I’m a Helper

Now that Current.com has been wiped off the face of the Interwebs for a reason that still remains an utter mystery to me, all my “You’re Not Helping” columns have disappeared.  I, however, still have them and think they should be online and accessible in perpetuity – especially since they bring up some pretty important issues. With that said, here’s a “reprint” of the first:

From 6/5/2012:

I’m not sure how I feel about the term “War on Women,” but I do know that if there is one, we – as women – don’t need to be handing the enemy free ammo. It’s time to call out the women – and sometimes the men fighting alongside them – whose actions set us back. Welcome to “You’re Not Helping,” my contribution to the crusade.

you're not helpingRock the Slut Vote, you’re not helping.

I rock. I vote. But when I hear the word “slut,” I cringe. Why? Because it’s a horrible word, derogatory by definition, and you can’t change the actual meaning of a word by owning it. If the word starts off innocuous and somehow acquires an unfavorable tinge over time, it has potential. The word “liberal” comes to mind. There’s nothing wrong with being liberal or being a liberal, but over the years, the right wing has worked hard to hijack the term, and some liberals have come to prefer calling themselves progressive. Today, bold progressives are determined to take back ownership of the liberal label, and it’s doable because liberal didn’t start out as a slur. In fact, it started out as a good word, taking root from the Latin liberalis “of freedom.”

But slut? Not so much. It’s always been a negative. A dirty woman. A promiscuous woman. A slovenly woman. Declaring you want to own a word that inherently means something unflattering is absurd, ill-informed, and feeds right into the hands of the men you’re aiming to disempower. Branding yourself with an insult starts you at a disadvantage, and considering we already make less money and hold fewer positions of power, the last thing we need is another obstacle to equality – let alone a self-imposed one.

According to an ABC News interview with Susan McMillan Emry who founded “Rock the Slut Vote,”

“The site aims to ‘re-appropriate’ the word ‘slut’ so that Limbaugh and other Republicans cannot use it to ‘bully and silence women,’  Emry said. ‘It’s really about taking the power away from that word more than it is about Rush Limbaugh,’ she said. ‘He gave the word the notoriety but we are trying to take it back.”

Rush and his fellow conservative cronies didn’t make “slut” famous. It’s been used for far too long by many a man aiming to control and demean a woman. And frankly, I find Emry’s little “You Might Be A Slut” quiz offensive. I don’t want the word  “slut” anywhere near the life choices and values I believe in.

Emry can call herself whatever she wants. I’m liberal like that. But if she’s truly committed to getting women more politically engaged and inclined to vote – if she’s really as angry as she claims – then she should channel that rage into owning words and actions that intrinsically celebrate women, not disparage them.

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