Since when has it become normalized for a woman’s first insult to be labeling other women as sexually permiscuous? This insult appears to be the first weapon in a woman’s arsenal when trying to embarrass another woman. Almost every girl has their own story of when another girl has called them a demeaning sexual name or worse. Maybe it was in middle school, or maybe you were lucky like me and did not have to deal with this kind of verbal assault until college. For whatever reason, it still stands that girls often are their own worst enemy when it comes to these labels of sexual promiscuity.
For the sake of argument and this article specifically, please note that the use of women and men is a generalized term. Of course, I recognize that not all women hurl these defaming insults and not all men label a woman in this derogatory manner.
The idea of girls being pitted against each other is an age old tale. Hollywood has made so many movies about it, and the whole concept of the “good girl” being labeled as sexually promiscuous is prevalent in many of these movies. Take the movie “Easy A,” for example. The premise is that a girl tries to help out a friend by pretending to sleep with him and suddenly becomes the go-to girl to help boys’ sexual reputations, leading to an eventual scandal caused by the girls that view her as competition.
The idea of this movie comes from the common issue that women can never truly win when it comes to their sexuality. For a woman that chooses not to fully embrace her sexuality or does not speak of it openly, she is crucified in public as a prude. However, for the woman that will openly discuss sexuality, she is labeled a harlot that children should not be allowed near because she will ruin their innocence. As each young woman is well aware, these insults are often used and combined into one sentence with a woman described as a prude one second and a harlot the next.
Why are we, as college women, allowing the weaponization of women’s sexualities against us? In a generation that prides itself on acceptance and being aware of each other’s feelings, why are these issues still prevalent? Why are women still propagating these ideas that are clearly meant to limit female sexuality?
With the current climate surrounding women’s health and empowerment, it is baffling to see the clear divide between social movements and the everyday actions of the general female population. According to a narrative published in the North Carolina Medical Journal, “Sexuality is inseparable from sexual health and can refer to sex, gender identities, orientation, pleasure, intimacy, expression, and reproduction.”
From this accepted definition, the support for both orientation and reproductive rights within the media should also apply to the expression of a female’s sexuality. Specifically, when referring to these situations of women being labeled by others in these demeaning ways, it is important to recognize the parallel that this holds with the domineering comments that are historically prevalent from men. Examples of these comments would be insults focusing on sexuality, such as calling a woman a prude or a harlot.
As suggested by Psychology Today, the phenomenon of women calling each other these derogatory names is evidence of women who are uncomfortable in how they see themselves. Moreover, these women could be uncomfortable in how they are perceived by others, leading them to label someone else what they themselves are labeled or how they perceive themselves.
This article also recognizes that these insults aimed at female sexuality are considered the “worst” labels for young women, and this causes the general consensus that embracing sexuality as a woman is an egregious sin.
While insecurity in itself is not bad, when left to fester into tumultuous jealousy, these feelings can become an issue. My mother used to tell me that a young woman can go from looking like a model to resembling Mother Gothel in a few minutes simply because their insecurities take over their personality. An example of this would be a healthy friendship that becomes toxic due to accusations, such as those of sexual promiscuity that are made without evidence. In most of these cases, the insults being made come from the insecurities of the woman making the accusations.
But why are they insecure? Maybe, it is the fact that they don’t know how to properly deal with their emotions. Maybe, it’s because they don’t know how to communicate boundaries and emotions until they are heightened to the breaking point. Maybe, it is because deep down they really do admire something about you, but they don’t know how to tell you and let things be. These facts do not dismiss this unacceptable behavior fueled by insecurities, but they can help people recognize that having unhealthy boundaries and communication skills in relationships can ultimately lead to their demise.
The trick to dealing with unhealthy insecurities is recognizing them. As long as you recognize them in yourself, you will realize that what is happening to you is not your fault. There is no way to fix that other person—they have to help themselves. And while their insecurities are not an excuse for how they are acting, they are an explanation. Sometimes in these situations, you have to develop an explanation as a way of coping with what is happening.
You have to learn to take the sticks and stones someone meant to destroy you with and turn them into a castle (yes, that is a Taylor Swift reference).
The biggest insult and proof that you do not care about the allegations made toward you is to ignore them and the gossip stirring about you. The most important part of this process is to think of yourself. Although you may want revenge, it is important to answer the question of whether the actions you take will lead to closure for you. If they do not, then maybe it isn’t the best way to deal with the rumors.
While figuring out how to deal with these insults that are commonly hurled at females, it is important to recognize why they are utilized and how they affect the female population overall. If college women cannot respect one another enough to avoid weaponizing their sexuality against each other, then how can we expect men to respect us and not use that language as well? To fully support each other as collegiate women, we must learn to not weaponize sexuality as a method insulting one another during arguments.