body image, feminism, popular culture, shopping, women's issues

the penn is mightier than the sword

So last November, my family and I went to Las Vegas for my 30th birthday. While planning the trip, I told my mom I didn’t care what else we did or where we stayed or any of that, but I was going to see the magicians Penn & Teller. I have loved them for years and years and years but have never had the chance to see them live. For the uninitiated, Penn is the big tall one while Teller doesn’t talk. At least not on stage. Teller is the magician, Penn is the distraction. To truly understand their awesomeness, I suggest you check them up on YouTube. This one is a personal favorite.

Now, we were able to get tickets. Good tickets. But a few hours before my parents picked me up for the airport, my mom called me and said the show had been cancelled. They weren’t given a reason why, just that Penn was working on some project in New York without an end date and wouldn’t be back in time. I was disappointed, naturally, but it didn’t ruin the trip. Then, a few weeks ago, the cast for the newest Celebrity Apprentice was announced and voila! There was ol’ Penn. I watch an obscene amount of reality TV, including the Donald, so this almost makes up for it.

It should come as no surprise, then, that I follow both Penn and Teller on Twitter. I’m also someone who Tweets to celebrities, never ever expecting a response back. Like earlier this evening, when Penn posted this:

There was no way I was going to let that go, so I directed him to the video I shared with all of you in this post.

And thus began an hour long Twitter conversation with Penn Jillette on why he shouldn’t use the word slut, regardless of his connotation.

Don’t believe me?

Word’s matter, regardless of your own personal intent. Words have context and connotation and do not exist in a vacuum. So, while, yes, you or I or Penn can choose to use a controversial word like Slut and say No, no, it’s okay because I don’t mean it like that, some people do mean it like that. Continuing to use that word, in whatever context, gives someone else permission to use it, too. And their context might be the complete opposite of yours.

But, more to the point, there is no such thing as a slut. They don’t exist. And anyone who tells you different is contributing to slut-shaming and rape culture. The idea of a “slut” is a social construct designed to demean women who enjoy sex. Or look like they enjoy sex. Or look like they might enjoy sex. There’s no magical line that gets crossed. Hell, a woman can be a virgin and still be called a slut. Sluts exist entirely in the minds of men (and women) who are offended by another woman (or man) who owns their body.
Now, there are some, like my good friend Penn here, who want to reclaim the word Slut.

(I’m not going to mention that one time, years ago, where I realized that if I married him my name would be the oh-so-awesome Jill Jillette.)
Personally, I’m torn on the idea of reclaiming the word slut. I can see arguments for both sides, so until I come up with a precise position, I’m not going to judge another’s opinion either way.

So there you have it, folks. This is how I spent my Saturday evening: arguing against slut-shaming with one of my favorite celebrities. I know: I live an odd life. Of course, now whenever I finally get to see them in Vegas, I’ll be able to go up to him after the show and say Hey! I’m that woman on Twitter who told you to stop using the word slut. That being said, the fact that he did take the time to talk about it, even if we don’t agree, makes him that much more awesome in my book.
Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

6 thoughts on “the penn is mightier than the sword”

  1. Actually, slut is an English word that had early denotations of slovenliness and as another term for a kitchen maid. One could be “sluttish” if one was lazy or messy. Thus, regardless of its context, it's not nice. If the man wants to reclaim a word, all right for him, but it's unquestionably misogynistic in any sexual context.


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