The first time I was called a slut, I was twelve years old. It was a hot day in the end of May, and it never left me. The middle school I attended left the heat on until the first week of June, even though it became warm in the end of April. Feeling uncomfortable with overheating during a long school day, almost all the kids in my grade decided to wear shorts-- only the females were dress coded.
The health teacher would wait at the stairs like a prison guard, policing girls for their outfit choices. Most days my fear of her would lead me to hold my head down and to quickly scamper up the stairs to avoid being humiliated in front of all the kids I knew. If a girl was dress coded, everyone would stand and watches the health teacher made an example out of her. At least she claimed she was making an example, but was it truly example if it happened to at least twenty girls in the period of a school day?
That day in May was my time to be prodded like a dummy. In my quest to avoid all contact, I had failed as I heard her yell "___ come back here!". I was a particularly shy girl who liked to keep my head behind books and my loud friends, and this sort of attention was what I dreaded the most. I slowly descended the tiled stairway back to the health teacher, already looking at me like a predator watching her prey. "Drop your backpack!" I did as asked. She made me turn around for her like an animal, and tears began to prick at my eyes. The other kids just watched like any other day as another young girl was degraded. Finally I had to do the dreaded "fingertip test" where my fingertips had to be higher than the bottom of my shorts or else I received our schools version of a scarlet letter: an ugly pair of fluorescent gym clothes (which they made you pay for as well). Everyone knew what the clothes meant; you were a "slut".
My heart leaped with joy when I passed that fingertip test, I could be free! But unfortunately, my wish was not granted. The teacher said even though I "passed", my shorts still did not pass her inspection. I asked her why and she responded with "That outfit was to distract the boys. You're dressed like a slut." I quickly shook my head. I had no interest in distracting anyone, that was against everything I had done in my time at school. My goal was to get the least attention as possible. And truly if I were to distract boys, the last thing I would wear would be athletic shorts and an oversized t-shirt with the smurfs on it.
I knew it was wrong for her to claim I was distracting the boys and to call me a slut, but during the time I couldn't understand why. In my head I knew I wasn't a slut. From what went around middle schools, a slut was a girl who kissed lots of boys, and I had kissed none. It never dawned on me that even if I fit my twelve year old perception of "slut", it still would have hurt. I quickly was thrown my new outfit, ran to the bathroom and cried. I didn't want anyone to think of me as a slut, but I blamed myself and not the system.
Later on she got the male teachers to help her in her cause, which only made it more uncomfortable. Why was a forty-year-old man sexualizing a group of twelve-year-olds? I left middle school behind with the mindset to hide my body behind baggy sweatshirts and oversized jeans because I never wanted to be called a slut again, but once again my wish was not granted. Boys called girls "sluts", girls called girls "sluts" without any meaning from either commenter. It became a way to describe someone. That girl lost her intelligence, she lost kindness, she lost her dark hair; all she was, was branded as "slut".
It took me a while to realize why the health teacher was wrong. Why was I distracting the boys? Why was it my fault if a boy's test score slipped? Why was I to blame when it was his concentration problem? That's when I realized, that it was all just inequality. Girls would be blamed for the lacks of men, rapists would walk away because a girl's outfit claimed she was "asking for it", and somehow it brought me right back to that old Manhattan middle school's lobby. If I learned anything from that health teacher, it was that I should be ashamed of my body, and that is a lesson I don't accept.
Slut shaming is is the act of criticizing a woman for her dress or her real or presumed sexual activity. While all the other girls and I did not realize it, that was what our old health teacher did. She determined that we were "sluts" just because we did not fit her sexist dress code. I have no problem with a school having a dress code, but it should be followed and equal for both genders. I do have a problem with school authority referring to little girl-- or ANYONE as a slut.
I have learned now what a "slut" really is. The word has no true meaning besides being a tool to make young women hate themselves. Virgins are sluts, non-virgins are sluts, girls who have male friends are sluts, girls who breathe are sluts. There is no male equivalent to "slut" no matter what anyone claims. The term "manwhore" has nowhere near the same negative connotation that slut does. Women live in a constant double standard. They can't have sex because then they're a "whore" but they can't not have sex because then they're labeled a "prude". For men they're praised as a "stud" for having sex, and said to be "saving themselves for the right girl" if they don't. Just as that health teacher did to any girl who broke the dress code, society makes girls who don't fit into their mold into social pariahs.
I am tired of society labeling women with demeaning titles. They only fuel rape culture and ignorant people who truly believe that a woman's outfit is consent. The answer is, it's not. One could elucidate for days, pointing out court case after court case where victims are deemed pursuers, every tabloid condemning women for what they praise men for, judges who ask women why they "can't keep their knees together", and educators who find the need to blame girls for "distracting the boys". Don't they know the truth? They're to blame just as much as the rapists. They taught rapists that it's not their fault. They told them that their victims are just sluts and were asking for attention, harassment, and abuse.ut I won't tolerate that slut shaming. I write my own name tag-- we all write our own name tags, and they sure as hell don't say slut. Society, stop telling me what I am because I am not what you label me.
To all the tall girls, short girls, white girls, black girls, girls of any color, girls who wear makeup, girls who don't, girls who like girls, girls who like boys, and to chubby girls who wear Smurf t-shirts; you are not a slut. You are not a whore, a hoe, a thot, a bitch, a skank, a c--t, asking for it, or any other term that makes you feel small. You are human and deserve respect.