By Kendra Holliday | July 12, 2012 at 7:42 am
When I was a teenager, my mentally ill mom would call me a slut all the time.
My abusive high school boyfriend also called me a slut whenever he wanted to hurt me.
Because I was young and impressionable, they succeeded in wearing me down. I thought I was less of a person and unworthy of love. I decided, well if they keep calling me a slut, I might as well act like one.
I cheated on my boyfriend. I got a job as a stripper. I had sex with lots of different people.
By the time I was 19, my self-esteem was at an all-time low.
I could have kept going downhill and ruined my life, but instead I made the conscious decision to turn things around and triumph. I did not give up, and I surrounded myself with people who energized me.
But you know what? I was the same person I was before.
I was still a slut.
That’s when I realized that being a slut was NOT a bad thing, it was a perfectly good thing! I grabbed hold of that word and OWNED it. I proudly self-identified as a slut for five years before SlutWalk was born. So it was puzzling to me why so many people were offended by the name. Didn’t you get the memo? I kept asking. A slut is not a dirty, bad woman! A slut is a person who is in touch with their sexuality, and that’s GREAT!
If a word hurts, I don’t think it should be banned. I think it should be repurposed like an old coat. Instead of throwing it away, sew some new buttons on it and put a flower in the lapel!
Why are some words capable of triggering people to feel acute visceral anger or pain? What gives those particular words so much power? Years of abuse and misuse? That can be turned around. You CAN turn negative into positive.
And as for the rule that minority groups are allowed to reclaim the offensive word but no one else is allowed to use it? I call bullshit. The whole point of using it liberally is to demystify it, to get used to the word because it’s not going to go away, so the goal is to remove the sting. Someone outside your group WILL say the word, either out of ignorance or hate, and it’s up to you whether you give them the power to psychologically hurt you by using those words.
Take all the people who have chosen to be furious with Dan Savage, and most recently, Laci Green, for saying the word “tranny.” People freaking out about it are causing way more harm than if they were to channel their energy in more positive ways.
What’s your trigger? What word uttered in your presence is like a punch to your gut?
You’d be surprised what some people’s trigger words are. My friend who works at a sex toy store was explaining to a woman how a toy worked, and he used the word “clitoris.” She cringed and winced upon hearing the word, and he apologized, asking, “What word would you like me to use instead?”
Can you believe it? She calls her clit the “front door.”
That doesn’t even make sense! Can’t she address her fear of that word and conquer it, instead of cowering behind misleading euphemisms?
Am I being unrealistic here? Are there some people in this world who have suffered a pain I can’t imagine or have such sensitive personalities that they are absolutely incapable of making the transition from victim to survivor?
If they hear a word that deeply offends them, is it their duty to make those around them suffer as well? Or can they diffuse the situation?
I believe in the power to own your own feelings. You can overcome. You can learn to process the sting of “bad words” so they leave your system quickly. Don’t hang on to them. Let them go. Chew them up and spit them out.
And then laugh and feel empowered.