Terms of Endearment Gone Wrong?

In the past few years, female students across college campuses nationwide have adopted the custom of transforming slurs and derogatory terms for women into terms of endearment. �I love you, bitch!� and �I love you, slut!� are increasingly flung around campus between women. You can overhear it in conversations, read them in BlackBerry messages, posted on Facebook walls, and even shouted in passing at your local Thursday night dorm party.

I�m sure we have all called our best gal pal a �slut� without a second thought. We love to jokingly call each other �whores,� �skanks� and other colorful alternatives. So why do we get so pissed off when a guy jokingly calls us the same name?

Because these words now belong to us, advocates of the post third-wave feminist movement argue. We are taking back those words that paralyzed our self-worth and social mobility in the past and reclaiming them as our own, as terms of endearment. According to Ritch Calvin, a women's studies professor at Stony Brook University, the trend toward some young women accepting those words as legitimate forms of endearment is a symptom of third-wave feminism.

Third-wave feminists, who emerged in the 1990s, redefined femininity by allowing women to integrate their own identities and perceptions into what feminism is all about. A major goal for third-wave feminists was to reclaim their own sexuality. "Before the movement, femininity still called for a woman to be non-sexual," Calvin said. "This reinforced gender roles already set by society."

Barbara Risch, a member of the Department of English at the University of Cincinnati, explained that taboo or dirty words are defined according to the affectation and the reactions aroused by the word, not the word’s denotative meaning. There are tons of words that are no longer prohibited by society. I could have sworn that I heard the word, “bitch,” for example, in its entirety on a 7 p.m. sitcom on broadcast television. Society as a whole is more accepting of words once viewed as taboo.

According to Calvin, women generally avoided public acknowledgment of their sexuality before third-wave feminism. Now more than ever, we are more comfortable discussing our sexuality and preferences. This includes not only our actions and the way we dress, but also our speech and how we refer to one another.

Sure, we have the right to use these terms — we worked hard to get to this point in time where we alone can constitute who and what we truly are. Next time you call your friend a female dog, however, stop and think about the message you’re sending. We are confusing others, especially men, into thinking it’s permissible for women to be objectified and mocked.

No matter what your opinion is on the matter, be thankful that we live in a time where it’s even possible to utter such words. I am sure Susan B. Anthony’s toes would cringe if you called her a “slut.”Images courtesy of Textually.org, Thinktankbradenton.wordpress.com

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