Op-Ed

illustration by Mico Mazza

illustration by Mico Mazza

Woman-on-woman hating, and why it has to stop

NEW RESEARCH AT the University of Ottawa has concluded that women on campus tend to slut-shame each other on campus.

Slut-shaming is the use of words like “slut” or “whore” to make a woman—sexually active or not—feel ashamed of her appearance, her expression of her sexuality, or her sex life. It tends to put women into two categories: Women are either “sluts” who dress provocatively or have sex with different men, or they’re “pure,” denying their urges by abstaining from natural sexual behaviours.

Whenever I think about slut-shaming, I usually imaging a couple of bros at a bar, drinking beer and talking about the “chicks” they “banged.” I imagine them eyeing a girl they find sexy and attractive, and classifying her as a “slut.”

Granted, maybe my imagination runs rampant with anti-male stereotypes when I picture slut-shaming. But I know these conversations happen; it’s just the society we live in. What I didn’t realize is that women were having these conversations, too: Enviously eyeing and making snarky comments about other women.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised. As women, we’re taught we should cover up and avoid attention. The connection between “loose woman” and “flashy dresser” is assumed to be a straight line, as though someone who sleeps around is unable to put on a turtleneck sweater.

We’re constantly told virginity is somewhat of a commodity, and that we have the option to “save” it or “give it away.” You’ll never hear about a man who “gives” something to a woman when he has sex—unless it’s something you need 10 days of antibiotics to rid yourself of. And it would appear we’re passing these assumptions on through our judgment of the women around us.

These assumptions seriously hurt women in a way they can’t hurt men. I know this goes against every gossipy, self-serving nature we have, but the judging women based on who they’ve slept, or what they’re wearing, must stop.

While part of me wants to scream, “Who cares who they slept with?!” another part of me recognizes that it’s human nature to be curious. But the idea that a woman is somehow immoral because of how she dresses or conducts herself sexually is such a disservice to all females.

When a woman is judged for these things, she is outcast by women and men alike. When a man is judged for following his sexual intuition, he’s given high-fives from his male friends.

Women: If we allow this stereotyping to continue, we put other women and ourselves in a situation where we just can’t win. Calling each other “sluts” sends the message that it’s all right for men to call us sluts. The gender imbalance has got to end, and that starts when women stand up and refuse to be treated—or treat others—unfairly.

—Charlotte Bailey