In middle school, my daughter Brynn went through a phase when she screened new friends by lending them a book, He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut, by sharp-witted, sharp-tongued blogger Jessica Valenti. Brynn had read He’s a Stud three times. She figured anyone who didn’t like the edgy tone or kick-ass girl-power theme probably wasn’t her type.
Mind you, at the time, Brynn wasn’t really interested in kicking male butt (except in math class) or being a stud or slut either one (except for one aberrant Femme Nikita Halloween costume that had my husband choking on his coffee). She mostly preferred making cookie dough with a neighbor after school and dragging her pet chickens into the house to feed them the crumbs from their baking.
Back then, most girls weren’t interested in being sluts. But that was before sluthood changed: before Rush Limbaugh redefined slut to mean any woman who thinks contraception is her birthright. Before Boobquake and Slutwalk. Before it was deemed more obscene for Gary Trudeau to cartoon about politically-motivated vaginal probes than for the Texas legislature to mandate them. Before ex-Muslim Miriam Namazie published the Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar, which defies both religious and pin-up sensibilities by showing women’s real bodies with no airbrush: Full frontal feminism at its most defiant.
These days, it’s getting rather hard to hold your head high as a female if you aren’t willing to be seen as part of the slut sisterhood.
So, are you in? Ten points says yes:
- I have condoms in my purse – or bra. (1)
- I’m still mad at the Komen foundation for playing politics with women’s health. (1)
- I take the Pill to keep from getting pregnant. (1)
- I take the Pill to manage heavy bleeding or cramps. (1)
- I like sex. (1)
- I have had sex when I didn’t want to get pregnant. (1)
- I dress how I want. (1)
- I think that no means no — no matter how I’m dressed. (2)
- I will decide how many children I have. (1)
- I have a long acting contraceptive (an IUD or implant), which means I’m protected against pregnancy all the time. (3)
- I am unmarried, and I’m not a virgin. (1)
- I wasn’t a virgin on my wedding night. (1)
- I think Jake Gyllenhaal is hot. (3)
- I think any insurance that covers Viagra should cover Pills. (1)
- I stand with Planned Parenthood. (1)
- I DIS-respect religious leaders who protect pedophiles yet call contraception “evil.” (2)
- To me, contraception is a part of basic health care. (1)
- I believe that women aren’t in control of their lives if they aren’t in control of their fertility. (1)
- My cat is a person; a fertilized egg isn’t. (3)
- You can count me among the 1 in 3 women who have had an abortion. (1)
- I told my abortion story at the 1 in 3 Campaign. (3)
- I believe sex can be rich and intimate without marriage. (1)
- I believe marriage can be rich and intimate without children. (1)
- I find people of my own gender sexy. (1)
- Submission (except, maybe, in bed) is not my thing. (2)
- I want a career. (1)
- I have dreams of traveling. (1)
- I think smart, ethical women belong in positions of power. (1)
- I trust myself to make decisions based on my own moral and spiritual values. (2)
- When I testify before congress about contraception, I wear a gray suit instead of a black collar. (10)
In Trudeau’s Doonesbury strip March 13, a Texas lawmaker asks a young woman at a reproductive health clinic, “Do your parents know you’re a slut?” As a mom, I’m proud to say that I feel confident about both of my daughters. It’s mostly an attitude thing. True, they still seem more interested in cookie dough than bringing boys home. And the only testifying they’ve done on a public policy issue had to do with humane treatment of chickens. But their place in the sisterhood was secured – and will be through college – because they found out that a hormonal IUD can make your period go away. I figure any high school female who’s protected against dysmenorrhea and pregnancy for seven years straight must be a budding Georgetown student.
To a generation of young women, feminism is a dirty word. Yesterday my husband Brian took our daughters to hear actress Geena Davis talk about her efforts to promote girl characters in children’s media. (It turns out that in family films, males outnumber females three to one.) After Davis described herself as a feminist a teen in the audience stood up. She asked, “How can you define feminism, in your own words, so that we can feel proud saying it to our friends?” Davis floundered a bit trying to find words that weren’t too, well, feminist. But maybe Rush Limbaugh has done us a favor. Now that we’re all sluts, a little feminism on the side doesn’t sound so bad.
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Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org. Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.