How Samirah Raheem Reclaimed The Word “Slut” And Checked Jesse Peterson At The Same Time

July 17, 2018  |  

Gettyimages.com/Portrait of young woman in a car park

When people hear the term or phrase “SlutWalk” there are automatically all of these visceral emotions. The word has been so laden with negative connotations that even the utterance of it might cause your ears to ring. But the very purpose of the SlutWalk is to reclaim it. In the same way Black folk have reclaimed the N-word. In the same way folks in the gay community have reclaimed the F-word etc., etc. Women who have been called slut in negative or disparaging ways are reframing it to represent empowerment, agency, an end to the practice of using a woman’s sexual history to insult her character.

In 2016, ultra-conservative, homophobic, misogynistic and racist host Jesse Lee Peterson journeyed to the SlutWalk to interview women who were in attendance. Essentially, his strategy was to call them sluts repeatedly. Judging from the nature of the videos, I could guess that Jesse’s intention was to somehow shame these women for their participation in the Walk by asking if they believed in God, if their parents would be comfortable with them identifying themselves as sluts, if they would want their children to know that they were sluts. Obviously, Jesse is using the term has it has been designed and used in the past. But when he met body positive model Samirah Raheem (Sam), his definitions and hers came colliding into one another.

Peterson: Are you a slut?

Raheem: Sighs Yes, we are all sluts. You’re a slut. All these dudes behind you is sluts. Your cameraman’s a slut. Your PA’s a slut and your mic’s a slut.

Peterson: What makes you a slut?

Raheem: Because I own my body. My body’s not a political playground. It’s not a place for legislation. It’s mine and it’s my future.

Peterson: How are you?

Raheem: Grown.

Peterson: So you sleep around with a lot of men?

Raheem: No, actually I’m a virgin.

Peterson: You’re a virgin? So you’re not a slut?

Raheem: Yes you can be a slut because a slut is not what you made it Jesse, it’s what I made it. A boss. Getting money. Taking the mic. Turning life around. Taking over Hollywood.

Peterson: So you’re a virgin but yet you call yourself a slut?

Raheem: It wouldn’t matter. It doesn’t matter, if I’m a virgin. It doesn’t matter what a woman’s sexual history is. A slut is just a word that you and your fellow penises made. Ya momma’s a slut. Your grandma’s a slut. Everybody!

Peterson: Is your mother a slut?

Raheem: No but yours is.

Peterson: Your mother’s not a slut?

Raheem: No.

Peterson: You said every woman’s a slut?

Raheem: Everybody.

Peterson: Then why your mother’s not a slut?

Raheem: You are a slut. Not my mother, in particular, is not a slut. But a slut is a word for anybody who’s owning their sexuality, turning up and not letting Jesse twist their answers around.

Peterson: Laughs. Are you dressed slutty today?

Raheem: No. I’m dressed like a woman.

Peterson: What made you decide to come out looking like this? You look like a slut?

Raheem: You look like a slut! What made you dress like this?

Peterson: No just answer my question.

Raheem: I dress like this because I can dress whatever I want to, period.

Peterson: Do you believe in God?

Raheem: Yes, Jesse. I believe in God.

Peterson: Would God want you to be a slut?

Raheem: God would want me to be whatever I want to be.

Peterson: Would He want you to be a slut?

Raheem: He would want me to be whatever I want to be.

Peterson: How about a slut?

Raheem: Whatever I want to be.

Peterson: Why would he want you to be a slut?

Raheem: He would want me to be whatever I want to because God believes in choice. And you should know that Jesse. That’s why you’re allowed to wear this lame ass shirt.

As you might imagine, the video has caused quite the stir on the internet. With several agreeing with Raheem’s take and others finding her argument ridiculous.

In a recent interview with The I Am Woman Project, Raheem explained her thought process that day and why she was so adamant about reclaiming the word.

Sam: (A slut is) any woman who is actively challenging what the norm is in sexual thought or the thought of a woman’s body.  You don’t have to be sexually active to be a slut. Because as we can see from this debate it doesn’t matter if you are sexual or not. If you are challenging this misogynistic body of thought – as Jesse did – the first thing they are going to do is bring up your sexual history, regardless.

IAWP: So the idea of a “slut” is that if you challenge the system as a woman or as someone who identifies as a woman, automatically, you are going to be reduced down to your sexual history.

Sam: Or your femininity. Which is another thing. Like she’s a nasty woman. Or other things that we’ve heard in our political climate.

IAWP: Jesse used your belief in God as a tactic against your character during your interview, even though you yourself are a religious person. What was that experience like?

Sam: By the grace of God I grew up in a Muslim home. But through my mother’s spiritual journey I got to go to a great spiritual center. I learned these truths. Like, multiple truths. These were things I was told when I was seven: your God can curse. Your God can be naked. Your God can be a girl or a boy. These are kind of second nature things to me.

When we break down all of our holy books – the Torah, the Koran, the Bible, without everybody’s opinion on it – the facts were the facts. God is love. Before the book was even written, we knew that God is love. So to me, it was like, yes I believe in God. Are you crazy? Knowing God allows me to speak this way. This is what is perpetuating me to have this moment.

There is nothing in Christianity that talks about slut shaming. Now, if you want to talk about translations and all the people who touched on it, well then yeah- we all know King James wasn’t the coolest guy. But if we are talking about the roots – the roots of the word, the root of the energy – we should be able to have a back and forth without you digging into the roots of my past. That’s neither here nor there. Because Christianity is a redemptive religion. If I was a slut yesterday and I fucked 80 guys yesterday and today I’ve repented, you should take me as such. But because you don’t even know your own word, you have to go into the darkness.

IAWP: Jesse used a lot of other kinds of intimidation tactics on you – trying to shame you, bully you, and corner you into saying certain things that would have discredited you publically. What gave you the confidence to rebuttal the way you did?

Sam: I just feel like it’s my time, my world. Once I saw him try to twist my words, I said to myself, just stay focused on what you’re trying to say. Stay focused on the truths that are non-negotiable. Because you know when you know you are speaking your truth, there is no need to feel like you are being disrespectful to someone.  You’re just saying your truth. These are things that are just like, one plus one equals two.

IAWP: When you defended yourself and Peterson found out that on paper, you more or less checked all the boxes of a “non-slut”, it almost agitated him to call you a slut even more.

Sam: To me, it’s almost like a sign of someone who is hurt. It’s like, Oh, wow, you’ve never been exposed to what is out there. You’ve never been exposed to these bodies of thought.

For the…I don’t want to say uneducated because I’m sure Jesse had his own education…but for somebody who is not versed in how to converse with women like me, they have to go there. For them, they are intimidated because she’s leveling with me mentally. She’s leveling with me in energy. So, let me go to the low blow. And we know as a society, that the first thing we do is question a woman’s sexual past.

 

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