Sluts Rock the Shocker
by Lauren, who proudly attempts to live up to this blog's tagline

In her article alternately titled "The Good Ol' Days: When Womanhood Meant Holding a Nickel Between One's Knees," Suzanne Fields writes:
Fashion reflects the times, and modesty and femininity are anachronisms in a world in which "slut" is no longer a slur. The word was popularized by gangsta rappers, linking it with "ho" and other denigrating descriptions of women. The rappers must now find another word. The New York Times reports that it has become a term of endearment between women friends, a "fun word" for ladies who lunch... But despite what bloggers call "the taming of the slut," all does not sound sound in Slursville. Leora Tanenbaum, author of a book called "Slut! Growing Up Female With a Bad Reputation," finds that the word, popular as it may be in certain lunching parties, still inflicts pain and humiliation.
Ho is so 1995, Suzie, and slut was not popularized by gansta rappers. Besides, who needs slut when we have tip drill and twiz? Jesus Christ. I'm taking the hip hop argument away from TownHall.

Amanda is too right about Fields -- Suzanne's primary beef is that slut is no longer effective to stigmatize young women away from seeking their own pleasure, sexual or otherwise. Traditionally anyone who cultivated or maintained a "facade of sexual experience," thanks Tom Wolfe, was thorougly branded. Now that the salad days are over Suzanne is beside herself. Why clutch your pearls over slut when we're still blessed with split tail and gash? Don't stop at shame, girl. Degrade!

I'm waiting for her next article wailing how awful it is that we no longer associate dicks with dork and flailing against the cruelest linguistic joke, that fuck is arguably the most versatile word in the English language. Preserve that from the Spanish-speaking influx, TownHall bitches.

Fields can fart out any explanation she wants for the impending apocalypse, but you and I know that pegging rappers and women for America's moral collapse is more than disingenuous. It's stupid.

Rock, rock, rock the shocker.

Anyway, her lamentation of losing slut as an insult reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend about The Shocker.* Contrary to Fields' assumptions, young people are not a monolith of stupid, and more shocking than the shocker, have been known on occasion to think for themselves, and even to flip, — as in "the bird" — the cultural cues meant to shame them. Reclamation of sexist and other hateful terminology is a topic I usually find horribly dry, but JC's research on The Shocker interested me. Juvenile, yes, but totally amusing.

It boils down to this: terms like slut and others can be terms of endearment and terms of denigration. It depends on:
1) context.
A short list. Boys learn the shocker as a kind of speech in an early homosocial context that seems relatively harmless to them but serves to Other the girls. The girls learn it too, and as they age use it among each other as joke, wink and nod unnecessary. Or as JC says in his paper, "Seven Plus or Minus Two in the Pink: Interrogating 'The Shocker'":
If it is the case that “the shocker” is a symbol for the oppression of women, then why, as I found, would females also use the gesture in a joking manner? ...I would argue that there are two spheres of usage with respect to “the shocker,” divided by their proximity to the imaginary and to the real (which represent varying intensities of iconicity). Similar to Gibbs and Izetts’ discussion of irony, where it is understood to “use contrast to highlight the discrepancy between expectation and reality,” I believe that it is the contrast between what is imaginary and what is real that makes “the shocker” humorous...
Who says a liberal arts degree is a waste of time? Another thing JC ponders is whether or not gestures like the shocker become less shocking as admissions of anal play become more common in both homo- and hetero- sexual narratives.

Words do hurt but genuine humor makes it less so -- taking the stigma away from bastard, bitch, faggot, cunt, queer and motherfucker, and admittedly, all those really, really nasty words that I can't bear to type for public consumption, is, to quote one immoral slut par excellence, "a good thing." We can talk about power hierarchies all the damned day long, and whether or not adopting such speech as our own is really truly empowering blah blah blah, and I will always come to the conclusion that removing hateful, sexist speech from patriarchal conditions is a better move than otherwise.

Plus, it's funny.

See, there's this fantastic thing that my generation is characterized by, from frank-talking bunny t-shirts to shitty Gen X movies, and it's a little thing called irony. So perhaps it is a generational thing, perhaps an idiot thing, that Fields can't understand why a relative dearth in young women's sexual humiliation isn't a bad thing. I, for one, am going to adopt the shocker (or for geeks, The Spocker) in describing people who belong at Club Cool.

The Rude Pundit rocks the shocker; Suzanne Fields kind of blows.

It is arresting when a young woman can chew up your admonitions real good and spit them back out on your shoes. We're making a cultural landscape in which humor is as critical as critical theory. See, Suze, when a young woman rocks the shocker or calls a friend a ho, she is not debasing her friends, herself, or her fellow females. She is giving a healthy ironic nod to the backward-ass throwback ideas that inspire your fake and heady tripe. She isn't mocking anyone but people like you.

* Wikipedia is our friend.