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12/22/2014 04:15 pm ET Updated Feb 21, 2015

My Class Speech About Slut-Shaming (And What Happened When I Gave It)

Hello Giggles

By Olivia Emin

In English class, I was recently given the assignment to write a persuasive speech on an issue which I felt passionate about. Gender politics is currently a hot topic at my school, but I felt that slut-shaming and the casual use of the word slut (particularly as an insult) is what I needed to express my views on. I feel the word slut and words related to this are being used too casually by young students at schools. Due to the explicit content, my English teacher felt she had to tell the students they were allowed to leave the classroom if they were too offended by the word slut -- and some boys did. Here is what I said to my fellow peers.

Slut, whore, slag, hoe, sket, and tramp are all words that are now casually used by students in schools. How many of you have been called a slut? How many of you have called someone else a slut?

Throughout history, the definition of the word slut has evolved. In the 17th century, it was used as slang for a kitchen maid, in reference to the hard knots of dough found in bread. (A notable use of this was in Samuel Pepys' diary, where he described his kitchen maid as "an admirable slut who pleases us mightily doing better service than most the others and deserves better wages.") The word slut then developed into slang for a young women who did not keep her room or house tidy. It wasn't until around 1870 when the word slut became a deliberate attack on a woman. At that time, a place where someone put their trash was called a slut-hole. Now, the Urban Dictionary definition of a slut is a woman with the morals of a man.

We need to talk about slut-shaming today -- the act of degrading or mocking a young woman or girl for being sexual, or putting her down for an outfit that is deemed overly provocative. Because slut-shaming can, and should, be stopped.

I first realized slut-shaming had become intolerable when I was collecting homework in class for my teacher. One of my male peers didn't think twice to turn around and call me a slag. This confused me greatly. This hideous word rolled easily off his tongue in a nonchalant and blasé manner.

I am a 14-year-old girl who has been called a slut on multiple occasions. So have several other girls in my school. Girls are shamed for being sexual, and shamed for not being sexual -- they're insulted regardless of what they do or what they don't do. Meanwhile, a boy who professes to have had many sexual encounters is called a player. This is praise (or, at the very least, not insulting in the same way words like slut and prude are meant to be). There is an obvious double standard. My age group assumes that calling a young girl a slut or prude is OK; but it is not OK. It is shaming and demeaning.

We are smashing the confidence of young girls each and every time we stand by and let them be called sluts. When they grow up, this lack of confidence can cause young girls to be shy in their future relationships. Slut-shaming girls has got to stop.

***

During my speech, three young men chose to leave the room, claiming they were offended. I know these boys, and having heard them use these labels "casually" around school, I was shocked at their reaction. Were they trying to ignore the problem? Were they trying to justify their actions? Or do they simply feel, like many others, that this is not an issue in our society?

As a 14-year-old victim of the word slut, I have experienced the negative effects of the term on my self-esteem. And I have learned this is clearly a problem. Why are we turning a blind eye?

I am asking every girl, but also every boy, to stop standing by while this word continues to be hurled around. Instead, we should stand up and put an end to slut-shaming. My generation should be striving towards equality, and this topic simply can't be walked out on.

Olivia Emin is a 14-year-old girl who goes to school in London and lives with her parents, older brother, and two dogs. She is new to writing and got into it because her mom convinced her to share her thoughts with the rest of the world and not just her. Her favorite subject in school is English and she feels lucky to have an inspirational teacher who has taught her to love the subject. She plays hockey for her school and is part of the drama club in her spare time, and although she is new to writing, it is something she loves and she hopes to write more in the future.

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