Feminist Collective Event Discusses Issue of ‘Slut Shaming’

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Feminist Collective Event Discusses Issue of ‘Slut Shaming’

Courtesy of wpunj.edu

Courtesy of wpunj.edu

Courtesy of wpunj.edu

Courtesy of wpunj.edu

Danielle Dix, Contributing Writer

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In honor of National Women’s Month, William Paterson University students and members of the feminist collective, Fatima Kanouni and Briana Goins, hosted a discussion on “The Pain of Slut Shaming” and how it affects women and men alike. The event took place in UC 211 on Wednesday, March 6th at 6 p.m. Kanouni, also a member of William Paterson’s Zeitgeist magazine, said she wanted the event “to be a safe space where we can talk freely, so we can learn from one another.”

The event defined slut shaming as when a person is unfairly ridiculed for their sexual history or attire. One of the main points the event highlighted was the irony of societal trends when defining women’s sexuality versus men’s. The event’s hosts asked why people tend to regard women who are sexually active as “sluts” and “whores” while sexually active men tend to be praised as “players.” According to Kanouni and Goins, this way of thinking is harmful to women and holds them back. Kanouni, in regards to this topic, said, “I’m passionate about changing the overly-critical way we view women, their bodies, and sexual activities.”

The event began with a series of questions. If that question related to the student, they were asked to raise their hand. The first question, “how many of you are scared to walk alone at night” was responded to with all of the women in the room raising their hands. The hosts also asked, “how many of you have been judged for having multiple sexual partners? how many have been judged for what you wore?” and, in contrast, “how many of you have been judged for being virgins?” This interactive format allowed many students to feel comfortable sharing their experiences.

The hosts discussed how a culture of slut shaming can lead to a culture of victim blaming, concerning sexual assault. The flyer advertising the event portrayed a picture of a thong, commemorating how a lawyer in Ireland used the undergarment as evidence of a defense in a rape trial. The lawyer said, “Does the evidence out-rule the possibility that she was attracted to the defendant? You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.”

Similar instances of victim blaming were brought up, such as the sexual assault case against singer R. Kelly. The hosts brought attention to how those who “victim blame” often claim that the person was “asking for it,” due to what they wore or the situation they were in prior to the rape, such as if they were intoxicated or out late at night.

Other topics discussed were sexual education and disproportionate dress codes in schools, pornography and how it caters to men instead of women, and the objectification of women in the media.

Finally, they discussed how together, people can move away from slut shaming and victim blaming. Speaking up and correcting others was the main suggestion to help make a change. One William Paterson student attending the event said that people “need to check their friends and the people around them.”

In regards to the student’s comment, Goins said, “it’s not only the responsibility of women to fight slut-shaming, but men too,” encouraging the men in the room to also speak up. Theresa Bivaletz, campus victims service coordinator and advisor of the feminist collective, commented on the number of men in the audience. “It was exciting to see so many guys willing to learn about slut shaming and sexuality,” Bivaletz said.

Overall, the event brought attention to the negative aspects of slut shaming. “It’s a societal problem and it’s going to take society as a whole to change it,” Kanouni said.

 

From Left to Right: Araya Simmons (Junior, FemCo Secretary), Briana Goins (Senior, FemCo President), Fatima Kanouni (Senior, FemCo Treasurer).