We all know how dangerous internalized misogyny can be. Patriarchal culture can often result in women doing and saying things that aren't very supportive of our fellow ladies. Like slut-shaming. Aside from being completely lame sauce, there is new evidence that this is not simply a gendered phenomenon. 

According to a study published in the June issue of Social Psychology Quarterly, slut-shaming has less to do with sex and more to do with class.

In 2004, sociologists Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton, from the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor and the University of California–Merced, respectively, “occupied a dorm room in a large Midwestern university, regularly interacting with and interviewing 53 women about their attitudes on school, friends, partying and sexuality from the time they moved in as freshman and following up for the next five years.” The initial reaction from Armstrong was the following: 

Surprisingly, women who engaged in less sexual activity were more likely to be publicly labeled a[s] slut[s] than women who engaged in more sexual activity," Armstrong said. "This finding made little sense until we realized that college women also used the term as a way to police class boundaries.

The researchers found that several girls (all of whom were white) divided themselves into categories of Greek v. non-Greek. This ultimately lumped them into “high status” and “low status” sections. The high status group was comprised of girls from affluent homes and were involved in Greek life. The low status group primarily included girls from middle and working class backgrounds who were not involved in Greek life.

Armstrong and Hamilton found that girls from the higher status category would inevitably slut-shame lower category girls to show that they did not "fit in." The term "slut" had become a weapon to differentiate and humiliate certain women along class lines; however, both groups had their own definitions of the word

Generally, "slut" is used in order to “correct” women, or shame them in regard to her sexual behaviors and choices. It relies, however, on a rather vague, misogynistic concept of “sluttiness.” The researchers found that the term "slutty", has little to do with the frequency of sexual activity. Instead, to wealthier girls, sluttiness is associated with being “skanky” and “trashy.” To girls from lower socio-economic backgrounds, sluttiness is equated with materialism and being “cliquey.”  

Either way, the term is used to police women by labeling them with certain attributes that are seen as both inherent and negative.

However, “that’s not to say that slut-shaming was an equal-opportunity sport on this Midwestern campus. While high-status women could successfully establish their “erotic rank” by sexually stigmatizing others, lower-status women had no rank to pull. If a sorority woman called a lower-status woman a slut, it could rise to the level of public stigma (instead of just private sniping, where much of the slut narrative unspooled), but if a lower-status student called a sorority woman a whore, the term came with no social consequences.” The spectrum of power is stacked heavily against the women in the lower-status group, with little opportunity, in the eyes of those who followed and perpetuated this system, to escape their given labels.

Armstrong, who has also published a book the subject, summarizes her goals for the study in the following:  "In a few recent cases, 'slut-shaming' has played a role in the suicides of girls and young women...We hope that our findings are constructively used in campaigns against bullying. We suspect that these campaigns are more likely to be successful if they help young people arrive at deeper understandings of the social processes involved in this type of bullying."

Hopefully this study, and others like it in the future, will help decrease slut-shaming among women who are, lets be honest, better off united against the multitude of other issues facing women, girls and anyone who is fighting the good fight for equality. 

 

Photos via hinudstantimes.com & beautifulchapter.tumblr.com. 

Tagged in: Young Women, social class, sluttiness, slut shaming, research study, Patriarchy, oppression, misogyny, Greek life, college students, college, class, bullying   

The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.


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