Well, Why Shouldn’t We Call Black Widow A Slut?

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Well, Why Shouldn’t We Call Black Widow A Slut?

So Jeremy Renner is in “internet trouble” because in an interview last month he called Black Widow a slut, and then this week on Conan he defended that statement; Black Widow is definitely a slut.

The internet jumped on him (though, seriously guys, can we keep the death-threats to a minimum? Like zero?) and people are upset and telling him to shut it. I don’t want to attack him (I honestly do like the guy, most of the time, and I admire his resolve to not back down under pressure) but I want to look at what prompts that kind of comment, why people are entitled to their opinions no matter what they are, and why some words are unhelpful.

Renner explained that his remarks were just an off-color joke, and reminded everybody that he was talking about “a fictional character and fictional behavior.” He called Black Widow a slut because she’s slept with four of the Avengers (very true in the comics, but within the Marvel Cinematic Universe I don’t think she’s slept with any of them) but it’s okay to make that remark because she doesn’t exist.

We have no way of knowing what he would think if this was a real woman. He said if he slept with four Avengers, he’d be a slut, but you can still argue that we don’t know he’d have a lower opinion of a woman if she slept with four people he works with. But if he can turn on and off that opinion at will, only thinking it about fictional characters and not thinking it about real women, I’m impressed.

I wouldn’t mind him having that opinion. I’d disagree with it strongly because I don’t think a woman or man should be judged solely on how many people they’ve had sex with, but that’s my opinion, and we’re both free to disagree.

It’s the name-calling that bothers me. Yes, he was talking about a fictional character, but it’s not an uncommon statement. I’m sure Natasha Romanoff can take care of herself, but I’m not comfortable with the casual use of the word “slut.” A lot of people have responded to cries of “we shouldn’t call her a slut” with “okay fine, Tony Stark is also a whore, happy?”

No, not happy, because you can’t solve the problem of name-calling by calling more people names, you’re going in the wrong direction.

I’m not talking about controlling speech; the uproar from a lot of people seems to be about defending free speech and the right to express an opinion. (And since the government isn’t throwing Jeremy in jail for his remark, we really don’t have to worry that his First Amendment rights are being squashed.)

What I’m worried about how is quickly in the actual, non-Marvel world a woman (or man) who has “too many” partners (whatever that number is) can be dismissed even if no other aspects of their character are known. It’s not just happening to fictional characters. She could be a caregiver, a volunteer, a genius, or a hero, but if the number of her lovers exceeds whatever current custom decides is appropriate, she can be called a slut.

And there’s that word. It’s fine to have an opinion, even a negative one. (Especially a negative one; you feel how you feel so don’t apologize. Shout your opinion! Write blogs! Tear up twitter!) And it’s fine to express that opinion, but calling someone a slut is just name-calling. It’s lazy. If you have reasons for that opinion you should say that, instead of jumping right to a slur.

(Lest anybody misunderstand me, I’m not singling out one gender; women as well as men tend to throw that word around.)

There’s lots of reasons to be concerned if someone has multiple partners. They’re more likely to contract something (that’s not a judgement about the people they’re with, it’s just math, more people means more chances of an STD getting into the mix.) Having many partners could be a sign of an emotional problem, a lack of connection with people. More partners means a greater chance of one of them not being happy with the situation and reacting badly (this is men and women; angry, scorned lovers come in all genders and all mental states.) If you’re in a relationship with them, your chances of being hurt are huge, especially if they’re not honest about it.

Or it could mean none of those things. They could be perfectly well-adjusted and safe, we can’t always know.

But see, when you spell out your concerns, you automatically start thinking of that person as a real human being with emotions and choices. When you call them a slut you reduce them to a stereotype that you don’t have to think about. Empathy can’t exist like that.

Not to mention when you spell out the concerns you sometimes realize that whatever their reasons, man or woman, that’s their choice, and you can only make guesses about why they make those choices. Unless you have some connection to them, are they harming you? Should you be judging them so harshly? You can if you choose, that’s your right. But it’s something to keep in mind.

With no sarcasm, I really think you’re entitled to your opinions, Jeremy. Express them, seriously, we’d like to hear them. But don’t be lazy. Say why you think her choices are bad ones.

If you’d said Natasha is probably bitter and resentful because of her physical and emotional damage and covers it up by sleeping with everyone while connecting with no one, you’d have had a lot of people nodding their heads.

If you’d said she might harm the dynamic of the group by creating sexual tension and jealousy, well, a lot of people would say they’re all consenting adults, but a lot of people would have agreed with you.

If you’d said she was born and raised to be an evil, sociopathic bitch who’s out to make everybody as miserable as she is and that dictates her every action…well that seems a little strong, and I really wouldn’t agree with you, but that, too, is an opinion.

If you’d angrily said that her behavior will hurt people’s feelings and it’s not fair that someone who’s been damaged can get away with punishing the decent people who surround them, a lot of people would have identified with that idea. I mean a lot of people.

If you’d said she flirted with Tony because she thought she deserved someone as flawed as she was, that she kissed Steve because she wanted to show that goodness and integrity meant less than nothing to her, and that she tried to connect with Bruce because she honestly doesn’t believe she can do any better than a monster, well, you’d have had my vote, but those are my opinions, and I’m seeing the character from my point of view, which is as incomplete and flawed as anybody else’s.

I don’t know what your point of view on her really is, because you reduced her to one word. Yes she’s fictional, but sometimes life imitates art. I don’t want you to shut up, I want you to talk more. If we can get everybody talking instead of tossing off names like they don’t matter, I think the situation can only get better.

 

The views expressed in this article are solely that of the author, and not necessarily the whole website. I absolutely welcome your opinions and comments.