This is a guest post by Zoe Stoenner. Follow Zoe on Twitter.
College can offer independence, freedom, choices and power. However, with these great benefits, responsibility and awareness are critical components to exercise. Entering college, many students are excited because of the college stereotype – college is supposed to be crazy and fun because of the drinking and random hook ups. Many Sundays involve gossip sessions among men and women about other students' nights.
However, sometimes girls can talk about other girls for hours where phrases such as "she went home with that guy who just broke up with his girlfriend," "she’s a slut… she goes out all the time," "she has to be on the fraternity’s sex list," "I would hate to be that girl" and even "did you see what she was wearing last night?" get tossed around. Granted, we use similar expressions about guys, but it is often in a more observational, non-judgmental and less mocking kind of way. Given the situation and topic, many conversations subtly become slut shaming sessions.
In my opinion, girls are tougher and harsher on other girls compared to guys… why is that? Guys somehow seem to "get away with" their sexual freedom and activity. For example, when a boyfriend cheats on the girlfriend, the girlfriend often targets and blames the other woman - not her boyfriend - for the behavior. If a boy is in a relationship and has a good friend who is a girl, that girl is often targeted and looked down upon. This girl-on-girl conduct is not healthy in terms of mental well-being, but also socially.
Another example of double standards is that when a girl sleeps with many guys, she often is labeled a slut, a negative association. However, when a guy sleeps with many girls, he is considered a player, a positive association. These double standards are not only seen and perpetuated in our culture, but also in the media, such as movies, television shows and even music. While everyone in society is arguably guided and consumed by this way of thinking (double standards), using this language of slut shaming and woman blaming is not productive in acquiring overall equality. Language like this only preserves the cattiness and stereotypes between women. Negative associations, mistrust, skepticism and betrayal are also established on a larger societal scale among women. If we stop judging women and discriminating based on an aspect of one’s private life, our own relations and society’s image of women will be healthier and more positive.
Geraldine Estevez’s article “Women Need to Stop Blaming Other Women” discusses similar examples of woman blaming and assuming, confused by the skewed perception women can have of each other. She discusses the double standards, demanding that women hold men more accountable for their actions and behaviors. For example, when a man cheats on his girlfriend, the boyfriend is as much to blame. Clearly in this example, the girlfriend is threatened and insecure, blaming the "other girl" because it is easier to do and it preserves the boyfriend and the relationship. Why are the men always on that pedestal, driving us to maintain the relationship at whatever costs? As women, we often assume the worst and arguably expect the worst. But most of the time, females blame each other to belittle, which is a form of
bullying, in order to feel better about themselves.
Estevez states, “There is no greater critic of women than women, and this needs to change.” I completely agree with this. Instead of feeling threatened and insecure, attacking one another for their qualities, characteristics, assets and everything in between, we need to be praising, applauding and rooting for each other to succeed. Slut shaming and other forms of female blaming are not beneficial or progressive for the fairness, respect and civility of women. If women are allowed to treat other women with judgment, cattiness and offensiveness, then we are also allowing men to do the same to women. Women judging and blaming other women is a powerful and disturbing message to the world than men blaming and judging women. Women as an entity need to be respectful and bonded together in order to achieve true equality and respect from this world.
Sierra Vandervolt’s article “Sexuality is Not Morality” similarly focuses on how as women, we should not be reprimanding other women for their sexual activity (especially behind closed doors) and choices. However, it also discusses how sexuality should not be confused with woman’s morality and character. Like Vandercolt writes, having the right to sexually express oneself is a person’s own personal prerogative – judgment and ridicule is not necessary. However, because of our language, behaviors, attitudes and perceptions, we use a woman’s sexuality to determine their character and values. This is arguably because sexuality and sexual behavior are prominent values and interests in our society, making them notable characteristics about an individual. In addition to character, sexuality is also confused with morality. If a woman doesn’t have sex, she is considered prude. However, if she does have sex, she is labeled as a slut. Unfortunately, both women and men use this type of language to describe women. Perhaps, we all do this because of habit, conformity and tradition. With social media engrained in our daily lives, information and gossip is only transmitted at a faster pace and to more people, perpetuating this type of negative language and the meaning behind it.
Being a woman, I am fully aware that some of us love gossip and knowing “juicy” facts about others, especially in a college setting. We can find simple entertainment and excitement talking about other people. However as a result, we are only perpetuating the double standard of gender sexuality, slut shaming and targeting language and these unhealthy female relationships and associations. What one does in her private and personal life has no influence on who she is and definitely does not solely determine her character and morals. Instead of making assumptions about other women, judging other women and attacking other women, we as women, need to come together to fight the larger social constructs of gender stereotypes and standards, shameful language and negative attention toward female sexuality and sexual activity.
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