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The Moral Meter

Slut-shaming exists everyday! But who are the preparators; men, women or the demons inside of us?

Text by: Garima Golchha

Despite the feminist and the sexual revolution, the word ‘slut’ carries derogatory connotations linked to sexual promiscuity and is applied predominantly to women. Even today women are expected to behave or act in a certain way. Hence if they express themselves outside the given social norms, they are judged to have low standards or morals. Clothing, no doubt, has a communicative power, and slut-shaming is mainly perpetuated through a person’s outfit.

In many parts of the world and societies, there is a pre-assumed dress code for women. From school to the workplace, a woman’s outfit is more carefully policed than that of a man. And sometimes women are trapped in a lingo between looking too boring and looking too promiscuous.

“I was in high school. As the new class was about to begin, I had ordered a new uniform. However the tailor made my skirt an inch shorter and the next day at school, a teacher told me not to attend her class. She was infact threatening to call my parents and tell them that I made my skirt shorter on purpose to seek male attention,” shares Shilpa Shrestha, an undergrad student.

Whereas Akansha Basnet, a banker tells, “I was told I look like a grandmother when I wore loose fitting blouse and trousers to work. When I wore a dress the next day, a colleague told me I was being provocative.”

Women’s fashion choices bear the brunt of slut-shaming clearly. Sanna Gurung, an Instagram influencer and blogger shares, “I have come across fake accounts who write derogatory comments on my Instagram posts stating that all I do is expose skin. However, I am unaffected by their judgement and I’ll continue to wear what I want to, be it shorts, backless or low cut dress.” According to Gurung, although the culture of slut-shaming might not come to a halt anytime soon, more and more women are rebelling against it. “I think if we just stop caring what people have to say and wear what we want and as long as we are comfortable and confident in what we wear, it’s nobody else’s business,” she states.

Fashion designer, Tenzin Tseten Bhutia opines, “The more revealing clothes you wear, the more you tend to get shamed. However, why should one be judged on the basis of their clothing choice? I have met women who wear revealing outfits but are in fact more conservative than those who are draped from top to bottom. Clothing is just an illusion. What you visualise might not end up being what you fantasise.” Bhutia assumes from his experience that most women are criticised for their outfits due to the fashion industry’s competitive nature. “Sometimes women all by themselves are responsible for slut-shaming other women. This might be because of jealousy or just to fit in with a group,” he alleges.

Slut-shaming exists in different forms and it can affect an individual in as many ways, from body image to mental health and relationship problems. For instance, Pristi Acharya, Medical Intern shares, “My friend went through depression and borderline personality disorder (BPD) leading to self-harm as a result of being slut-shamed as an adolescent.  High school students have lower coping mechanism and hence they are more susceptible to words and feel the effects of being critically judged to a greater extent.”
Dr. Trishna Ghosh, Clinical Psychologist explains, “There are two general types of coping strategies: problem-focused and emotion-focused. Slut shaming in the past could affect current relationships if you have an emotion-focused coping strategy, causing one to feel very inferior.”  She points out that it’s not men, but mostly women who are perpetrators of slut shaming. “This could be due to a combination of biological, psychological and social factors. The reason as to why people shame others for their behaviours may be a result of an inferiority complex, personality issue, mental disorder or to simply degrade that person out of jealousy.”

Ghosh suggests that if you’ve ever been a victim of slut shaming, disengage and deflect negative comments about yourself and do not internalise the comments. “Understand your self-worth and that your values are not tied to your sexuality. Often, slut shaming is a result of the perpetrators own insecurity,” she concludes.