catwoman_19sm._trashyAMBER LOVE 18-AUG-2014 Words evolve over generations and clearly have different meaning from one culture to another. A benign example of this is how my British friends laugh when I say the word “pants” because to them that’s underwear not “trousers.” As Americans tweet about being “pantsless,” the Brits see that as going commando. Quite different in meaning as you can see. Slanderous words and hate speech are no different. People were quite upset recently in the comics community when there was a GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY scene that had one of the two female characters ridiculed with “whore” by male characters.

Of the criticisms about GotG, the use of the word “whore” came across my Twitter feed the most. More so than any nitpicking of nerd details which usually happens like calling out if a character would be left-handed instead of right-handed; nerds are picky at that minute level sometimes. GotG however brought a wave of perspective to the community that is known for mistakes in continuity and not necessarily good at feminism. When Drax called Gamora a whore, it pissed off a lot of viewers.Guardians-Of-The-Galaxy-Peter-Quill-Gamora-Rocket-enter-Kyln-Prison

One male character calling the only female team member a whore didn’t bother me since I’m incredibly used to seeing the whore label thrown around these days. I see it daily. There are plenty of days where I think, “well there’s another badge of honor for the collection of being a woman.” Gamora’s costume wasn’t even the “slutty” revealing one she wears in the comics. Gunn’s creative team did a great job giving the Guardians at least four different styles through the movie. Movie Gamora’s goth club mini-dress at the end is the only one that could be remotely scandalous but other than being mid-thigh it was buttoned all the way and quite modest compared to comic book counterpart. It wasn’t her clothes that brought out the whore label. Chatter around the web concluded that the prisoners saw Gamora as a sexual object and Drax needed for a thesaurus since his language skills developed as the movie progressed.

gamora statue

Since I’m often talking about the cosplay world, the words “sexy,” “slut,” and “whore” are thrown around with reckless abandon. It was rather overwhelming seeing all the posts using these words about the teenage girl that got drunk and hurt at San Diego Comic Con. People casting the words don’t always do so with any kind of eloquence. It should go without saying but often people need to post reminders to the general public, that words friends say between each other displays a comfort zone that you are necessarily invited to join at that moment in that discussion. One woman can say to her friend, “Let’s get our slut clothes on and go out.” That is not your invitation to use the word slut as a label for either woman. It’s why gay men can be heard playfully calling each other “fag” but that reclamation does not diminish it when the label is delivered in a hurtful way.

I reached out to the closest thing to a language expert I know, LustyGuy from the PolyWeekly Podcast. LustyGuy has an education studying language so I asked if he could enlighten me on the word “whore” and here’s his response:

To the larger topic, that of men using insulting language to harass women and this given scene in Guardians of the Galaxy (haven’t seen it yet but it’s on the list for next weekend) it’s been going on for as long as language has, I have to think. An exercise in demonstrating the speaker’s desire to control others and export their sensibilities.

I grew up the fat kid and can tell stories of many examples of street harassment. Just a few months ago a group of teenage/young adult woman who I jogged past [sic] shrieked, “Euuu! It looks like a woman with a beard.” For myself I’ve generally found ignoring them to be the best bet, and that when I can find compassion for them I’m best off. But that’s likely neither here nor there.

ethical slutOne of the reasons I turned to someone in the sex education community rather than one of my novelist friends is because people like LustyGuy and his partner Cunning Minx recommend books that also discuss this traditionally harmful labeling. Books like THE ETHICAL SLUT, for example, take the labels to a different place in the zeitgeist.

Calling an outfit “slutty” conjures images of something showing a lot of skin or if covered, having suggestive nuances like a full latex suit being unzipped. It’s not necessarily disrespectful to call clothes slutty but it is entirely different when the slang or insult is directed at the person in the clothes. It’s also not an excuse to harass or abuse the person. I was told off by a couple of fellow female cosplayers when I remarked publicly that the perfume booth at a comic con had cosplayers in slutty versions of costumes (like my own bikini version of Wonder Woman, there was a bikini female Loki); part of it was that the costumes weren’t even good and were falling apart but also because it’s where the booth babe argument comes into fiery debate. I didn’t call the girls sluts; I said their costumes were slutty. And they were. They were more adult/mature versions at an all ages convention, a personal pet peeve of mine.

“That’s a slutty costume.” vs. “She’s such a slut.”

It’s not only the cosplay subculture where women face this issue. It happens in regards to street clothes, swimwear and office attire all the time. I’d been sent home from school in junior high for a dress I wore that was too tight and I’ve been accused of my office clothes being inappropriate because some male coworkers were distracted and turned on merely by my presence.

It’s hard for me to feel confident wearing frumpy potato sac style clothing. I want to feel good about myself and a properly fitted outfit changes how I feel. Most of the time, all I want is frumpy comfort, but it looks sloppy and unappealing. Whether people want to ever admit it, appearance matters even when you aren’t a Hooters girl. It’s why thinner people are hired and promoted more often than obese people. There are workplace studies that have investigated this for decades. Forbes has a list already culminated for you. It backs up the theories that attractive people are given more chances at financial success in the workplace. Yet, wearing certain clothes that a woman feels make her attractive opens the gate for her to be labeled a whore.

amber cleavage white suit

Let’s not forget the woman who was fired in 2013 because her boss’ wife felt she was “too hot” to be her husband’s dental assistant. That woman wore medical scrubs. SCRUBS. If you don’t know, real scrubs are among the least sexy outfit you can put on because they are not the “sexy nurse” things you find at Halloween time. Wearing what made her feel good about herself made her responsible for the gaze of her boss which his wife didn’t like. She went on to accuse them of having an affair because obviously, isn’t that what all sexy slutty women do? The Iowa State Supreme Court felt the dentist was within his right to fire her. That Court, by the way, was all men.

On the convention floor, this perception of being a whore can get you removed from a convention depending on who you are. Some booths are allowed to have their babes while others are not. Some cosplayers on the con floor are told to cover up while others are not.

“Whore” also evolved like the words “porn” and “geek” to be disassociated from the sexual connotations. I’m annoyed when internet filters block anything with these words; it’s entirely possible I’d like to read blogs about “book porn” or “media whores” or a fan would “whore themselves out to get the Comic Con limited edition action figure of Captain Mal.” It’s a reference to liking something so much you would do anything to experience it or to have possession of it.

After finding public personalities like Cunning Minx from PolyWeekly Podcast and reading Dossie Easton’s THE ETHICAL SLUT, I am part of the population that can accept slut and whore for what they are and still not find anything wrong with it when it is self-identified. The problem is in the inflection with which they are delivered by others.