At the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards Amber Rose and her best girl friend Blac Chyna raised more than a few eyebrows when they made an appearance at the event wearing particularly eye-catching outfits. The two beautiful women had kitted themselves out in matching dresses/jumpsuits that were covered in the obscene words ‘slut’, ‘whore’, ‘bitch’ and ‘golddigger’. To many, this seemed like nothing more than an attempt to gain maximum media attention, but in reality, Amber and Blac Chyna were drawing attention to an extremely important social issue: slut-shaming.
As it stands in modern society, if a man has multiple sexual partners he is congratulated, and promoted to ‘lad’ status. However, if a woman does the same, she is considered a ‘slut’, a ‘whore’, ‘easy’, and essentially dirty, ‘damaged goods’. This frustrating and sexist double standard is something that Amber Rose herself has and still does experience on a daily basis in the abuse that she receives online and in the press. For example, her ex-partner, Kanye West, publically slut-shamed her by suggesting that he had to take ‘30 showers’ after their relationship ended and before Kim Kardashian would let him near her. Whilst there is no doubt that in this particular example West was probably adding to the on-going feud between his sister-in-law Kylie Jenner and Blac Chyna (due to rapper, Tyger), it is an example of the sexist road that has led Rose to strike out against this archaic form of abuse.
The way in which Rose has sought to do so is admirable. She has decided that it is time that we reclaimed words like ‘slut’, ‘whore’ and ‘bitch’ for ourselves, and this is why she wore her striking outfit to the VMA’s. By doing so, the aim is to eradicate or effectively disarm the insult behind the word, rendering it obsolete in its purpose. This does however raise the inevitable question: can you ever reclaim the words ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ to make them positive?
I don’t think the intention behind Rose’s campaign is to reclaim the words so that their entire meaning and use does become positive. But rather, it is to influence the attitude surrounding the words so that their frequent and easy use is challenged and rendered meaningless. As a fellow English Lit friend of mine said when I was discussing the campaign with her, it is more to do with repositioning opinion. ‘Slut’ and ‘whore’ will become words that simply refer to women who have sex frequently – and does that necessarily mean that they are bad? No!
The reclaiming of these words has taken effect in the form of two platforms: a series of SlutWalks, which are marches around the USA in support of sexual equality, and also in a viral video titled ‘Walk of No Shame.’ The former event recently took place in LA on the 3rd October, in which thousands of people rallied together to march in protest against gender inequality, derogatory labelling, sexual violence and victim blaming. The event was a huge success, with Rose and her allies making media headlines around the globe.
The latter is a very funny video staring Orange is the New Black star and vocal feminist, Matt McGorry, in which Rose is seen leaving McGorry’s house after a one night stand and embarking on what can only be described as a ‘stride of pride’, rather than the usual ‘walk of shame’. The people she meets along the way say all sorts of fabulously feminist things such as: “I respect that you enjoyed yourself last night”. (If only!)
At the end, McGorry’s character runs after Rose to tell her that she forgot to leave her number. She responds that, no, she didn’t. This is then, a pure ONS: no strings attached, no “sex must lead to commitment, marriage and babies” kind of situation.
The video in no way endorses promiscuity. But rather the point is to challenge the vilification of female sexuality and instead celebrate it. In the video Rose reaffirms her right to make choices, and reclaims her body as her own and not society’s to label and shame. What we so easily forget when we are being called these derogatory terms by scorned men, or when we experience that deep guilt after a one night stand, is that actually, we are not sluts! Women should not feel ashamed for making the same decisions that men can and do, and we should not feel that we need to commit to a life of celibacy because society deems that the appropriate behaviour for a woman.
Amber Rose really is demonstrating the simplicity of the situation: having a ONS does not make you a slut. It is your body and your choice.
Moreover, where has the idea come from that all women are and should be after long-term committed relationships? Amber Rose is quite rightly suggesting that no actually, if women choose to be single and choose to exercise sexual agency it is by no means a reflection of her loneliness and impending spinsterhood, it is not a sacrifice on the altar of sluthood, but rather it is because that is what she wants to do. A woman enjoying sex – shock horror?! No, says Rose. We are just as sexual as men and that is absolutely fine.
It is so refreshing to see a high profile celebrity using her fame to challenge deep standing social issues. Rose has and is placing the female body, female sexuality, and female sexual agency at the forefront of the social world. It is about time that someone stood up and said yes, women like sex too, and why should they be ashamed of that? Why do women have to conform to out-dated male-centric social values?
This is why I fully support and admire Amber Rose. I support her in the fight for gender equality.