#TBT: A Girls’ Guide to Slut-Shaming At The Movies

A very brief history of some of my favorite films. Originally published on Thought Catalog and then unpublished at the writer’s request on account of Thought Catalog being a host for racist, sexist and downright horrible writing.


If you grew up in America chances are you’ve either been called a slut or called someone a slut. If you’re a girl, it’s probably both. If you grew up watching movies, as I did, you have been inscribed with images that encourage a slut shaming mentality. Slut shaming is rooted in conventional (biblical) wisdom that values a woman for her purity and deference to male sexual desires as opposed to supporting a woman’s choice to be sexual active in any way and with anyone she pleases. It’s the difference between treating someone as a sexual being versus a sexual object. We all know the difference between a being and an object, right?

In Hollywood films, slut shaming most commonly appears in the form of punishment of the character, like in every horror movie ever made where as soon as a girl has sex she dies, or an overall positioning of the character as bad, dirty or inconsequential. Basically, if you’re a girl and you have sex in a movie you’re either evil, unimportant or are going to die. The slut character has become a norm in films that focus on adolescence just as the term has become common vernacular in high schools across the globe. It seems you can’t have a story about girls lives without also encountering a slut and Hollywood has done it’s best to remind us why it’s not worth it to be “that kind of girl.”


Y’all, remember Shag (1989)? It’s the story of four girls about to graduate high school and spend one last weekend together at the beach. The character of Melaina is a rule breaker from the beginning, a preacher’s daughter who has to sneak out to spend the weekend with her friends. While all the girls are having sexual experiences and awakenings on the trip, Melaina is the only one assertive and confident in her sexual interests. In turn, she is nearly date-raped and “saved” only by the two “girlfriends” of the guy who in a jealous rage Melaina out of his car, force feed her booze and after covering her with shaving cream and toilet paper, abandon her in the woods. Melaina is judged and punished and what about ol’ boy? Oh, he just drove off.

John Tucker Must Die (2006) is the perfect example of how slut shaming is reserved only for women. It is the Hollywood version of the Stud vs. Slut mindfuck. The plot revolves around three women fighting for the attention of one guy who has been secretly dating them all simultaneously. Each girl is a recognizable trope: the smart one, the cheerleader, and, of course, the slut, and John Tucker is the stereotypical embodiment of a “man” – athletic, charming and sexually insatiable. In the scene after all three girls have just broken up with John, the “slut” character, Beth, laments that she “couldn’t even enjoy the break-up sex.” When the other girls turn to her with accusing eyes, or perhaps jealously, Beth proclaims, “Oh my god, I am a slut.” Whether she truly believes it or not is unclear but the message that she should be ashamed of her behavior is not. In an earlier scene, Beth also confesses to compromising her vegetarianism stating, “I can’t believe I ate meat for him.” Not only another tongue in cheek dig at her “sluttiness” it also further affirms how her character is lacking any moral values. You know, because she’s a slut. Beth’s self-identifying as a slut speaks the double bind that girls face when exploring sexuality. Especially from other girls.

One of my favorite scenes in Dazed and Confused (1993), because it’s just so real, is when Simone begs Shavonne to tell her what the other girls have said about her and Darla and promises she won’t get mad. Shavonne relays the gossip: “She called you a bitch and you a slut.” Darla laughs in response to being labeled the bitch while Simone has an immediate defensiveness to being called a slut, which she quickly covers up with a hair flick and breezy “I’m not mad.” This is the nuanced aspect of slut shaming that poisons girl’s relationships to themselves and to each other. (begins at :38)

Simone is hurt that girls who likely engage in the same behavior perceive her as a slut. It also suggests that she is aware of the detrimental affects of the term. Slut isn’t the same as bitch. Anyone can be a bitch, but when someone is calling you a slut they are making a very specific claim about the kind of person you are. And it ain’t good. Nor is the validity of any consequence because sometimes it only takes the allusion of promiscuity, or a certain cup size, to earn the slut badge.

Easy A (2012) is a modern adaptation a classic slut-shaming tale, The Scarlet Letter. And in the end, Olive is a prude in slut’s clothing; she hasn’t actually done the deed with anyone. However, the belief that she has participated in sexual behavior forces a responsibility upon her that culminates in the scene between her and a male friend. Throughout the film, Olive has created this reputation of being sexually active as a farce and then she is faced with a guy who expects her to behave a certain way because he thinks she has behaved that way with others. This is a dangerous area because it is directly related to sexual assault and rape. It’s entitlement. Plain and simple. Here’s the thing, dude. It doesn’t matter if I have had sex with one or a hundred guys before you. I can still not want to sleep with you. Deal with it.


While it is kind of weird to think of slut shaming someone who has not had sex it goes back to the root of the issue: making a negative judgment and devaluing a woman based on her sexual behavior. When Cher questions whether Tai and Josh would be good together in Clueless (1996), Tai is offended. She retorts by attacking Cher for the one thing that now alienates her from her peers: “You’re a virgin who can’t drive.” Simply insulting Cher’s driving ability does not yield the same power as calling into question her attractiveness to the opposite sex. Cher is being shamed either for her choice to not have sex or the fact that no one wants to have sex with her. What’s a girl to do?

Do what, and who, you want – safely and respectfully. Hollywood will catch on.

We Need to Talk About Teen Witch or Happy HallowTween: Teen Witch is Magic!

Originally published by Chicago Literati

Halloween is lurking around the corner and whether you’re a hardcore participant or a sideline observer, the screening of certain iconic films is a time-honored tradition most of us get behind. Though not specific to Halloween, horror movies abound this time of year. I have never been a fan of horror movies. They’re gross! And why are the girls always naked when they die? Any image of a horror movie I try to recollect is just a generic shower scene of naked women being viciously attacked. That happens in all of them, right?

Most people love horror movies. They’re often top grossing on opening weekends, celebrated in marathons on cable TV, and late night film festivals at your local theater are dedicated to them…from moderately horrific like Carrie to deeply disturbing like Saw. But somewhere amongst the gore and grime, the mortification and mutilation of female bodies lives a bedazzled nugget that is Teen Witch.

Released in 1989 and originally pitched as the female companion to Teen Wolf, Teen Witch was a definitive moment marking Hollywood’s realization that teen girls are a market worth serving. Which is how Teen Witch has endeared itself as a cult classic stalwart in the Halloween movie canon. It’s basically a 90-minute music video.

Like most films that fall in the “for girls” or “Chick Flick” category, Teen Witch is still reserved as “other” for most audiences. It’s the story of female interest and desire, although mired by the lens that Hollywood perceives them. Teen girl protagonists are by no means the norm when you look at typical storylines of feature films. Therein lie the film’s flaws and its glory. Nobody really takes it seriously and yet legions of people celebrate it.

Read full article here

The Good Night Ladies Keep Focus on the Feminine

If you haven’t already heard of The Good Night Ladies, now is as good a time as ever to get in the know. This “feminine focused” arts collective has been creating and supporting gender balanced work in Chicago since 2012. The fourth installment of their annual film festival, CUT! Local. Independent. Short Films., opens Friday, October 23 at The Den Theater.

Marks, Rydberg, and Thompson

Founding femmes Jessica Marks, Eve Rydberg and company member, Ashley Thompson, sat down with me over hot toddies at Café Mustache to share the reason The Good Night Ladies exist and how they are working to give space to the stories lost in the gender gap. It was less an interview and more of a dialogue about the lack of feminine presence in the media. Rydberg and Marks met in college and when they joined the “real world” as working actors in Chicago, there was a pattern that quickly emerged in both their experiences.

Jessica Marks: We just kept running into the same things over and over again – the roles that were available for women were always written by men. They were through the male gaze and…

Eve Rydberg: Very often one sided or just inconsequential to the story. Girlfriends, lovers…

JM: The main tale was the white, man’s tale.

ER: So we asked ourselves how could we change that and The Good Night Ladies grew out of that. What can we do? We can produce work. We can facilitate that work and the work of other women to tell their stories.

According to the latest research by the Women’s Media Center, women account for less than 30% of speaking roles in top grossing films and the lack of women as protagonists is representative through every medium of storytelling: films, television, journalism. The Good Night Ladies began with the intention of addressing the lack of representation of women and as such created and supported the work of woman-identified beings. However, their creative process led them to explore more about the Divine Feminine, the sacred feminine energy, the Yin to a world that is predominantly Yang.

JM: The quality of being feminine – where the word feminist and fem come from – its about a set of qualities that we’re trying to promote which are feminine “Yin” qualities: humanisms, empathy, compassion. These things that make women powerful.

Ashley Thompson: As we’ve progressed, it’s about that want and need for collaboration that’s not about getting ahead or ego.

JM: Or a traditional, masculine power model.

ER: We’ve noticed that when we sit down together we work in a very unilateral and circular way. We take a lot of time with things. There’s not a hierarchy – it’s very collaborative. We’re looking at that as a feminine model of working. Women are often pitted against each other or talking about a male character. They are perceived as bitchy or not getting along. But what wave found working with women is that it’s this amazing collaborative experience.

 The final film screening in the CUT! Lineup is Siss & Boo, the story of two friends, 20 something women, who find closure in their friendship through death. Written and directed by Thompson, the film employed an entire female cast and crew except for one male sound guy.

ER: The environment on that set was really amazing to witness. There was a lot of care it was not stressful. People were just taking the time that they needed and checking in with each other. That was really cool to see.

AT: Very rare on film set. A lot of time I feel like people hate their life on set. But, we were an emotional film. To be able to check in with people and have them be there was…rad. It was also a small set and some of us knew each other but a lot of people didn’t and we all just clicked.

JM: There is still a maintaining of this idea that women can’t get along. Like you get a group of women in a room together and there’s going to be a bitch fest. It’s such fucked up socialization that we inherited to keep us away from each other. It’s a different kind of collaboration than when men come together. It’s a gathering of queens. It’s a give and take but it’s also like everyone comes in as equals. It’s like a psychic symbiosis. Were all so intuitive and empathic with each other. It’s really beautiful.

While The Good Night Ladies aim to create and support feminine focused work their mission is not inherently feminist. It’s a distinction they are aware of – that they are artists and not academics. Whatever social or political messages arise out of the work being created the motivation is the telling of a story – an untold or ignored story.

JM: Literally, we are being the change we hope to see. Making things with people who are underrepresented even if it’s just in our own work. Recreating this power model. Our work isn’t inherently political which a lot of feminists take issue with. When we did Vagina we refused to put a dictum on the art that was being made. We just wanted to get some rad women on stage to tell their stories and that was enough. I don’t need to talk about the wage gap because women telling their stories are going tube more effective than trying to impress a point on the audience.

ER: We’re seeking to expand the stories that are told. The media presents such narrow lens through which we see things. How can we expand that lens and make it more accurate? It’s been really exciting for us as artists to use The Good Night Ladies to explore anything and everything were interested in making. None of us went to film school and none of us have any formal training. If you had told me five years ago I would be working in the film industry on regular basis I’d have been surprised. But, we did it once, and it was intriguing and exciting and we saw a need for more voices like ours in the industry. So, here we are.

THE GOOD NIGHT LADIES in collaboration with

The Den Theatre present:

‘CUT! Local. Independent. Short Films.

October 23rd, 24th, 29th & 30th

1333 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL, 60622

Doors at 9pm

Tickets available here: $10 advance $12 door


PopGoesAlicia LIVE! 8/14: Talking Points

PopGoesAlicia LIVE! is back for another fun-filled evening of drinks, food and hilarious dialogue about the intersections of gender, feminism and current pop-cultural events live from The High-Hat Club.

Guests this month are comic Ashley Huck, comic Mikey Manker and host of Grown Folks Stories, Cara Brigandi. Ashley and Mikey will warm us up with short sets and I’ll chat for a bit with Cara about Chicago culture and curating her long running storytelling show before all 3 launch into a fast-paced panel. Come out and join the conversation!

Here’s a preview of some of the topics we’ll be popping off at the mouth about. Click the link to read the original article.

The Vocal Fry Debate. How do we feel about well-known feminist, Naomi Wolf, criticizing girls for the way they talk? NOT COOL. But these critical responses sure are. The Frisky’s Caitlin White argues it’s not Vocal Fry but basic misogyny that is holding women back while, the always on point, Amanda Marcotte, for The Daily Dot, argues that policing the way women speak is just code for telling them to shutup. Where do you stand?

Why It’s Not Cool to Criticize a Female Musician For Not Being ‘Ladylike’” – Great article by friend of the show & Chicago Huffington Post Editor, Joe Erbentraut. The title says it all.

RONDA ROUSEY: Feminist role model or not? The Boston Globe’s Joan Vennochi has some thoughts…What are yours?