Bad argument the second: The idea that “skank” “Slut” “bitch” and similar words mean something objective

Follwoing up the previous post, let’s tackle that “skank” argument.
Morabito asserts that Fluke is “only speaks for the skanks who don’t want to take responsibility for their choices” (I’d think wanting coverage for birth control indicates a certain degree of responsibility, but that’s not my main point here). Her evidence for labeling her a skank? Apparently the fact she wants to use birth control.
And that’s about as much meaning as skank/slut ever has. It’s a derogatory reference to someone who’s had more sex than the speaker thinks appropriate. Or has a higher number than the speaker. Or someone says they have a high number. Or they dress too sexy or their breasts are too large or … well pretty much anything.
The book Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation by Leora Tanenbaum goes into this in detail. Tanenbaum argues that “slut” isn’t some quantifiable standard, it’s a way for someone to prove their own virtue: “Sure, I’ve slept with a couple of guys, but Suzie’s slept with three! She’s a real slut!”
Or “Can you believe the way she just went up and asked that guy out! I’d feel so embarrassed doing something like that … but that’s because she’s a slut and I’m not!”
Or of course, it’s simply a way to shut up a woman, discredit her or set her outside the pale. Fluke expresses a view Morabito doesn’t like; presto, Fluke is a slut! Why should that disqualify her from having an opinion? She’s a slut! Haven’t you been listening!
A good example is the movie Two Can Play That Game, in which Vivica Fox is trying to get her man more securely under her thumb despite the presence of a sexy rival. To make it quite clear who the Good Girl is, Fox informs us that while she personally thoroughly enjoys sex, she’s not a slutty tramp like her rival. She doesn’t give us any examples. We don’t see any examples. But just throwing out the word is enough to define the boundaries
This crops up a lot in rape cases and debates, where a woman being a “slut” is supposed to make her fair game: She had it coming because she dressed like a tramp, because she’s not a virgin, because she was in a bar, because, because, because
Of course, this is only one of many forms of gender-based insult, such as Bill Maher calling Sarah Palin a “c word.” Those are just as meaningless and just as offensive. There’s plenty of justifiable criticisms you can level at Palin, but a term that amounts to nothing but “You have girl parts!”isn’t a criticism, it’s just an insult based on her being a woman (and no, I don’t think “Dick” or “prick” have the same emotional heft).
As I said in the previous post, for someone in law school, Morabito does a poor job arguing for her position.

3 Comments

Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

3 responses to “Bad argument the second: The idea that “skank” “Slut” “bitch” and similar words mean something objective

  1. Pingback: Why misogyny? « Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Undead Sexist Cliches: Real rapists never get girls pregnant | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: Femmes fatale and bad girls | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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