Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Slut-Shaming, Work Attire and General Anger

I work part time in a corporate office. Ideally I am trying to find some sort of media related job, anything to do with the media really, but for now it's good money and the people in my area are generally nice.

So, whilst at work the other day at work I overheard a fellow staff member, a woman, remark that 'A lot of people who work here look like prostitutes'.

Obviously she was referring to women, as men are hardly ever referred to be 'looking' like a prostitute, are rarely ever considered when the word is mentioned. 'Prostitute' is a definition reserved solely for women. And the word 'Prostitute' is always used against women as one of the worst kinds of insults. Prostitutes are seen as dirty, disgusting and often associated with drug addiction or social problems.

At first I was horrified that she would make a comment like this in public, then simply angry.

This is slut-shaming, plain and simple. And it's not acceptable.

Slut-shaming is the act of putting down, insulting, making degrading comments about a woman or women because the person doing the shaming deems them a 'slut'. There are many, many problems with this. Firstly, the definition of slut changes from person to person- a 'slut' could simply be a woman who has had more sex than the person doing the shaming thinks acceptable- which could be anything from having sex with one person to having sex with one hundred (or more). But in our society today, when sex is not confined to marriage and available contraception makes it easy to have safe, protected sex, why do we still feel the need to label women (but never men) who have sex?

The quote which best describes a 'slut' for me is taken from Emily Maguire's book, Princesses & Pornstars.

"Ask ten adults to define a slut and you’ll hear things like: a woman who has sex with lots of men; a women who sleeps around; a woman who has casual sex; a woman who flaunts her body. They’ll probably also use words like loose, easy, trashy, cheap and desperate. Someone might say: a woman who has the sexual appetites of a man. No one will say: a mythical creature dreamt up by people who are jealous of or threatened by female sexual expression"

Secondly, slut shaming isn't just confined to putting a woman down for the amount of people she has slept with. It happens for reasons like what happened at my workplace- because a person thinks someone else is dressed more provocatively than what they would like.

Now, of course at different places there are different dress codes, and I agree that in the workplace you should meet that workplace's dress code. In my work place the dress code is 'corporate clothing'. So nothing too casual- like jeans or t-shirts, and no clubbing attire or cocktail dresses. However, I don't think this is much of a problem at my work. I have occasionally seen people dressing a little casual for what I would consider 'corporate', but if their supervisor hasn't decided it's a problem, than it's none of my business. The woman in question, after reflecting on previous conversations with her, seemed to think that wearing high heels and dress to work made her 'feel like a prostitute'.

It all comes down to this- if someone is adhering to the dress code is the responsibility of that person and their supervisor if it becomes a problem. It is not up to anyone else to judge someone because they believe that person is dressing like a slut (I believe there's no such thing, in fact.)

It's hard at times, because women and men today have been raised to judge women based on their looks and sexuality. But it's never okay to call women names simply for the way they dress, or how many people you think they've slept with. It's not okay to put women down for being a 'slut' or calling them a 'prostitute'.

And really, when it comes down to it, before you judge another woman based on her clothing choice, ask yourself one question- Why? Why do I care what that woman is wearing, really? How does it effect me one little bit?

Usually the answer is: it doesn't. So just stop.

5 comments:

  1. I am glad you do make the distinction, since I have worked in two places that had issues with employees who were in direct public contact who dressed very inappropriately for our business. Family members coming to our Hospice offices did not want to see the receptionist's thong and sacral tattoo from her way too low pants and her far too short shirt. And the mail clerk in the conservative jewelry company who literally bought her clothes from Fredericks, including her leopard skin stilettos...
    In both cases the bosses were women who had an extremely hard time discussing the problem directly with the employee, in private. Instead we had group meetings where the dress code was passed out and "no names were mentioned" as everyone stared at the person who was the issue.
    While I agree that accusing someone of dressing "like a hooker" is inappropriate, it is also quite embarrassing to have your client call you and ask you why a prostitute was given their jewelry to deliver!

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