A friend and I were having a discussion the other night about his use of the word “hoochie mama.” I saw his need to label women by their sexual activity or lack thereof as discriminatory and offensive. He didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. Our conversation went something like this,
Him: Delilah was a hoochie mama.
Me: If Delilah was a hoochie mama, Sampson was a manwhore.
Him: I don’t appreciate you nitpicking the words I choose to use. I’ve starting saying “hoochie mama” because it’s nicer than the alternative. And this is the only way to teach my girls the consequences of dressing and acting in a certain way.
I’ve been biting my tongue a lot lately when it comes to issues like this because I get so dang tired of arguing with people, but this is what I wanted to say. “Sheesh, for the love of all that’s good and decent, find a way to teach your daughter that doesn’t require labeling her a virgin or a slut!”
Last weekend I read “Ripper, my love” by Glynis Smy. It was a fiction novel about Jack the Ripper and the woman he loved and cherished—a sweet, caring girl who had no idea the man she cared for was a serial killer. The story was told from several points of view, and I found myself reading chapters from the view point of Jack the Ripper himself.
I admit this was disturbing at first. Who wants to be in the head of a villain? But by the end of the story I was grateful to the author for doing it the way she had because it drove home the danger of viewing all women through the virgin/whore lens.
Jack had no problem murdering disreputable women. He believed that by ridding the world of low class, impoverished prostitutes that he was doing society a favor. These women were dirty and poor and vile. He measured their worth by the company they kept and by their promiscuous sexual behavior. Since he determined their value in this way, he felt justified in murdering them even as he frequented whore houses to satisfy his own sexual needs.
I’d love to say that because this book is fiction that it’s not to be taken seriously, but I can’t in good conscience do that. It is exactly this kind of thinking that contributes to rape culture and violence against women.
In Smy’s fabulous debut novel, we grow fond of Jack the Ripper’s love interest, Kitty. She’s a strong, independent, compassionate person, and Jack puts her on a pedestal, treating her with reverence and respect for most of the novel. Needless to say, she is the epitome of the “virgin” in the dreaded virgin/whore dichotomy, but even she has the pedestal yanked out from under her when she doesn’t behave according to Jack’s expectations.