Slut shaming, non inclusive feminism isn’t feminism

When I first became interested in the stigma towards lone mothers that pervades Britain and the USA (though not the rest of Europe), I was keen to distance lone mothers from so-called ‘sluts’. But saying ‘not all single mums are sluts’ or ‘they might be lone mothers but at least they’re not prostitutes’ is not only immoral, it totally misses the point. Because if this worldview were to succeed, slut shaming would still exist – it would just be directed at ‘sluts’ and sexworkers/sex industry providers. And when slut shaming exists, any woman can be designated a ‘slut – which means that minority and marginalized women (which includes lone mothers) would be slut-shamed. So while slut shaming of single mothers might decrease, it wouldn’t completely go away.

The blatant stupidity and illogicalness of such an idea is obvious. Dividing women by very blurred, ever-changing lines is silly, especially as women do not remain teenage mothers, lone mothers, sluts or sexworkers forever, but rather move between many different identities as they go through life, whether those identities are socially stigmatised or not. I went from caring about lone mothers only to including teenage mothers, then ‘sluts’, then sexworkers. It was a months-long journey to gradual step-by-step acceptance of what other women were doing with their own bodies. It is sick that a young girl could have thought such things – but it’s sicker that my own society encouraged me in my thoughts, and that feminists today continue the mistakes of my adolescence.

The immorality of such an idea is obvious; it’s not ‘doing feminism’, but simply passing the buck to ‘sluts’ and sexworkers while bolstering traditional conservative patriarchal ideas about female chastity and purity. It is simply enforcing the double standard while passing it off as feminism.

Feminism must include all women. If we label some women as traitors (Caitlin Moran) or their careers as harmful to women (Kat Banyard) or fraudulently claim that some women are unhappy victims who only think they’re choosing to strip, do burlesque dancing or sell sex (every anti-porn and anti-prostitution organization ever) then whatever that is, IT ISN’T FEMINISM.

Feminism speaks for all women. It aims to improve the lives, options and social standing of ALL women. If your feminism doesn’t recognise intersectionality,  ignores disabled women, persecutes trans women, ridicules kinky women, is silent about queer women, or takes away the income and carers of women who sell sexual services, it fails to speak for all women. It fails at feminism. It’s a movement or an ideology, but it isn’t a feminist movement or a feminist ideology.

I was a teenager when I made my mistakes, and I’m making up for them. This blog is a big part of me doing that. It makes me sad to see grown middle-aged educated women and men making the same mistakes I did aged 17. And when these people have significant platforms such as books and broadsheet columns as well as (in regard to organizations campaigning for prostitution to be criminalized to ‘protect’ women) massive funding from right-wing Christians in America, the future of feminism looks bleak. No wonder many women feel alienated from feminism and don’t identify as feminists. No wonder some women feel that the feminist label is too soiled to ever be retrieved, and we should instead have each female minority fight its own corner.

So, people: Please don’t call yourselves feminists. Call yourselves anti-porn . Call yourselves sexwork abolitionists. Call yourselves the ‘I  Hate Transgender People Brigade’. Call yourselves The Advocates For Straight Middle-class White Women Who Adhere To Patriarchal Norms.

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One thought on “Slut shaming, non inclusive feminism isn’t feminism

  1. feimineach January 5, 2013 at 4:54 pm Reply

    I wasn’t familiar with that criticism of Kat Banyard. What was that about, then?

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