenth century by Chaucer. It’s in Canterbury Tales and “sluttish” describes the slovenly appearance of a man.

Uh huh. The first slut was a Lord.

Later the word attached itself to women, but always in reference to untidy housekeeping.

True story. If you’ve seen my bedroom floor or the backseat of my car you know I am a first-class slut, circa 1400 and something.

For the last couple of centuries the word slut has been reserved to attack a woman’s moral character and sexual behaviour.

But it’s not real, it’s just noise, and there is no such thing.

Calling a woman a slut today is no different than throwing out the accusation “witch” in 1690 Salem.

It’s a word used to shut a woman down, because for whatever reason she threatens people.

Maybe she dresses differently, or speaks her mind, or just goes her own way and makes her own choices.

Of course witches weren’t real either. But that didn’t stop the women from being burned at the stake.

Now, we roast them on social media.

There’s research documenting the painful outcomes for many women who attract the slut-designation early in life, because they buy in. They give the word power.

Those include lack of success in education and career, addiction and abusive relationships.

Many years ago I published the newspaper in my hometown of Paris, Ontario.

The company, in a shrewd business deal, purchased an enormous and basically falling-down building smack on the main street for that purpose.

It was four storeys and at one time housed the YMCA, community centre, and gymnasium.

It’s where I played basketball once, and went to Brownie meetings.

While poking around in the basement one afternoon, looking for treasure, I stumbled (actually stumbled) over a large chunk of plaster that had broken off from a wall in the old public washrooms.

The graffiti on it read: For a good time call Andrea, 442-6127 SLUT.

Funny, how seeing the phone number from the house you grew up in can occasion such a visceral reaction.

Stood there in that frigid, moldy place for a long time, wondering if the artifact was worth framing.

The bathroom wall is a lot bigger now, as it encompasses Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

There is no such thing as a slut.

If someone calls you a slut, refuse delivery.

If that doesn’t make you feel better, pull out your wand, cast a spell and turn that person into a toad.

READ MORE: #MeToo at work: Employers play a role in fixing culture of sexual harassment


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