Alexandra Duncan

Science Fiction. Fantasy. Feminism.

A Mélange of Awful: Celebrity Gossip, Double Standards, and Slut-shaming

I'm supposed to be editing a novel, so I wasn't planning to post again until the end of the Slutshelf Giveaway. However, several things have happened in the meantime, some of them good, some of them prime examples of why we have to keep this conversation going.

I read today that the internet is howling over Willow Smith, 13 (daughter of Will and Jada Smith), posting a photo of herself lying with her head on the knee of actor and family friend Moises Arias, 20, to Instagram. Instead of displaying a reasonable and measured concern about whether or not the two are in a relationship, and therefore whether Arias is taking advantage of her, people on Twitter and across the internet went straight to calling Willow Smith a slut and worse. Melissa Atkins Wardy, the author of Redefining Girly has an excellent deconstruction of the media frenzy in her blog post "Slut Shaming, the Wrong Questions and Scarlet Letters," but I think this one of her most crucial points,

We need to ask ourselves why the headline did not read: MOISES ARIAS, 20, PHOTOGRAPHED SHIRTLESS IN BED WITH TWEEN SINGER

We don’t see headlines like that because that is not how society looks at these situations. In our society, we blame the girl or woman. In any given the story she could be a Lolita, a temptress, a slut. A tease. Asking for it. She was dressed that way. Whore!

Essentially, there are two possibilities here. One is that a 13 year-old girl is being harmed by inappropriate advances from a grown man and the other is that the two people in the picture are simply hanging out in a platonic way. Neither of those situations warrants calling a 13 year-old a slut. In fact, no situation warrants calling a 13 year-old a slut. Let me say that again. NO SITUATION WARRANTS CALLING A 13 YEAR-OLD A SLUT. Period. Full Stop. End of story.

I normally try not to get worked up about celebrity gossip, but this particular piece caught me at a vulnerable time. Someone I know recently went to a religious leader for help with the aftermath of an abusive relationship. But instead of empathy and advice, she ended up slut-shamed and told that she was responsible for her partner's abusive behavior. All I can say is that it is a very, very good thing humans don't have the ability to set things on fire with our minds. My laptop would have been in flames.

The only bright side to this story is that the woman in question didn't believe this slut-shaming BS. This is where we come in. We have to keep reminding each other that there's no such thing as a slut. Not a 13 year-old who post questionable Instagram photos. Not an abuse victim. Not a woman with one sexual partner, or ten, or 100. None of us are sluts.


I know all of you believe this, because this week we topped 1,000 entries on the Slutshelf Giveaway. This means my agent Kate Testerman and I will be donating $1,000 each to the Freedom to Read Foundation. It also means I'll be adding Trish Doller's Where the Stars Still Shine to the prize pack.

More importantly, all of the comments and stories you left showed how common and ridiculous slut-shaming is. We got to see that we are not alone in being judged for dating the "wrong" person, or wearing the "wrong" clothes, or having the "wrong" body type. When we write and read about each others' lives, we cultivate the kind of empathy that makes the world a place worth fighting for. Thank you for helping to make the world that kind of place. Thank you for showing me and each other that none of us are alone. Let's keep this conversation going, even after the giveaway ends.

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