I need feminism because the madonna/whore dichotomy is still alive and kicking.
In simplest terms, the Madonna/whore dichotomy is a mindset in which women can only belong to one of two categories; she is either pure, innocent, and virginal (Madonna) or impure, sinful, and (to put it bluntly) a slut (whore.)
In this world, the Madonna/whore dichotomy causes many rifts, even in tasks as simple as getting dressed for the day. It causes women to struggle to find a length of short or skirt they feel least likely to be judged in. Wear an outfit too revealing, and with no other information about the individual being known, she will be labeled as a whore. Wear an outfit too concealing or “frumpy” and be labeled as a prude. Wear a pretty dress with flats and be a “nice girl” you can take home to your parents, but pair the same dress with stilettos and a different hairstyle, and all of a sudden she brings around mental imagery of a stripper’s pole and a poorly lit stage.
Some women develop their entire sense of self-worth, as well as their sexual habits, around this way of thinking. How many times have you been ripped down for nothing other than the amount of sexual partners you’ve had (or haven’t had) or sex acts you’ve done (or haven’t)? How many women do you know who make decisions in (and out of) relationships simply because they feel the need to remain “pure” (and thus “worthwhile”) or to be “exciting” and generally to fit in one way or the other?
Women even judge other women on this basis, supported by internalized sexism. The Madonna/whore dichotomy is so engrained into our culture, society, media, and norms that it is nearly impossible to find an environment in which you can fully escape judgement.
Allison Reynolds: “Well, if you say you haven’t, you’re a prude. If you say you have you’re a slut. It’s a trap. You want to but you can’t, and when you do you wish you didn’t, right?”
-The Breakfast Club (1985)
“No, and it particularly bothers me that women are held to a different standard in this than men. Also, it’s such a weird thing to care about. Like, imagine if I started eating Cheerios for breakfast, would Cheerios be like “I’m the 48th cereal you’ve tried eating?! I don’t feel special!” Well then screw you Cheerios. I can’t go into the past and un-eat all those cereals, but that doesn’t mean I don’t genuinely enjoy your wholegrain crunch.”
-Author John Green, when asked “Do you think it matters how many people a person has slept with?”