Poetry, Prose

Slut Wall – Alex Esterline

If high school walls could talk; they’d probably say: “Why are you using ‘gay’ like that?” or maybe “Why do you keep calling people ‘sluts’?”

 

For the last week, our school’s gender-sexuality alliance has been working on a mural that was recently approved by our principal. Murals had been painted on the walls before, so at first; this was nothing too unusual.

 

The design centralizes around two eyes; one closed, and one wide open. On the closed eye are all of the detrimental words and phrases people use, such as “Slut”, “That’s gay”, or “What a wimp”. The bolder, more colorful eye that is open uses words such as “Beautiful” and “Strong” and centralizes around the word “HUMAN”. Below it is a quote from Laverne Cox, which says “…We are not what other people say we are, we are what we know ourselves to be, and we are what we love”.

 

Soon, however, this design started sparking controversy in the school. The use of the word “Slut” had been criticized by a couple of people before spreading like wildfire in the school. If you look at the wall, however, “Slut” is actually the smallest word on the entire wall- and it’s being taken out of context. Soon twitter featured lots of people from our school planning to petition to get the word “slut” removed. I like to imagine the controversy starting like this:

Person 1: “Wow the word ‘slut’ is on that new mural”

 

Person 2: “Woah, they painted ‘slut’ on the wall?”

 

Person 3: “I CAN’T BELIEVE THE WALL SAYS SLUT ON IT WE CAN’T HAVE A SLUT WALL IN THIS SCHOOL WHAT THE HECK”

 

So, naturally, the entire school is now up in arms about the mural. We’re hoping that the attitude will change once the wall is completely done. One thing we have certainly learned throughout all of this is that good art generates good discussion.

 

Many people have come up to me and the artist, asking about the wall, with generally underdeveloped arguments.

 

Their side consists of this argument solely: “What if children walk by and ask their parents what that word means? I want this high school to be a good place for everyone”

 

Our side goes like this: “First of all, ‘slut’ is not the only bad word on that wall- in fact, it’s one of the less significant ones to children. One child, in particular, walked by and asked his mom about the word “stupid” and talked about how that’s a bad word that people shouldn’t say. His mom simply responded, ‘That’s right, and the painting tells you that you shouldn’t’. The son’s only response: ‘Oh.”. Second, we combat the use of the word ‘slut’ by proving that it is only a negative word when that power is given behind it, much like the use of the phrase ‘That’s gay’. There is no negative connotation to it when people realize the true implications of what they’re saying. If you want to remove the stigma, support the mural. Finally; Art is supposed to make an impact on your life. Good art will raise discussion, and you may have differing viewpoints, but this mural is our space to express our ideas. Do not fight our movement unless you truly see it as corrupt, and do not interfere with others’ beliefs if it might not coincide with yours; because after all, that doesn’t make you opinionated; that makes you a scumbag.”

 

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6 thoughts on “Slut Wall – Alex Esterline

  1. Anonymous says:

    If high school walls could talk they’d probably tell you a far different truth.

    The fact is, you can just as well get your point across without using the term slut. Most people don’t enjoy seeing terms like that on the wall at school. The thing is, you’re not being targeted. You’re bringing attention to yourself because that’s what you crave. It’s one thing to be loud and proud about it, but it’s another situation to bring the call of action to yourself.

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    • Well, thanks for reading my article!
      I think one of the best things about this mural, that most people fail to realize, is the fact that it’s so bold. The words on the mural are extremely targeted and detrimental for a reason- to make an impact. Without some form of discussion, (such as this art piece) it will undoubtedly continue. I think that, even if this mural didn’t stop it from happening in all instances, it will at least make people more conscious of the fact that they’re systematically otherizing people in the process. I get that people might not enjoy seeing the terms on the wall- but it’s another thing completely to hear it and to have it used in our hallways. Despite the fact that I never said I was being targeted anywhere in my article, this mural still combats oppression that I face every day. The use of phrases such as “That’s gay” target me on a daily basis. I’m really glad that you think I crave attention, anonymous. I’d love to know who you actually are or if you have the first idea about who I am, but that’s cool. Again, thanks for discussing the article/mural- I hope I opened your eyes [no pun intended (ok tbh i intended that)] and I hope you’ll speak up in person- or at least not anonymously- next time.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Ironically, I’m not giving my name so you don’t immediately stereotype me. The fact of the matter is, you can’t control what people say, but what you write on the wall is a far different story. That’s controlled. Far more so than what people say. Also, what most people say only has such an impact if you take it so seriously. Words are words. They are what YOU make of them.

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  2. Anonymous,
    I’m providing my name because I /actually am/ being stereotyped. I’m speaking out against oppression and that is something extremely important to me and others. Please don’t try and discredit our movement- regardless of your feelings about it. By saying that the wall is controlled more than people who say it, you simply affirm that these people have no self control and are lacking mentality- which we already knew. Please do not try and diminish the power of words as they are detrimental and systematically violent- the manner in which /you/ interpret the power of these words has nothing to do with the ones that this targets. Again, if you want to discuss this with me- I want you to disclose who you are or to talk to me in person.

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  3. me says:

    Ananymous, if words are only what YOU make them, what is your issue with the word “slut”? How is it different than the other words/phrases on the mural?

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