Stopping Slut-Shaming and Supporting Girls’ Education for International Day of the Girl

Here I am speaking at the International Day of the Girl assembly at my school (photo credit: Lexie Clinton).
Here I am speaking at the International Day of the Girl assembly at my school (photo credit: Lexie Clinton).

Within just a few short weeks, the Fierce and Fabulous: Feminist Women Writers, Artists, and Activists class at my high school has opened my mind immensely.

We started off by thinking why we took this class. Almost everybody said they chose to take it because they wanted to see how feminism is relevant today, and shortly we learned that it very much is. We are well aware that feminism is not dead, nor are any of the issues around it.

International Day of the Girl to me is about celebrating all types of women and girls, locally, nationally, and globally, as well as acknowledging the issues that women and girls face daily. Through looking at the topic of intersectionality, I have realized that issues of gender, in one way or another, are almost guaranteed to coincide with issues of race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, ability, age, geography, and so on.

Through Cherríe Moraga‘s, La Guera, Combahee River Collective‘s A Black Feminist Statement, and Slut: The Play, we were able to see examples and pull together ways in which these different oppressions relate and influence each other.

A way I could more personally relate to the theory of intersectionality was through our intersectionality personal essays. This essay allowed me to explore my own identity in relation to how I live at the intersection of different groups. This essay did in fact move me toward a greater understanding of self and identity. When given the assignment, my first response was that I probably wouldn’t have much too write about, because I am white, and therefore, I am privileged.

While it is true that my racial status does guarantee me to be more privileged than some, I was at first apprehensive that if I explored the ways in which I am oppressed, it would seem as if I am denying my white privilege, when that is not the case. As a woman in a feminism class, it is clear that I can connect with the fight for gender equity, but I have learned that feminism is much more than just gender. I was able to see that gender, age, and race are all very relevant to me and my identity.

This class has exposed me to and influenced me to attend all sorts of events that relate to feminism and its relevance today. Already I have seen Slut: The Play, joined the Stop Slut Coalition, and attended the Girls Speak Out event at the United Nations. I have been provided with so many different opportunities and things to attend in such a short amount of time.

Joining the Stop Slut Coalition is a way I feel I am personally doing something and taking action outside of the classroom. After seeing Slut the Play, I was interested in joining the coalition. The play got me very interested in slut culture and slut shaming and the way it is very relevant in my own community.

I already knew that the word “slut” is frequently used, nonetheless by girls and boys my own age, people I personally know, and even myself before all of this, but the play opened up my eyes to why it really should not be used at all. Of course, I knew that being called a slut was and is never a good thing but I did not realize to what extent it devalues women and girls, and our own right to sexuality.

Besides the obvious reason that it is used as an insult, it is often intended to make girls and women, who have a given and natural right to sexuality as well as the right to embrace it, to feel like it is wrong as soon as they do so. To me, when this word is used, it gives off the impression that the degradation of women and girls is justified, when we know it isn’t. Everyone should be taught and aware that sexuality is a natural right and the word “slut” should not be used to identify someone in any situation.

A huge part of International Day of the Girl is acknowledging the need for girls’ education globally. We began our unit on girls’ education by watching Malala Yousafzai speak at the UN. We learned about her empowering story in which she passionately advocates for women’s education. Education is a right for every child and education for all is a step closer to gender equity.

Education is important because it leads to empowerment, opportunity, confidence. Statistical evidence also proves that education is necessary and often leads to a better future for many girls. Malala and her two friends were shot in the face by the Taliban because they were activists for girls education. She says that the Taliban “thought that the bullet would silence [them], but they failed,” and instead “strength, power, and courage was born.”

Malala is a very inspiring young girl and a good example of how education can empower a girl to change the world and become a leader. The Girls Speak Out event that my high school feminism class and I attended displayed the same advocacy for girls’ education and how girls (and boys) like us should know and enforce our rights, as well as know that as Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin from UNFPA said, “you don’t have to be old and experienced to make a change in the world,”

16 thoughts on “Stopping Slut-Shaming and Supporting Girls’ Education for International Day of the Girl

  1. I am so glad we have had the opportunity to explore different parts of feminism, both on a personal level and in the media. In our everyday lives, we hear the word slut, along with many other words thrown around constantly. People underestimate how powerful terminology and words can be. They can be negative, like throwing around the word slut, or they can be extremely positive like Malala and the girls at the UN’s speeches. I am so happy that we have had the experience of analyzing the terminology and learning about how powerful words can be.

  2. I am also shocked by how quickly things have progressed since our first day in class. But I use that as an example of how much work there is that still needs to be done. I agree 100% about the use of the word slut, as we have learned in class, it’s wrong for a girl to be comfortable with her sexuality, something that as you said is a natural given right. It just further pulls back the rug, that has been hiding the oppression of women for so many years. It saddens me to think that when it comes to words, there are very few ways to protect yourself. The only way to eliminate the issue is to educate people on how deeply words can cut and what they truly mean.

  3. It wasn’t until this year that I learned the meaning of Intersectionality. Never before did I connect feminism with “issues of race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, ability, age, geography, and so on.” Just like you, I never enjoyed a class so much and had the opportunity to expand this knowledge outside of the classroom.

  4. I can definitely relate to your worry that you wouldn’t have much to write about because I kind of felt the same way entering this class because I was already aware of my privilege and thought that maybe my intersectional view wouldn’t be enough since I am white. I agree that this class is hugely eye opening and the amount of opportunities we get are incredible. I think that having all these experiences outside the classroom really broadens our learning experience more than the texts and conversations already do.

  5. I really appreciate this post and you talking about what it’s like to be a white feminist because although you may have more privilege than others, it does not exclude you from experiencing other forces of oppression. I also really like your reflection on the word “slut” and how it “gives off the impression that the degradation of women and girls is justified”.

  6. I am so happy that this class has opened up your mind to feminism and its different nuances. I think its really important that you realized that IDG accepts all types of girls and celebrates them. I also was very interested and inspired by the different events that our class has attended and am also interested in “slut shaming,” I agree that it is a very prevalent issue in our society. So many people use words like slut whore and bitch so nonchalantly without the realization that words are powerful. Audre Lorde taught us that turning silence into action is extremely powerful and this piece shows how much you understand that.

  7. Great start to your post it’s really great to hear that you have been affected by this class so greatly. I also really loved your breakdown of the word “slut” and what that really does to women. It can be hard to live through a world where some people simply don’t understand what that word really does to our society but when people our age break it down for them those people start to see the world in a whole new way. That is one of the key parts to defining the next generation and redefining this generation.

  8. “Of course, I knew that being called a slut was and is never a good thing but I did not realize to what extent it devalues women and girls, and our own right to sexuality.” This line is extremely powerful because there a countless amount of words that can be used in place of the word slut (“nigga,” “zambo,” “chickana” and so many more). You are indirectly exposing how oppression can be covered up and seen as language that is cool, forcing us to reevaluate our word choice and consider other peoples’ feelings. Your piece is also very powerful because you are someone with lots of privilege, its interesting to see someone with privilege say they too are oppressed.

  9. I really enjoyed how you gave your definition of international day of the girl in the post. You seem to have a very good understanding of gender, and how gender roles are portrayed today. Discussing Malala fits perfectly with this topic considering she fights for the rights of females, and their education. Her story is so inspiring, and I believe talking about her was crucial in your blog post. The way you ended your blog post was fitting. “you don’t have to be old and experienced to make a change in the world.”

  10. Ana, I appreciate your analysis of how feminism has helped you view the world differently. When you said, ” I have learned that feminism is much more than just gender,” I could not agree more. You went into more depth about intersectionality and I was able to relate to your feelings about it. Like you, I also quickly learned that feminism is more about just gender, and I am glad that you are able to work towards uncovering the different layers that are in feminism. Additionally, I admire your courage to talk how Slut shaming has affected you personally and your decision to be proactive is amazing!

  11. Ana, I also felt apprehensive when we first started exploring ways I had been oppressed, it was defiantly hard to not have the feeling of “white guilt”.
    Your discovery of the true meaning of the word “slut” was very similar to mine. It is a word that is so commonly used with people our age that no one questions it.
    I love how you say “education is important because it leads to empowerment, opportunity, confidence.” This is another thing I strongly agree with. If everyone was being educated with the things we learn in our feminism class the world would be a much better place.

  12. The intersectionality essay was quite challenging, at first, for me as well. It can be difficult to question the perspective you’ve grown into, especially if starting from the very nature of it; it made me quite uncomfortable,as I started looking deeper within it. Eventually, it was a very interesting and revealing exercise for me. I found your reflection here rather curious: “[…] I was at first apprehensive that if I explored the ways in which I am oppressed, it would seem as if I am denying my white privilege […]”, as I had different considerations on the topic. I would be interested to hear more about how you eventually developed your essay and to what level you feel or felt connected with the powerful language that devalues women and girls.

  13. Coming of age and expressing my sexuality has finally made me, like yourself, realize why this idea of slut shaming culture is so wrong. I really liked the way you expressed that we as women have a natural right to sexuality, so why deny it or reject it? In this culture that we are living in our sexuality, and our bodies have become so taboo that we reject ourselves and condemn the actions and bodies of our fellow girls. I think re owning ourselves and our choices is a major step in taking actions as young women

  14. I love how you include Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin from UNFPA quote when he said, “you don’t have to be old and experienced to make a change in the world,” because I feel like not many people are aware of this. Before taking the feminism class and learning about Malala, I would have never had the courage to make a change until I get “old enough” because I thought no one cared about a young girl speaking up. The level of respect would not be the same as I would hopefully get when I am old. Your blog post explains all the action you take and all the opportunities we have. I hope young people like us read this blog post so they can be aware.

  15. I agree that “feminism is not dead”. It wasn’t until I took the Fierce and Fabulous: Feminist Women Writers, Artists, and Activists class that I realized all the sexist and racist comments. I found myself analyzing the jokes and commentary I used to laugh at. I could also relate to the line when you said, “I have realized that issues of gender, in one way or another, are almost guaranteed to coincide with issues of race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, ability, age, geography, and so on.” Before taking this class I used to think that feminism was just about male acknowledgement and female empowerment. It didn’t occur to me that in order to fully understand the ideology I had to take into consideration different intersections.

  16. I completely agree with you that “education is important because it leads to empowerment, opportunity, confidence” and “is necessary and often leads to a better future for many girls.” I can relate to your experience of at first feeling “apprehensive that if I explored the ways in which I am oppressed, it would seem as if I am denying my white privilege, when that is not the case.” Like you, I was later “able to see that gender, age, and race are all very relevant to me and my identity.” I think you are absolutely right that the word ‘slut’ “is often intended to make girls and women, who have a given and natural right to sexuality as well as the right to embrace it, to feel like it is wrong as soon as they do so,” and “when this word is used, it gives off the impression that the degradation of women and girls is justified, when we know it isn’t.”

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