Pop quiz! If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a __________.
Can you spot the duck?
Yup. Definitely a duck. Look at that perfect example of a duck. I've got my eye on you, duck.
Uh... yeah. Still a duck. Just, like, with a nose job or something.
Ah, there we go. Back to the definitive duck-action.
Uh... heh. Ok, you got me. It's a goose. But geese are like ducks, so nice try.
Ye-ah... ok, so it's a swan. Point taken. Still, it could break your arm if you went up to it and called it a duck, so it's up to the swan to differentiate itself from ducks.
Ok, that's just mean. Yes, it's a duck even if it has mobility issues and can't walk quite like other ducks. Geez.
Uh... that's a movie character. It's some dude dressed up as a duck with animatronics and stuff.
Now you're just being sarcastic.
Ok, ok, I get it. Some animals have duck-like qualities and are otherwise totally not duckish at all.
.... you don't have to be rude ....
What the... what end is the...
To break it down for the uninitiated, when talking about issues including sexual violence and victim-blaming, etc, often we hear the aforementioned justification of "if it looks like a duck." Insert for "duck" anything ranging from slut, whore, n*****, f**, etc.
As you can see, it's not even straight-forward to describe a duck. Is it the bill? Is it the feathers? The affinity for water? Are loons ducks? Are geese just a tall and lankey species ducks? Do all ducks quack?
When it comes to women and the label "slut" (as just one possible example), it's even more complicated. Women and girls are frequently labelled sluts for every manner of perceived indiscretion, from the length of their shorts or skirts, amount of skin shown, number of sexual partners they're perceived to have had (real or imagined, really doesn't matter when slut-shaming), how they carry themselves, their profession, their hairstyle, their makeup, their height, their weight, their breastsize, colour of their skin (racism and exoticism of women of colour is a huge factor), who they associate with and family makeup (if one of their friends or family members has been labelled a 'slut', so much easier to label them as such), if they're perceived as flirty (again - reality doesn't matter so much as perception), marital status, etc etc etc.
This isn't hyperbole. This is what women and girls and queer not non-gendery-binary persons experience. Anyone who declares that there is a solid definition of whom can reasonably be labelled with a slur against their sexuality and that the lines aren't easily blurred to envelope whomever the slur-slinger wants to slander, is either blissfully ignorant or a baldfaced liar.
And, even if one happens to fall under the so-broad-as-to-be-meaningless definitions of slut, what then? If you are saying that sluts get treated as such, then you must have some idea as to what that treatment entails. And, here's a hint, it often involves violence.
If you aren't saying that you are sanctioning sexual violence against any one of the myriad of persons who, at one point or another in their lives or the course of a week, could be called a slut, then you really need to think more deeply about your words and their implications. Words matter. Words have meaning. Words can make the difference between supporting survivors of sexual violence or of supporting rapists.
Please think about your words and their implications, because they matter.