It’s been over twenty years since then-Bikini Kill frontwoman and Riot Grrrl icon Kathleen Hanna scrawled the word SLUT across her stomach. In the years since, there’s been a book called Slut!, countless feminist debates over the reclamation of the word “slut” and, in 2011, thousands of women took to streets across the globe in anti-rape marches called SlutWalks – a reference to how victims of sexual assault are often blamed for the violence done to them.

Like “cunt” and “bitch”, many feminists have long tried to wrest away from its original users the power and harm of the word “slut” and to give it new meaning. Increasingly, though, it’s seeming like we might not succeed any time soon.

Take Leora Tanenbaum: in 2000, she wrote Slut!: Growing up Female with a Bad Reputation chronicling girls’ and women’s experiences with the word. She herself was called a “slut” as a high school student in the 1980s – long before the term “sexual harassment” was coined – and told me “I had no vocabulary to understand what happened.”

Now, 15 years later, Tanenbaum is about to publish another book: I Am Not a Slut because, in part, the sheen of reclaiming “slut” seems to have worn off over the years. When she spoke to women who called themselves “sluts” with a “positive and defiant” spirit, all told her the decision had turned against them later – and all regretted it.

Tanenbaum told me that, when women are in closed circle or close-knit community – like a protest with like-minded people, or among friends who understand the cheeky appropriation of the word – identifying as a “slut” can be empowering. But what inevitably happens, especially in today’s digital culture where revenge porn, stolen pictures and cyber harassment is the norm, is that “it always spills outwards.”

For them it was an amazing feminist experience, but it didn’t last. Every single person I spoke to who intentionally embraced a “slut” persona ended up being treated terribly by people outside of her circle, because the culture we live in is so dominated by the sexual double standard.

But beyond women who tried to reclaim “slut” for themselves, other feminists have rightfully asked why we should all try to reclaim a word with so much baggage – especially a word that impacts different women differently, and brings them a lot more pain than righteous justice.

SlutWalks, for example, are no longer the cause célèbre they once were because some women of color spoke out against the ways in which the protests and the reclamation of “slut” focused on the ability of white women to simultaneously embrace the word and reject its meaning. A group of black female academics, activists, and writers wrote an open letter explaining that “as Black women, we do not have the privilege or the space to call ourselves ‘slut’ without validating the already historically entrenched ideology and recurring messages about what and who the Black woman is.”

Rutgers professor and writer Brittney Cooper wrote at the time, “To organize a movement around the reclamation of a term is in and of itself an act of white privilege.” In response, some SlutWalk organizers changed the name of their protests; today, while a handful of SlutWalks remain, the excitement over the movement has waned noticeably.

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