Remember when Tina Fey (via Mean Girls) told girls everywhere to stop slut-shaming each other? That was the first time I’d ever encountered the idea of slut-shaming, and it really resonated with me. But, for some reason, other people did not take to Fey’s message as much as I did. Slut-shaming is still widely accepted by some people, making women feel bad for their sexual exploits and giving men the opportunity to do the same. And, frankly, that’s bullshit.
How many of you have seen a woman walk down the street on a Saturday or Sunday morning, wearing a tight dress and heels, and pompously thought, ‘walk of shame’? Probably a lot of you. It’s almost a reflex. But, how many times have you thought the same thing when you saw a man walking down the street early on a Sunday morning wearing whatever stereotypical thing men wear to bars? (What do guys even wear out anyway? Collared shirts and too much Axe cologne?) You’ve probably never thought ‘walk of shame’ seeing him, have you?
For some reason, men and women are perceived very differently when it comes to sex in general, but especially when it comes to one night stands. Men are considered players or hot shots for it. Someone, upon seeing aforementioned man walking down the street, might nudge their friend and say, “Ya think that guy scored last night?” And it’s totally no big deal! Women, however, are seen as sluts, whores, and dirty scum who were probably too drunk or too naive to know better. It’s time to stop thinking that. Just stop! Seriously.
What is so shameful about leaving another person’s house in the morning? You don’t know what the person did. Maybe she had sex, but maybe she didn’t. Maybe she fell asleep on her friend’s couch after a super intense rom-com marathon instead of that rumpus party you think she attended. Not that it matters either way, because PSA: women are not asexual. In fact, they have sexual desires just like men. And aside from the fact that they’ve been told to be dainty and innocent since before they hit puberty, a lot of women actually enjoy having sex. Ideally both of the people involved in any situation where you might have thought, ‘walk of shame’ have just had a lovely night of consensual sex. They’re probably feeling pretty good about themselves, too. Why, then, should your judgemental stares and hushed words make them feel bad? Looking at a woman in that situation and calling her walk home shameful is a disservice to women everywhere, and unfortunately, it’s often women who are the guilty of this offense.
There are so many stories of girls who have been made to feel bad by other girls after an evening out that it’s hard to choose just one, but a particularly disturbing story was told to me by one of my good friends. She told me she had gone to her friend’s house across campus to study, but it got so late that she was afraid to walk home alone and the buses had stopped running. Like most girls would do in this situation, she decided to stay the night. Within the first five minutes walking home, though, she encountered a group of girls who stared at her and loudly whispered pointed things about what she must’ve done the night before. My friend had spent the whole night studying, but she spent the whole morning blushing in front of strangers and feeling uncomfortable about staying at her friend’s. She said every girl she passed made her feel dirty, judged, and almost as vulnerable as if she had walked home in the middle of the night.
The term “walk of shame” makes women embarrassed by their sexuality, even when their sexuality isn’t directly on display. It’s inherently negative and sexist, and it implies that a woman’s act of sexuality is something to be ashamed of. For so long women have been told to uphold some high standard of asexuality and innocence when it comes to sex. They are taught to hide their sexuality at all costs, but if you hide it too well, or are uncomfortable at the mention of sexual acts, a woman is considered prudish or boring. However, if she is overly sexual or scantily clad as decided by other people, she is considered whorish. Somehow, women are expected to find the perfect balance in their physicality so no one sees them as too sexual or too chaste, but men are almost never held up to the same standards.
So, when you see a woman walking home after a night on the town, don’t shame her. Remember Tina Fey’s words and consider the fact that if we continue to call out a woman when we think she is displaying an act of sexuality, we are only perpetuating the cycle of oppression feminists have been trying to claw their way out of since the first waves of feminism began, and we are only hurting ourselves. Walk on women, but don’t be ashamed.
University of Michigan, Class of 2016
B.A. Creative Writing and Literature