Friday, March 9, 2012


Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut because she made the unremarkable admission that she is a single woman who uses birth control.  He ought notta done it.
But he reminded me of something I've been meaning to write about:  the so-called effort among certain lady-circles to "reclaim" the word slut . . . like gay guys have reclaimed "queer" or like the colloquial use of the N-word by some in the African American community.  In reclaiming such epithets, the argument goes, the community strips them of their power.  Does that really work?  Eh . . . .

Look.  I am a feminist.  I am a feminist.  I am a feminist.
We can go to good ol’ for the definition of feminism:  “the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.”
I ascribe to this theory.  So I am a feminist.  I believe in female agency: all of it.  We can be stay at home moms; we can be doctors; we can be lawyers; we can be heads of state; we can be heads of households; we can be CEOs.  We can choose to marry.   We can choose to be single.  We can choose to be mothers.  We can choose to be childless.  We can be biochemists and biology teachers.
And I also believe in female dignity.
And so, I just can’t get behind this idea that if only all of us gals would start calling each other slut, it would strip the term of its power.  Nope, I swear to you that if Rush Limbaugh started calling Barney Frank a queer or used the N-word to describe Barack Obama, those words would be just as powerfully insulting, despite their in-the-clubhouse use by some.  So you can't really "reclaim" words and strip them of their power.  You can use them ironically within your community, but you can't make them not insulting when used by an outsider.
One of the reclamation methods used by certain segments of the lady-sphere is the Slut Walk.  Slut Walks were originally organized in Toronto about a year ago to protest sexual assault in reaction to a statement by a police officer that if women wanted to avoid rape, they shouldn't dress like sluts.  But some of these events have morphed into a more in-your-face sort of assertion of female pride, generally.  As if by parading around in the worst Frederick's of Hollywood has to offer will win us our due respect in society and the workplace....  Behind these boobs lies economic independence!  

I mean, don't get me wrong, a woman's sexy attire does not mean she's asking for a sexual assault.  But I just can't get from, "My short skirt is not a rape invitation," to total female empowerment.  I guess the point is that we can be what we want to be.  We are free women.  We can get our boobs out any time we want.  Slutty, empowered, independent me!  As an expression of outrage, I totally get the Slut Walks.  As an expression of female power, I really don't.

Because we can't – we shouldn't – get our boobs out any time we want.  We live in a society in which people are judged by their looks, men and women.  I’ve touched on this issue before, the fine line between sexy and powerful that women seem to walk.  And I firmly believe that if you want to be respected by your peers – and that includes your female peers – you have to dress and act and talk in a way that commands that respect.  And that means sometimes, you have to put your boobs away when circumstances dictate.  I am not empowered because I have some powerful cleavage.  I am empowered because I am well-educated, articulate, professional, intelligent, witty and quick.  My powerful cleavage may have turned a few heads in its day, but it has never stood up to oral argument in court like my gray, old, wrinkly brain has.  Maybe I just don't get it, but the attempt to reclaim the word slut as a feminist power-word seem so retrograde.  Honestly, it feels juvenile, even fatuous.  These are not two adjectives I wish to be affixed to my sex.

So, frankly, I don’t want to take slut back.  Rush Limbaugh can keep it.  I want that word to continue to have the sort of negative power and the negative implication that it has always had.  I want for Rush Limbaugh to be excoriated every time he says it.  I want people to be embarrassed when they say it and I want others to be shocked when they hear it.  I want for the word not to shut women up, but to inspire women to stand tall and fight back in the face of that ugliness.  Let’s not make that word easy on our ears by being all post-modern about it.  Please.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


I may have mentioned this before:  I love Nate Berkus.

His show will not be renewed for the 2012-2013 season.  This is an epic tragedy in my life.

Nate and I started our budding one-sided romance in February 2011, when I was put on bedrest for gestational hypertension.  Nate was always there for me twice a day:  at 11 a.m. in rerun and at 3 p.m. as a first-run show.  Nate is always warm, always cheerful, always polite, and often quite funny.  Nate definitely does not take Nate too seriously, and that's what's great about Nate.

Nate has taught me about many useful things:  Spanx, Not Your Daughter's Jeans, fashion on a budget, repurposing old stuff to make it seem cool and new, decorating on a budget, ruffles, pops of color.

Nate would love my new shoes:

His show is, fundamentally, a simple, standard daytime TV talk show aimed at the ladies:  a little cooking, a little decorating, a little fashion, a little home maintenance . . . occasionally, some health topic or a celebrity interview.

And, of course, the surprise home makeovers.  My favorite!

Did you know that Nate survived the tsunami in Sri Lanka in 2004?  (Tragically, his boyfriend was lost.)

But I think that what makes Nate's show so special is, it goes without saying, Nate.  Nate is self-effacing, savvy, stylish, and smart.  And for this, I love him so much that I record the show while I am at work so that I can watch it in my gobs of spare time at home.

He was Oprah's designer, you know, and she gave him is start in TV.  In fact, she (well, Harpo Productions) produced his show.

I love him in spite of his connection to this, honestly, very weird seeming rich lady.

I will miss you, Nate.  Others may not have appreciated you, but I always did.  You helped me get through a very frustrating four weeks.  I hope that our paths cross again via some other small-screened medium very soon.  But for now, adieu, my sweet daytime prince.