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Women in North America have been marching over the use of the word "slut".
But why does the word have the power to arouse so much passion? Thousands of women in the US and Canada have marched in response to a Toronto police officer's comment that women should try not to dress like "sluts" to avoid being raped or victimised. As well as opposing the notion that female victims may have helped provoke attacks, many of the women - who call their protests SlutWalks - are attempting to reclaim the word itself. Despite feminism and the sexual revolution, the word slut still reverberates with negative connotations linked to sexual promiscuity, and it is still applied predominantly to women rather than men.
This is part of a growing trend to "reclaim" words that have been given a negative connotation, says TV lexicographer Susie Dent. Psychoanalyst and social critic Susie Orbach says she loves the idea of woman trying to reclaim the world slut "in order to take the sting out of it".
But if we reclaim the word, it simply becomes an issue of 'so what? Many women argue that the very word slut is an embodiment of the double standards employed when discussing the sexual appetites of women and men. Women are described as sluts, while men are often referred in a less derogatory light as "studs" Local sluts today article a "ladies man".
The word has managed to retain its currency, says Susie Dent. Also, it has never deviated from its original roots. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "slut" has a of meanings. From the Middle Ages onwards, it was used to describe "a woman of dirty, slovenly, or untidy habits or appearance".
This is a meaning that many older people would use it for even now. It was used by Thomas Hoccleve in the Letter of Cupid to describe someone who was slovenly or dirty. Samuel Pepys referred to his servant girl as being an "admirable slut" in a playful, affectionate way insays Sutherland. Its alternative meaning describing a "woman of a low or loose character" or a "bold or impudent girl or a hussy" was first cited in the late 15th Century, but it wasn't until the 19th Century that this usage really began to develop.
Charles Dickens, for example, used it in Nicholas Nickleby. Women had gained independence, this might have frightened men because women were encroaching on areas they used to dominate. Women were going out, they were drinking and they were being referred to in a derogatory way.
According to Collins, there was also a spike in the s. The alternative meaning had a slight resurgence in the s, when journalist and broadcaster Katharine Whitehorn identified herself with the "slovenly women" in an article entitled Sluts. Changed stockings in a taxi? Could you try on clothes in any shop, any time, without worrying about your underclothes?
How many things are in the wrong room - cups in the study, boots in the kitchen? The right answers, said Whitehorn, make "you one of us: the miserable, optimistic, misunderstood race of sluts. But today in the UK, it is probably only your grandmother who will continue to use this reference.
Language has the capacity to change, but will the efforts of the women behind the SlutWalk be successful? Growing trend. View comments. Related Internet Links. Collins Language.Local sluts today article
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