Slut Shaming – the new bullying

Summer has arrived and warmer weather means shorter shorts, bikinis and maybe a crop top or two but do you look like a slut?

When walking through campus, going on a night out or just walking down the street, one can’t help but notice the girl wearing shorts or a dress that are just a little “too short”. Maybe her choice of top is more revealing than comfortable and onlookers can’t help but anticipate a wardrobe malfunction that is bound to happen any minute.

But can, and should, onlookers judge this person based on her choice of dress?

Slut shaming is a phenomenon that exists both in reality and on social media where people, mostly woman, are judged for their sexual behaviour or wearing revealing clothing and declared to be sluts regardless of whether or not the allegations are true.

A psychological study titled ‘‘Good Girls’’: Gender, Social Class, and Slut Discourse on Campus done by social psychologists from the University of Michigan and the University of California found that slut shaming or “sexual labels were exchanged fluidly but rarely became stably attached to particular women.”

According to the study, “the boundaries women drew were shaped by status on campus, which was closely linked to class background. High-status women considered the performance of a classy femininity—which relied on economic advantage—as proof that one was not trashy. In contrast, low-status women, mostly from less-affluent backgrounds, emphasized niceness and viewed partying as evidence of sluttiness.”

The boundaries of “sluttiness” created between different classes and the social power given to wealthier groups, means poorer groups were more likely to be slut-shamed, particularly poorer students who tried to enter into higher social circles. Higher social circles allowed  “greater space for sexual experimentation” as a form of “sexual privilege”.

Wits Vuvuzela met with a group of friends to get their opinions about slut shaming on campus, and this is what they had to say:

“If there’s someone who you think is really pretty, it feels justified by saying they’re sleeping around. I think it comes from insecurity” said Ayla Senekal, 1st BA (Fine Arts).

“I believe that the word slut should be a compliment, just think about it, why would anyone feel insulted if you told them that they are enjoying their lives more than you are” said Lindo Mashini, 1st year BA(Music).

“It [slut shaming] comes from when you look at someone and you see something other to you. It’s kind of like it’s wrong because it’s not the same, no matter what it is” said Christy Golding, 1st year BA (Fine Arts).

“I think they should have the right to dress how they want to dress but people are going to think what they’re going to think regardless” said Matthew Chadwick, 1st year BA(Music).

Although the use of slut shaming in a South African context may differ from the study, slut shaming is considered to be a form of bullying that exists in and beyond the classic forms of bullying found in childhood.

University students or adults may have moved on from the days when they bullied the “weird” kid around in the corridors but is passing judgement on how people, but more specifically women dress the adult equivalent?

*This article originally appeared on Wits Vuvuzela

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