C4SS a bit confused on “slut shaming”?

So I just learned a new term today: “Slut shaming.”  And it’s caused a back and forth among libertarian groups that I’ve found to be interesting as well as a bit worrisome.

It all started when Julie Borowski, known as TokenLibertarianGirl on YouTube, posted a video entitled “Addressing the Lack of Female Libertarians.”  In the video, she pokes fun at the American pop culture.  It is a pop culture that advocates a society where women should engage in casual sex and make vanity, manifested in things like caked-on makeup and designer clothes, the main goal in life.  The pop culture also simultaneously pushes a statist, big government agenda.  Promiscuous sex is trendy and so is the support for government-run healthcare.  In other words, women need to “get with it” (i.e. support government) if they want to be accepted by America.  Borowski’s solution is that if we are to expect women to become libertarians, we need to make the libertarian philosophy more mainstream.

I think this makes perfect sense.  I’ve had plenty of conversations (with both men and women) that my economic and political beliefs don’t make sense because “that’s not how the world works.”  Many people reject ideas because they’re viewed as too extreme.  “Extreme” ideas do not do well in the mainstream regardless of legitimacy.

In my opinion, Borowski’s problems come from an execution issue.  Her portrayal of her views makes it seem as though she wants to force her own personal moral beliefs on others.  A quick browsing of her other videos would show just the opposite.

Bleeding Heart Libertarians quickly caught wind of the video and authors Sarah Skwire and Steve Horwitz took exception to it.  They claim that she “slut shames women who engage in casual sex, off-handedly dismisses the possibility that a libertarian could be pro-choice, and spirals off into an unfocused critique of the luxury goods market.”

Tom Woods didn’t like the article by Bleeding Heart Libertarians.  In a blog post, he referred to them as “the Libertarian Thought Police, Humorless P.C Automaton division.”

Then C4SS.org didn’t like what Woods had to say.  And I don’t like what C4SS.org has to say.

I saw the title, “How Slut Shaming Undermines Liberty,” and I thought, “Uh oh.”  The author of the article, Nathan Goodman, defines slut shaming as follows:

Slut shaming is the denigration of women as unacceptably sexual, often perpetuated using epithets like “slut” and “whore.”  While it is typically associated with shaming women for activities like casual sex, women can be slut shamed for practically anything. Dressing a particular way, having large breasts, flirting, rebuking sexual advances, being bisexual, and more can all be used as the impetus for slut shaming. Any woman can be slut shamed and there is no concrete definition of a “slut,” leading some feminists to argue that it is more accurate to simply refer to slut shaming as “woman hating.

I immediately thought about an article I wrote several weeks back about whether or not I had the right to stand naked on my front lawn.  I claimed that as long as a person doesn’t act or threaten violence against someone by standing naked on their own property, they should be free to do it.  It doesn’t mean that anyone else has to like it—those who do not like it are free to use non-violent methods to try to get the naked individual to change his or her behavior.

So what’s the difference here?  There are a lot of behaviors that I really don’t like and don’t have to accept.  Girls who typically fit what I consider to be the description of “slut” fall into the sort of behaviors I don’t like, so I’m certainly not going to do anything to encourage it!  If I had a friend who started to dress like she was ready to work the corner, I’m going to let her know about it.  She’s absolutely free to and I don’t want to limit her choices, but her choice of behavior will carry with it my association with her (this is not to say, however, that every girl I ever see is fighting to have a chance to get to know me).

I’m not really going to associate myself with any women like that, friend or not.  The way I speak or act with regard that woman is going to show her my disapproval.  I’m going to shun her.  If she feels shame that no one wants to be seen with her because of her actions, then maybe she should consider changing herself if she values their approval.

In a nutshell, tolerate behavior insofar as you do no physical harm to their body or property, but in no way are you required to give any stamp of approval.

Now I don’t mean that you should always seek approval for all of your actions (I sure don’t), but if I’m losing friends and family and can’t seem to connect to new people, then it’s time to reflect on myself.  Depending on how strong I value that behavior, I’m going to stick with it or change it to gain the approval of my peers.

It also needs to be said that things like “rebuking sexual advances” is not a good reason to shame a woman.  My point is that no one should have to accept behavior they find to be unacceptable—including misogynistic behavior by men.  This is my problem with Goodman’s article.

He’s equating things like rebuking sexual advances with a willingness to have sex with anyone that looks at you.  He brings up teenage girls who have committed suicide as a result of bullying endured by schoolmates after, for example, sending a topless picture to a boy.  Kids can be cruel, there’s no doubt about that, and I do think that it’s wrong to bully.  But if my child were being bullied by another child, my solution wouldn’t be to force him to try to be friends with the bully.  This is where the parents need to be involved in the lives of their children.  Unfortunately, tragedy will still happen, and I’m sure the people at C4SS.org aren’t in favor of banning guns because of the Sandy Hook shooting.

Goodman also brings up the shame felt by victims of rape brought on by way people view them (whether real or perceived).  Saying “Get away from me, you floozy” to a girl at a bar is completely different from telling a woman who was raped that it was her fault.

His definition of slut shaming paints with much too broad of a brush.  Throughout the article, he describes many types of this shaming that I agree are completely morally wrong.  Actually, I think the problem is not so much the definition, but the term.  Much of what Goodman describes is flat out misogyny.  So call it misogyny, but don’t include what Borowski is talking about!  And in his defense, Goodman does leave room that this was the case with Borowski:

Now, none of this necessarily proves that Borowski was in the wrong, as her video did not contain the kind of overtly destructive slut shaming discussed here. Indeed, all she said was that media promotes casual sex and that casual sex is not empowering. It could be argued that Borowski was just making a point that many feminist media critics have also made. However, Borowski made her point in a way that easily could also be seen as denigrating women who choose casual sex and makeup, thus furthering a cultural climate of slut shaming.

Yes, as I mentioned, she had a bit of an execution issue, but the same could be said about Goodman’s article.  Even though I’m well aware of the site’s views on freedom of association, I was questioning Goodman’s view on it as I was reading.  He’s invoking a slippery slope.  Criticizing a culture of indiscriminate sex isn’t going to cause people to murder prostitutes* just like my moral disapproval of homosexuality isn’t going to cause me to beat up gay people.

Beat up gay people?  I don’t even want to tell them how to live their lives!

*Before you jump all over me for this, that hyperbole is being used purely for literary reasons, not as a logical trap.

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