STFU Parents: How Women Talk About Other Women

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A little over a month ago, Mommyish editor Koa Beck wrote a post about slut-shaming that focused on parents teaching their children how to be respectful of sexually-active (or even just scantily-clad) women and girls. (Check out the illustration of “scantily clad” on The Free Dictionary.) The post resonated with me because I see so much slut-shaming in the comments (and submissions) on STFU, Parents. Of course, many of the people who choose to make demeaning remarks don’t think they’re being demeaning at all. They think their comments are totally justified because if a woman says that a DNA test is being conducted, it “obviously” means that she’s a slut who’s slept with so many men that she has no idea who her baby’s daddy is — as opposed to the DNA test being court-mandated due to the father shirking on his responsibilities. Time and time again, I’ve seen this attitude play out in the comments section of my blog. That’s not to say that some women don’t know who their baby’s father is, because that does happen. What it means is that people in general are much more likely to blame a woman for “not knowing” who her baby’s father is than to assume that a man is submitting to a court-mandated test for falling short on his obligations.

Because this perspective is so widely shared and so prevalent in the comments of the blog, I tend to give women’s issues a lot of thought. Namely, I’m disappointed in the way that women talk about other women. Society has bred so many of us to believe that women are inferior to men, and because of that, we are often the ones in the wrong. We’re “slutty,” we “talk too much,” and we “deserve” anything bad that comes our way simply because we’re women. And I think that sucks, most importantly because it simply isn’t true. But truths aside, I feel that more than ever, as the government wages a war on women’s reproductive rights and efforts at affordable health care, we women should be supporting one another. We should defend each other, not just because it’s irrelevant whether the woman demanding a DNA test is a “slut” or not, but because without the support of our fellow females, who’s going to do the defending? My blog features a lot of women because moms tend to overshare far more than dads, and sometimes I worry that I’m giving the impression that I mock “women” rather than “parent overshare.” The last thing I want to be is part of the problem.

With all this in mind, a submission I received last week struck a chord with me. It’s quite long, but in my opinion it’s worth a read because it shows a few ways that women discuss other women in a damaging way. Specifically, this rant is about the very pregnant Jessica Simpson, who’s been making headlines in the past week with a nude maternity photo in Elle, a couple of late night show guest appearances in six-inch high heels, and the big reveal about her soon-to-be-born daughter’s name, Maxwell. We’ve seen pregnant celebrities discussed in the media countless times before (Beyonce, anyone?!), but for some reason the discussion surrounding Jessica Simpson feels a bit different to me.

Women are just a little more catty, be it because J. Simps isn’t yet married, or because she’s a buxom blonde turned buxom-and-pregnant blonde, or maybe just because she almost named her daughter Zinfandel. Whatever the reason, there’s a sense of jealousy that seems to translate to, “What a (rich/attractive/undeserving) slut.” Personally, I don’t know anyone who would call Jessica Simpson a slut, but on the Internet, there’s a strange backlash to her large-and-in-charge-and-in-stilettos pregnancy that’s been ringing in my ears ever since I received the below submission. I’ve decided to post it here without further comment, but I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Do you consider this discussion to be merely gossip, or do you sense an undercurrent of slut-shaming that’s eroding the way women talk about other women? I’ve made up my mind on the matter, but I’m curious what Mommyish readers have to say. It’s worth noting that the ranter, Michelle, is not a mother herself.

What strikes me as especially interesting about this discussion – and my reaction – is that Jessica Simpson mentioned “slutty brownies” on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, sparking even further debate about the term “slut,” including a new post by Koa. The cycle of slut-shaming seems sadly ironic and points to the importance of changing this cultural norm.