Why do girls love calling each other sluts?
The week 8 ADC late show Girls Like That follows a group of girls and explores the toxic, social-media dominated world we grow up in.
“Slut, skank, sket, hoe.” The play opens with a chorus of insults that are all unfortunately too familiar to us these days.
We have grown up with social media, be it Myspace, Facebook, MSN, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat or even Bebo (back when widgets and top friends were all the rage). These services have become so essential to our daily routines that we neglect to notice how toxic they are.
Evan Placey’s play, Girls Like That, tells the story of Scarlet whose nude photo goes viral around her school, triggering venomous reactions from her female peers. Without even hearing what she has to say, they judge her for her behaviour, as though she has shamed all of womankind.
The thing is, it is not totally the fault of the school girls. The society we live in is massively to blame. We see this by following their journey through primary and secondary school via flashbacks. We pick up habits from the attitudes of our families, the influence of the media or, more broadly, the socialisation of girls simply through the environments they are educated in.
I went to an all-girls’ school, so this behaviour is all too familiar. Even though I was studying amongst highly educated females who would define themselves as feminists, when it came down to dramas within the year group my best friend was ostracised by others in the year for nothing more than being with a boy.
Judgemental glances ricocheted across the classroom and elaborate rumours were fabricated, without anyone realising how insensitive and anti-feminist they were being.
Slowly but surely, as we grow up, we are taught a set of guidelines for how a decent, respectable female should be. What stings are the ramifications of upsetting this social order.
A girl shouldn’t leave the house bare-faced because society would consider her ugly or lazy. But a girl who has contoured her foundation and eyeshadow suddenly gets called trashy or slutty because she’s “caked” in makeup.
Not to mention that her skirt ought to be a certain length. Not so long that she seems frumpy but certainly not so short that it shows her thong through her tights when she bends over. That’s the sort of girl who is “desperate for male attention”.
Crucially, who cares if someone did or didn’t want male attention? We do not live in a world where women still have to abide by male expectations of femininity. Or, one that’s intolerant of women exercising liberty over their own sexuality.
The worst part is that I’m as guilty of this as anyone.If we’re honest, not much has changed between school and university, we’re just a bit more subtle with our judgements. Pointing out physical flaws in other women is essentially second nature, all you have to do is go on the Daily Mail online as proof.
“Madonna’s too old to wear that, I don’t want to look at raw chicken fillets, thank you very much.”
“Can Miley please shave her armpits and put on some weight. She’s starting to look like tumbleweed.”
“I actually feel so sorry for Khloé Kardashian because she’s clearly the uglier, fatter one. She must feel like a potato beside Kim and Kendall.”
These thoughts translate into reality because we learn to judge female celebrities with such instant vitriol that it becomes incredibly easy to do the same thing to our peers.
We are our own worst enemies, often by accident, because we are so trapped in the cycle that it’s hard to think differently. We make deeply derogatory assumptions about a woman’s personality based on the way she looks, which are turned to poison alongside judgements based on her life choices or sexual activity.
Especially when all you have to do is send a facebook message or caption a snapchat with a harsh comment and it is received and replied to within an instant, without any actual face-to-face contact.
“Us girls stick together,” is one of the key lines in Girls Like That. We may appear to stick together, but simultaneously we’re taught to size ourselves up against one another, constantly comparing and competing. Unfortunately, this is something we have little control over, even if we try to avoid it, because it is basically part of the curriculum for a young girl learning what it takes to be a “woman”.
Placey’s themes are relevant when studying at a prestigious university like Cambridge, which hasn’t let women walk its hallowed corridors for that long, we really should be encouraging and supporting each another to make it easier for future women to succeed. Instead, we have these malicious battles, slyly judging one another for their actions, beliefs and choices.
So, if you’re interested in the toxicity of the girl world or you enjoy dancing to Beyoncé… go and see “Girls Like That” at the ADC from Wednesday 2nd to Saturday the 5th at 11pm.