I was at a party recently and in the course of otherwise reasonable events that took place, one in particular from that night has bothered me ever since.
I was sitting and chatting with some friends when a couple of girls (presumably NOT from my school) drunkenly stumbled through the room. Now don’t get me wrong but on any other Saturday night, this would have seemed like perfectly normal behavior, except on this night these three girls decided to wear wife-beaters that they made themselves with the phrase “Fuck a Ho” written across the front.
I started laughing at what I assumed was a poor, drunken fashion decision on their part (maybe i was laughing from the embarrassment that I was feeling for them or perhaps from being drunk, I don’t know) but i quickly became annoyed when one of the girls asked my friend J.* to take a picture of the three of them together. Seeing the facial expressions of the girls during the picture it quickly became clear that they were not the least bit ashamed of what was scrawled across their chests… ho no (accidental spelling mistake, but i like the pun) they were actually wearin ’em loud, they were wearin ’em proud! I just could not believe that this was happening! As a gender studies major and someone who took a class called ‘GirlPower’ (for crying out loud), something like this just seemed like an affront to everything I had been working to understand/undo. So I took the initiative to question them:
“Excuse me? Aren’t you ashamed to be wearing a shirt like that?”
“Well…” one of the girls began “this shirt isn’t saying that I’M a ho and that you should fuck me.”
“But you’re wearing the shirt!” I retorted “Isn’t that suggesting something?”
Her eyes narrowed, “No, but are YOU suggesting something?”
“Look” I said, trying to be as calm as a person can be in a situation like this, “I’m not trying to suggest anything. All I’m trying to say is that I would not wear a shirt like that because it’s demeaning to women.” Oh great, now I’ve gone and done it… I used a big word…
She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, whatever. That’s not what the shirt means at all. You don’t get it. It’s just a saying, you know, like ‘Hey! Fuck a ho!’” With that she and her friends proceeded to walk towards the door. I wanted to say something back to her, but before I could she had already stumbled out of the room. The truth of the matter is, I didn’t know what she was saying. I have never and probably never will use a phrase like that.
I now think about the younger girls of my generation who listen and sing along to songs like Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous Girl” without even knowing what the word promiscuous means; young teenage girls who walk into Victoria’s Secret and see g-strings with the words “Private Lessons” written across the crotch. But these girls don’t know how to tune out media that demeans women. I remember a particular slogan on a t-shirt sold by Abercrombie & Fitch that read “Who needs brains when you have these?” across the front. I was confused by this; was I supposed to feel empowered? The only thing that the message on the shirt was doing was reinforcing the idea that women are only as good as what their bodies suggest, and it undermined women’s abilities to be smart and capable.
*SIGH* On that night I’m sure that somewhere, some guy now thinks that because those girls wore the ‘Fuck a Ho’ shirts that it is ok to refer to women in derogatory terms (or heaven forbid, actually follow what the shirt says)? I took a deep breathe and tried to rationalize what had just happened, but I couldn’t make sense of it; whatever went on through their minds as they got dressed that evening, I could not figure out.