Words can denote aggression and mean different things to individuals. Words when used to hurt groups can even perpetuate systems of power in society. Also, the same word can have two completely different meanings based on gender and experience.
Swear words do a variety of things in our culture. They display pain, anger, contempt, and a multitude of others things. My focus, though, will be on when they are used to cause harm. Words such as bitch, slut, and whore are used to categorize and demean women. Power structures in today’s society, consisting of the white male at the top, use the word “slut” toward women in order to diminish her choices of having sex with men and to allude to her unappealing persona. On the other hand, men use the word “prude” to belittle a woman because she doesn’t give what he is asking for sexually. The use of these words create a harsh undertone and carry demeaning aspects that allude a negative connotation. These words also create a Madonna-Whore Complex that keeps women in a position of figuring out their sexuality instead of being able to further their lives. Not only are women left being mistreated by society, but they now possess a deeper pain from these words.
We know that these words being told to women by men enforce aggression and pain, but why do women use “slut” and other words like “bitch” in a positive dialect to refer to their other female friends individually and as cohesive groups? The word is now passed in a playful manner and isn’t thought about in a deeper meaning. Society is portraying that these words have become to be “OK” to use in general context from woman to woman but derogatory when men use it toward women.
The word “slut” gains a new meaning when women use the term to diminish another woman. Depending on the tone and situation, the word is purposely used to cause pain to the other woman and categorize them on a lower level than themselves. The word is now used in the context of a man’s perspective, which is to portray a woman as an undesirable, less-than woman. When called this word, feelings of prior experiences become conscious and cause even greater aggression and pain. Because greater society has pushed women to use this word derogatively amongst each other, it becomes even more powerful in holding them back from progress.