The “s” word in this case is “slut,” as well as other words like it. These are words that are never okay to use.
I was just watching Return of the Jedi when a guy friend of mine said about Princess Leia while she was ensconced in the dwelling of the ewoks, “She looks much better when she’s not dressed like a slut.”
There are many things–so many things–wrong with this statement. Let me attempt to outline them.
First, it reduces Carrie Fisher to just a body. I recognize that Star Wars isn’t known for its depth of interesting, intelligent female characters. Unfortunately, Leia doesn’t do that much (let the Star Wars fan rampage begin). Regardless, Carrie Fisher is not just a body. Whether she is being drooled over for her golden bikini or being scoffed at and called a slut it is inappropriate behavior. Carrie Fisher is more than a body. To treat her as an object worthy of exceedingly creepy remarks, or severely judgmental remarks is absolutely wrong.
Second, this attitude, that of calling women dressed in attire one deems immodest, puts all blame on any inappropriate thoughts and feelings men might have on women. It removes from men any responsibility for their actions, which perpetuates rape culture and once again makes women mere objects.
Third, this attitude implies that the female body is inherently sinful. Let me illustrate further: I am a naturally busty girl. My senior year of high school I jumped from a C cup to a DD and moved on to a DDD in college. However, my shoulders, hips, and waist remain quite small. This makes finding well-fitting clothing difficult, especially swimming suits.
I once bought a bathing suit from a website that sold suits designed for busty women. My décolletage was still a little overexposed for my taste, however. Because of this, I used it only once. I was afraid of being the recipient of unwanted attention. But, especially when it came to activities with my uber conservative group of church friends, I was afraid of being judged harshly for something my body did on its own. I shouldn’t feel this way and have since grown to not worry so much about it, recognizing that my body is a miracle and how others judge it is inconsequential. But I knew that many people would judge my large bust and its exposure as sinful, and at the time was loath to deal with it.
My experience watching Return of the Jedi is another example of people judging a woman’s body for its exposure and curves, calling out the woman for her body. This behavior is absolutely wrong.
Fourth, one cannot judge someone based on what they are wearing. I know Leia is a character and not an actual person. However, it isn’t much of a step from calling a character a slut because of what she’s wearing to doing the same to a living person. “Slut” is not a look. It is more of a behavior, but even so it is impossible to fully know and understand all the actions people do. It is never okay to call someone a slut, regardless of circumstance.
A woman wearing revealing clothing does not a slut make. A woman wearing revealing clothing could be anything: a loving mother, successful lawyer, killer gardener, accomplished baker, neurosurgeon, researcher, all of the above, anything. What she is wearing is irrelevant. This is a basic truth we learn in elementary school when our teachers and parents tell us to not mock or exclude fellow students based on what they are wearing. It is the same principle when it comes to judging women for what they are wearing, whether revealing or not.
Let me recap: women are more than bodies. Women are not culpable for any inappropriate feelings men might be having. Women are more than what they wear. The female body is not sinful.
Women are half the world population and deserve to be treated with the same respect as men: as people, not objects.