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How Canadian Women Feel About The Word 'Slut'

03/16/2017 03:30 EDT | Updated 03/16/2017 03:30 EDT

The word “slut” still has the power to devastate.

If you have any doubt, check out Slut The Play, written by high school students who based the play on their own experiences with how the word can tear down a teen's confidence.

The play dissects the often-complicated relationship that girls and women have with the word “slut,” from using it as a playful word among friends, reclaiming it as a symbol of sexual power, or seeing it used to demean and oppress them.

women slut word

The word has had something of a cultural moment in recent years thanks to the now-global SlutWalk, with celebrities like Amber Rose leading parades and wearing an outfit covered in slurs.

But as recent high profile sexual assault verdicts in Canada show, there is still a lot of cultural and institutional confusion about consent, and the ways we use words like “slut” are just one illustration of that often-contradictory state of affairs.

And so, we asked Canadian women what they think of when they hear “slut,” and how they use the word themselves. Watch the video above for even more responses.

Anuja

anuja

"I think the word had a lot more power when I was younger — like in high school, you could destroy a girl by labelling her a 'slut.'

Even in my 20s, I was more sensitive to the word, probably because so many of us were experimenting sexually, dating multiple people, dressing provocatively, etc. Not that any of those things are negative, but if someone wanted to shame you with the word 'slut' — a friend, a guy at a bar, a nasty relative — it was easier to do.

Now, in my 30s, the word feels much less relevant to my life. Nobody really says, 'hey look at that slut buying diapers.’”

Felicity

felicity

"It's not a word I use much; personally I find it kind of boring.

In my day-to-day life I don't hear it used in a harsh way, if I hear it at all. However, I'm aware that it's still weaponized by some, in the vast majority of cases against women and female sexuality/sexual agency.

I have no personal interest in reclaiming the word, but instead in making systematic social changes that undermine the belief system that gives it power.”

Vanessa

vanessa

“Honestly, I've never used the word because I hate the position it puts women in. But you know what? I like the idea of reclaiming, of stripping the word of its power, rendering those who use it with malice, powerless.

I think at this point — at all points —it's about doing everything we possibly can to drown out the voices of those who oppress, by making the voices of the oppressed as loud as we possibly can. I'm into it.”

Alyssa

alyssa

"A 'slut' is woman who does not give a f**k what people have to say about her sexual endeavours. A woman who makes her own decision on who she wants to engage in sexual activity with.

Society has painted such a terrible picture that goes with the word 'slut' — it's pretty disgusting. But for me, hearing that word doesn't upset me. I don't allow it to bother me the way that I feel other women would be bothered by being called that name. Thanks to women like Amber Rose with her SlutWalk — who stand up against slut-shamers — we as women can feel empowered with our bodies, and the right to do what we please with our bodies."

Nat

nat

"I personally have no connection to the word ‘slut.' It's not something I've really had to deal with, or something that I've felt the need to reclaim. That having been said, I still feel like it's incredibly loaded, like any slur — either with negative or positive power, depending on who is wielding it and how.”

Emily

emily

"Indifferent. I use it with friends and generally in a playful way. For guys and girls.”

Alanna

alannah

"I try not to take offence to it because I know who I am and my choices are my own, however, I do not like the word.

Despite the many ways people and even I have dressed up the word, I remember in elementary school, as schoolmates we would taunt each other when someone was dressed what we would deem too scandalous, too grown for their age, too sexy. That has stuck with me.

I do admire the attempts for the word to be used in a playful and empowering way, a way for women to 'reclaim' the word, especially through initiatives like the SlutWalk.

Being a woman, a black woman, living in our patriarchal society, there are so many words rooted in our society used to keep women and people down, so much so that we try to reclaim them, recycle them. Wouldn't people feel amazing if we could popularize more words of love and encouragement? Then maybe we wouldn't feel so inclined to use words like 'slut' and be so insecure as a society, as a whole."

Alicia

alicia

"I typically dislike the word and similar degrading terms aimed at shaming women. In the past I've called people out for using it and made sure they were aware of the offence given. However, I don't mind when it's used between friends in a playful and loving way, which I've seen done many times. The context of its use is the key point.”

Cass

cass

"I have a complicated relationship with the word 'slut.' It means different things depending on when and who says it. For all those people crying 'double standards' — this is just how the English language works. Deal with it.

When the word is thrown at me, it's something that is meant to demonize me and women who unapologetically and enthusiastically express their own sexuality, desires, and fantasies. It is a word that cuts us down, attempts to make us docile, and binds up our bodies and power as something that can only be for someone else.

On the one hand, I wholly embrace and express my sexuality and happily 'slut around' as is my right. As a Southeast Asian woman born in Canada and living in Toronto, I often contend with racist hypersexualization.

Years ago when I was on Tinder, I'd commonly get messages like 'Will you be my first Asian f**k" or 'I've heard Asians have tight...' you get the idea.

So how do you embrace your sexuality in ways that are meaningful to you when white boys and other men of colour have already designated your sexuality as something that belongs to them? Express your sexuality and have men believe that you're a walking stereotype or rebuke your sexuality and their stereotypes, but end up confining your desires.

This is something I'm working on all the time and something I'm sure Asian women think about often."

Christina

christina

"It's all about the intention. Who's saying it, who it's being said to, and the tone of voice all affect my feeling about the word 'slut.'

In the mid-'90s there seemed to be a cultural shift where the word began being used among friends in a playful and somewhat admirable way and works for any gender. That's the use I think is fun. I really dislike, of course, when it's used to cut down a woman. Unfortunately, this seems to be used mostly by other women, particularly when their partner is cheating on them. I can't stand it when women blame other women for men behaving badly.”

Anne of Toronto Feminist Collective, an anonymous collective

tofemco

"To me, 'slut' is a powerful word to reclaim from the patriarchy who use it to degrade and dehumanize us. Slut is used to shame women who express their sexuality outside of the extremely narrow and often contradictory ideals dictated by the patriarchy. It is used to objectify and commodify us so that we can be dehumanized.

It is used to excuse the rape, incest, and violence that women experience. Therefore, in taking back the word from those that would oppress and harm us, we are rejecting the meanings that lead to our demise. When I say 'slut,' I am taking every negative experience I've had with that word and telling it to fuck off. I'm saying I'm a person and I have sex.”

With files from Arti Patel