Slut. Whore. Bitch. Tramp. Cunt.

These used to be dirty words— there were derogatory terms that bit and tore and were used in fiery attacks. Now they’re commonplace— slang terms that pepper sentences and create nicknames.

Now the dirty word is feminist. It’s come to mean self-righteousness; men hating; superiority; bra-less and covered in body hair. No one wants to be a feminist. Our mothers, or at least their eccentric friends, were feminists— not us. Feminism is something we are beyond— we are post-feminism because we are post-sexism.

And yet…

We live in a culture that has adopted inherently derogatory terms and we try to frame it as some kind of reclamation, as if by using until they become acceptable their history and weight will somehow change. Yet 20 pounds is 20 pounds, whether we carry it with ease or struggle. The words haven’t changed, we simply fail to realize their weight because we’ve become accustom to their downward pull.

It is the same downward pull that has dragged us into the mud of rape culture. Where displays of sexuality are automatic invitations. Rape survivors are blamed for their trauma because they were “asking for it,” because “she deserved it.” Anyone with a welcome mat should be prepared for people to enter as they please, whether the doors are locked or not. This becomes particularly salient when any display of the female body is inherently sexual, because the female body is a marketing tool. It can be butchered and made to order- hips, ass, tits, calves, thighs; we discard the face— there is no meat there.

When we do see faces it is to peddle blush and concealer to the young, or else anti-aging and botox to the old. We’re post-sexism, but the favorite pastimes of tabloids is to side-by-side celebrity women with and without make-up. Are they telling us women should always wear make-up, or never?

Yet it’s not about men and the media. Women shame other women– for the way they dress, how their bodies look, who they love (or don’t), who they sleep with (or don’t), for stepping outside of the norm, and for staying within it. Perpetuating a game with rules that make it impossible to win. 

Sexism and inequality don’t wear the neon signs we see them in in our history books, instead they wear our faces— and we don’t see them at all. We try to say that they are extinct, that they belong beside dinosaurs in museums, but no one can seem to produce their bones— proof that they are long gone. Feminism is more necessary than ever because it has become so easy to buy into the delusion that we are beyond the need for it. We have let ourselves become stagnant, so much so that we do not even recognize the act of settling. It is time that we question the sexism and misogyny we’ve accepted and internalized, time to ask ourselves if the lives we’re living are hurting women or helping them.