Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Is she a slut?

By Carl 

No, this isn't about Petraeus/Kelley/Broadwell/Allen.

Well, tangentially, because that was the topic that created this chain of thought in my mind. But I want to look at a deeper point.

I don't really care what adults do in the privacy of their own homes and my only real comment on the whole sordid mess is that this was not just two -- or four, or how many -- consenting adults, but entire families, including apparently non-consenting adults and children, so that's a shitty excuse for deciding it should be ignored.

However, it does not affect me so I really don't care about the people involved. What I do care about is words.

A lot of political hay, a lot of what's wrong with American culture in general, is the ambiguity of words.

So I asked myself (and a few other people), "What makes a slut?" If Kelley or Broadwell (or for that matter Petraeus or Allen) had slept with two generals? Four? Where do we draw the line and agree, that's running into slutitude?

You're going to reply, "It doesn't matter, it's an offensive word and should be banned from use." But it's not going to be, and it sure as heck didn't spring out of the muck, in search of a definition.

The way to take the power away from a word is to define it. Let me instruct with an example:

"A liberal application of paint." No one would object to that adjective, "liberal." It's a very factual description of how to apply paint. Let's switch the words around:

"An application of liberal paint."

Now you're forcing this sentence into a context. If I say it, "An application of liberal paint," it comes off as a very benign and even positive sentence.

Now imagine Glenn Beck saying it. Now imagine the imagery he would try to create with it: cheaply made, overpriced, probably government issued, masking an underlying problem of such great depth and profundity that it would require a tax cut for himself. I mean, the wealthy.

"Liberal" used to be a good thing to be. "Conservatism" was defined by its reactionary -- the word that we all used when we wanted to characterize someone negatively -- outlook and its "stuck in the past" first principles. In an era where progress was paramount, conservation was antithetical to society.

Now, in an era that desperately cries out for moving forward, "liberal" is only just starting to emerge from the turtle shell we all withdrew into decades ago, and conservatism is the ideology in the dock.

If you scroll to the top right corner of my blog, you'll find this quote, which I think sums up this column nicely. It is also one of the greatest lines ever written for TV: 

"Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation. Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. Liberals created Medicare. Liberals passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act. What did Conservatives do? They opposed them on every one of those things...every one! So when you try to hurl that label at my feet, 'Liberal,' as if it were something to be ashamed of, something dirty, something to run away from, it won't work, Senator, because I will pick up that label and I will wear it as a badge of honor." -- Matt Santos, The West Wing 

In truth, this quote is probably loosely based on a quote from JFK:

If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal."

By redefining the word, liberal now means something powerful to me. It goes from being an epithet spit out by someone full of bile and hatred and becomes an affirmation of my life and my beliefs.

There have been a few attempts to take back the word "slut." I'm thinking of how many feminist groups have annual "slut walks," protesting how women are portrayed in the media and in culture. My own daughter has participated in these. (She has her dad's temper. I never worry about her.)

It's not enough. When Rush Limbaugh can define the word to apply it to a woman who merely testifies that it would be nice if contraception was maintained as an insurance benefit, despite the religious status of the employer, then the word begs to be defined better.

Because if we don't do it, the Limbaughs of the world surely will. And we fought hard to make liberal an acceptable word again. And I like being a liberal again. 

But then, I'm also a slut, undeniably.

 (Cross-posted at Simply Left Behind.)

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2 Comments:

  • She is a slut when she has sex even though she doesn't "want" to. That lack of self-control is makes her a slut. So once is enough.
    An adulteress is always a slut.

    The press so far has been obnoxiously sexist against Petraeus (again men).

    Paula Broadwell sought out this man, flying herself across the world to go to him. She was obsessed with him before she even left (she states this herself). She targeted him on purpose and compromised national security in the process.
    This has been causally dismissed by Feminist (sexist) media, such as NPR, with the notion "... there's no shortage of powerful men ready to be tempted."
    When a man tempts a susceptible woman... it's called Rape.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:14 AM  

  • Yes, the good general always struck me as a helpless little lamb. How could he ever defend himself against such a shameless slut. Right.

    By Blogger Richard K. Barry, at 8:10 AM  

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