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I Am Not a Slut: Slut-Shaming in the Age of…

I Am Not a Slut: Slut-Shaming in the Age of the Internet

by Leora Tanenbaum

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I Am Not a Slut: Slut-Shaming in the Age of the Internet by Leora Tanenbaum is a highly recommended examination of the meaning of "slut" for young women today.

Young women today face a contradictory landscape. While they can be encourage to explore their sexuality they can also be humiliated and disgraced based on the same actions or no actions at all but simply at the discretion of others. Currently the word “slut” has a dual meaning and can either be used as a positive, creating a sense of esprit de corps between friends or it is a negative, harmful label that can cause pain well into adulthood. Tanenbaum explores the meaning of "slut" in adolescent and college-age women and why the usage of the word is increasing.

Tanenbaum's book includes interviews with many young women. Their stories and experiences are the examples used to document her points. She also examines and distinguishes between the negative acts of slut-bashing and slut-shaming. Slut-bashing is verbal harassment where "a girl is intentionally targeted because she does not adhere to feminine norms. Slut-shaming, on the other hand, is a casual and often indirect form of judgment." Adding to this already volatile mix is the wide variety of social media outlets that can be used to harass and bully, often anonymously.

Women face the ongoing problem that "female body parts are regarded as offensive, female sexual activity is mocked as a competitive sport for guys or preyed upon as an opportunity for coercion, and even young girls are reduced to sexual playthings." It's easy to understand why young women might internalize their own objectification. Tanenbaum makes an argument that, "'Slut' is best regarded as a toxic four-letter word that should be quarantined if not buried." She makes it clear that "we can sharpen awareness that 'slut' is a violent label; when females are called sluts, sexual assault and self-assault all too often lurk nearby. But first there is an important distinction to make here: it’s not female sexuality that is dangerous, but the sexual double standard." I think most women have seen many examples over their lifetime where men have become accustomed to treating women as sexual objects and worthless “sluts.”

This is an empowering examination of what the problem is behind the increased use of the word "slut" and how we can address the societal issues while helping and encouraging young women today. Clearly, anyone who currently has any contact with teenage or college-age women knows that the all-too-common use of the word "slut" needs to be addressed and some encouragement to reassess the use of the word would be beneficial. Since these young women use social media constantly Tanenbaum points out that it could be used as a tool for positive change in contrast to the negative we so often hear about.

Tanenbaum does an excellent job explaining the problem with many examples, and offers some suggested solutions. The book includes in the appendices Do's and Don'ts for Parents of Teenagers and College-Age Children; The Slut-Shaming Self Defense Toolkit; and a list of Resources

Table of Contents:
What’s the Same, What’s Different
Are You a “Good Slut” or a “Bad Slut”?
Slut--Bashing: Face--to--Face and in Cyberspace
Reciprocal Slut--Shaming: Sexual Identity in an Online World
“Good Slut” Containment Strategies
“Bad Slut” Coping Mechanisms
The Rape of a “Slut” Is Rape
Can “Slut” Be Reclaimed?
Creative Solutions to Eliminate “Slut”
Appendix A: Do's and Don'ts for Parents of Teenagers and College-Age Children
Appendix B: The Slut-Shaming Self Defense Toolkit
Appendix C: Resources
Acknowledgments, notes

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of HarperCollins for review purposes.

( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
I read and learned a lot from Slut! when it first came out (covertly, in my middle school library, of course), and so I was excited to see Tanenbaum's follow up book about slut-bashing and -shaming in the internet age. While I'm not sure I agree with all of Tanenbaum's conclusions, I think this is a fine, empathetic book that will be a valuable resource to parents, educators, and teens. ( )
  Tafadhali | Nov 18, 2015 |
The term itself hasn't changed since Leora Tanenbaum wrote her 2000 book Slut!, but the environment surrounding teenagers and young women certainly has. In her new book I Am Not a Slut, Tanenbaum jumps back into similar territory, but this time examines how technology has impacted the sexual double standard set for young men and women and the dangerous use of slut as both a slur and attempted term of endearment. Through interviews with teenagers from a variety of backgrounds, Tanenbaum paints a clear picture of the delicate, and often stressful, balance of navigating sexual identity.

"Unlike their male peers, girls have to perform an exquisitely complicated and contradictory sexual role if they want to be regarded as 'relevant'. Up to a point, they must be a little 'slutty', however they define the term. But they can't be too much so. Girls and young women report that they constantly must prove that they aren't too sexual, too promiscuous, too far off the grid of feminine normalcy, too slutty."

While I appreciated Tanenbaum's deep dig into slut-shaming, I didn't see the shift toward "the age of the internet" I was hoping for. I Am Not a Slut does look at the way slut-shaming has changed with the rise of texting, Facebook and social media, but much of it seems very general and takes up a rather small portion of the text. I certainly understand the desire to keep a book about technology broad in hopes of keeping it relevant, but can't help feeling like there was a missed opportunity to explore some of the more frightening instances of misogyny and the culture of slut-shaming that seems to be ingrained in the internet itself.

Though it wasn't quite what I was expecting to read, I wish I could put a copy of I Am Not a Slut in the hands of every parent. Much of the behavior will be familiar, but the way it is framed and the suggestions Tanenbaum offers are truly priceless in helping young men and women stop the continuing cycle of slut bashing and shaming.

More at rivercityreading.com ( )
  rivercityreading | Aug 10, 2015 |
Tanenbaum poignantly argues for the complete elimination of the word slut by deftly documenting how this hurtful word has negatively affected young girls and women in our social media frenzied world. Tanenbaum argues that with the increasingly rapid use of social media along with access to smart phones and texting (especially among teens), the landscape for how girls and women are viewed by society and how they are perceived by their peers and “friends” has made the label of slut even more damaging and virulent. I Am Not a Slut is an essential contribution to the ever-growing dialogue of feminism, slut-shaming and rape culture. ( )
  MelissaLynn | Dec 9, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 006228259X, Paperback)

The author of the groundbreaking work Slut! explores the phenomenon of slut-shaming in the age of sexting, tweeting, and “liking.” She shows that the sexual double standard is more dangerous than ever before and offers wisdom and strategies for alleviating its destructive effects on young women’s lives.

Young women are encouraged to express themselves sexually. Yet when they do, they are derided as “sluts.” Caught in a double bind of mixed sexual messages, young women are confused. To fulfill the contradictory roles of being sexy but not slutty, they create an “experienced” identity on social media-even if they are not sexually active—while ironically referring to themselves and their friends as “sluts.”

But this strategy can become a weapon used against young women in the hands of peers who circulate rumors and innuendo—elevating age-old slut-shaming to deadly levels, with suicide among bullied teenage girls becoming increasingly common. Now, Leora Tanenbaum revisits her influential work on sexual stereotyping to offer fresh insight into the digital and face-to-face worlds contemporary young women inhabit. She shares her new research, involving interviews with a wide range of teenage girls and young women from a variety of backgrounds as well as parents, educators, and academics. Tanenbaum analyzes the coping mechanisms young women currently use and points them in a new direction to eradicate slut-shaming for good.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:25 -0400)

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