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Slut-Shaming is Still Alive & Well—And I’m Sick Of It

Listening to: Mumford & Sons – Wilder Mind

Mood: Pensive

I despise slut-shaming. I think it’s vile. I have, on many occasions, actually called friends out for labeling a woman a slut because she “slept with that guy.” (I mean, who cares if she did? Is that any of your business)? And while there’s a contingent of people out there might say that “slut” is just a term used for anyone sexually promiscuous or considered to have loose sexual morals (by society’s standards), this term is most often used as an insult against girls or women. It’s meant to degrade them. To make them feel ashamed of their sexuality.

But why am I talking to you about the word “slut” and slut-shaming right now? Because there’s been a lot of talk recently about the portrayal of Black Widow in the new "Avengers: Age of Ultron" movie and the various mentions by actors (specifically Jeremy Renner) calling the character a slut. And I’m sick of reading about stuff like this. Black Widow is just another instance where a strong female character is positioned in the media as nothing more than a flirt, a tease, side-kick with nothing more to offer than her sexuality.

I’m not going to hash out the details of everything Renner recently said—it’s easy to find with a quick Google search—but I will give you his most recent Conan quote:

“’If you slept with four of the six Avengers, no matter how much fun you had, you’d be a slut,’ he said. ‘I’d be a slut.’”

Oh really, would you Renner? I highly doubt it.

Today I read an article by Spencer Kornhaber at The Atlantic that summed up the Black Widow situation best:

“Setting aside the strange idea that it’s hilarious instead of depressingly predictable for a man to go around judging a woman’s sexual activities, and the strange idea that ‘slut’ is a gender-neutral term even though Renner's using it in exactly the same way it's historically been used to condemn women, there’s a nerd-level problem with the actor’s comments. Black Widow hasn’t had sex with four of the six Avengers. She hasn’t had sex with any of them.”

(Go here to read the rest of the article:

It’s important to note that while Renner jokes about Black Widow being a slut, she hasn’t had sex with any of her strong male counterparts. None of them. Well then, why is she labeled a slut? Because she flirts? The Atlantic article even points out that the movie’s director Joss Whedon said he rejects the notion that men and women can’t have platonic relationships. Because they can. They do. Again, why is Black Widow being labeled a slut?

Why can't a woman be friends with a bunch of guys without anyone thinking she’s fucking all of them? Why must we condemn anyone for the choices they make with their bodies, even if she choses to sleep with them all? Why must we make women feel ashamed to take ownership of their bodies and embrace sexuality in the same way men have been doing for centuries? Why is the word “slut” and slut-shaming still so prevalent?

The answers lie in the way women are still portrayed in movies like "Avengers: Age of Ultron." A group of strong men and the sole woman? She’s meant to be the “side piece.” The point of sexual frustration for all the male characters. She’s meant to serve THEIR storylines, not her own. And my friends, that’s just plain bad storytelling.

Guys, it’s 2015. Black Widow is not a slut, whether sheslept with all or none of the other Avengers. She’s a complex, strong, and kickass woman. She deserves to be seen and respected as such, the way we would respect her male counterparts. ALL WOMEN DO.

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