“Perhaps it was the memory of her father saying the word ‘slut’–slurring it just so–that made it sound disgusting and evil at the same time. It was a word he used when talking about the way they dressed. He didn’t want any daughter of his going out into the world looking like a slut. Sluts were worse than whores–a slut was somebody who had a choice, somebody who could have kept herself from falling but who wanted to fall. Sluts made choices. They were not victims. You could pity a whore but a slut you only despise.” -bell hooks, Wounds Of Passion
“”¦.I am Amber Cole’s father, and I am not raising a slut.” Jimi Izrael, Amber Cole Is My Daughter
Perhaps you have heard of Amber Cole, perhaps not.
Amber Cole’s name became public knowledge when a private sex act between her and a young man leaked onto the Internet, followed by the cyber-harassment of Cole, along with full-blown Internet gossip, bloggers weighing in on, “Why would she do it,” “Is she faking her Twitter,” and even asking if “she got what she deserves?” Hell, you can even see people laughing to it and critiquing her style. Did I mention there’s a song?
Here’s the thing. Amber Cole is 14. She’s a fourteen-year-old girl who, while engaged in a private sexual act, for reasons that are really no one’s business, was watched, as well as filmed without her knowledge. The video then went viral and people began cyber-bullying Cole – grown adults bullying a fourteen-year-old. As of now, the two young men who had filmed Cole have been arrested, but were not here to talk about their arrests and whether or not their arrests will actually teach them what they did was wrong or if it will just jump start an unfortunate slide into the prison industrial complex.
To those who were or are sharing this video or watching this video, why? Why are you watching a video of a 14-year-old girl? Would you share this video if this girl were white? Would you laugh as easily or would you rather think, “This is a violation?” Would you have as quickly watched and worried about watching the child pornography that this is? Or does Amber Cole not count as a child in your mind?
To Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube: yes, I know, you have so much content to monitor. But why was this video allowed up for four days after you had been notified about something that’s classified as child pornography?
To the silence of my white feminist peers, our silence on this is deafening and is doing no favors. To paraphrase Renee Martin over at Womanist Musings,
“If you can ignore what happened to Amber Cole, and think it is okay to go about your day without defending a 14-year-old girl who was used, but then defend someone like Palin, who has done nothing but harm women, then what you are doing isn’t really about advocating on behalf women, but advocating on behalf of White female empowerment.” – Renee Martin, Why Team Amber Cole Matters.
While one may not feel comfortable claiming Amber Cole as their own for whatever racial lines you may feel at unease for stepping on, one thing is very, very clear. If we want to keep saying that whatever it is we are doing is in the name of women, then we need to get Amber Cole’s back because what happened to her is what we claim to fight against everyday, and if this flies this time, remember, there will always be a next.
To Jimi Izrael, the number one slut-shamer of the week, champion of this following gem:
I was always The Other Guy ““ the boy you do not see on the tape. The one who, because of religious beliefs, self-respect or common sense decides to have no part of such a thing. He is a nerd. He is an outsider. He is long gone, at home reading and writing. I want to meet The Other Guy and shake his hand. I’m trying to raise The Other Guy. But it is not easy. Girls don’t like The Other Guy. Being the Other Guy is not as cool as being one of the boys. I want to raise my boy to not be that kind of cool. Being a gentleman is cool. I want him to get the chance I did not have. I want him to to wait for that special girl.
I am Amber Cole’s father and I have seen the video. You probably have too. I would like to ask her mother’s boyfriend, Karrine Steffans, or Kim Kardashian where my daughter learned that. How she became proficient at such a difficult act. I want to know who has been teaching my little girl how to act like a woman while I have been trying to teach her to be a young lady”¦ I am Amber Cole’s father, and I am not raising a slut. White feminists can teach their own little girls to find empowerment through their crotches ““ my brown little girl cannot afford to be that carefree and cavalier with her life choices. Slutlife is the hard, lonely vocation of rich, educated, privileged white women who will fuck The World, contract social diseases and still, somehow find a husband.
This dumb bunny (since this is how you refer to me in your letter, to which I will not take personally though I suspect I should otherwise) knows if you were really concerned, you wouldn’t be slut-shaming. If you were really angry, really saddened, and really hurt by the violation of a young woman’s privacy, you wouldn’t cast lines between good girls and bad girls, sluts and not sluts. I think you found yourself a platform where you can use the experience of a young woman whose privacy was invaded for your own goddamn agenda. I think, “What the hell is slutlife and what makes you a goddamn authority?” Mr. Izrael, with all due respect to the work you have done, which is really, presenting stretched critiques made by black feminist and womanists without any acknowledgement to their contributions, this dumb bunny knows better than to fight fights with righteousness as a cover for misogyny and knows that if you think of one of us as sluts, than you think we are all sluts. I certainly am not the only one.
To Jezebel.com, highlighted today by New York Magazine as part of the “new feminist rebirth,” for publishing Mr. Izrael’s troll-concerning letter and giving substance-less provocation a platform (I say this knowing that while Mr. Izrael has a few points in his piece worth possibly noting, it all becomes buried under a mound of slut-shaming and paternalizing): I hope those page clicks were worth it, because they came off the back of someone who was violated and then had a slut-shamer try and use it for his agenda. I hope that the stats were a nice little victory in getting a few more subscribers, as they did nothing but further condone rape culture. I hope that business is good and that everyone can sleep well, but please, just do us all some favors and cut the bullshit next time or at least be a little more transparent with having a writer whose book concentrates on the unmarriageability of black women on a “woman-friendly site.”
To the boys who filmed this: no one knows your names, yet everyone knows Amber’s. No one is claiming to be your dad or claiming that you are a “ho” or a “slut” or even drawing lines between your sexuality as a measure between good and bad. No one seemed to let y’all know that this isn’t okay. So here’s this said in a way I never could:
Our culture teaches boys that this is okay. That it is okay to use people. That you are expected to disregard a woman’s feelings, to do what you want with her, to find women who are pliable who you can mold, who will seek your favor and happily trade a few moments on her knees for her affection. Our society teaches boys that this is ok, that this is what you do with women. The onus is on women not to be used. Men do not hear “don’t be an abuser” in the same way men don’t hear “don’t be a rapist.” The onus is always on women keeping themselves safe, on women not putting themselves in positions to be attacked or exploited. And when something does happen, when teenagers being teenagers suddenly becomes a national news-story, everyone wants to talk about what the girl should have done to prevent herself from being in the situation.
Once again, we aren’t talking to the boys”¦
“¦We don’t tell boys what they learned is wrong. So we shouldn’t be surprised if they repeat the behavior, if that behavior becomes habit. We tell them, in our actions and words, that this was okay. Because there’s little outrage directed at these boys. So if they draw the conclusion that “she shouldn’t have let me do it” instead of “that whole situation that I orchestrated was wrong, and I hurt someone else very badly, and I hurt myself,” we shouldn’t be surprised. And if these boys then repeat that behavior, then we shouldn’t be surprised.- Latoya Peterson, Because Amber Cole Is A Kid And Boys Will Be Boys
And finally to Amber Cole. You aren’t my daughter, nor my sister, but your own person. As someone whose own sexual activities have been unwillingly made public for the consumption of others’ judgment, I can only say that it stings and it hurts. Do what you need to do to move forward and don’t ever look back.
Until then, we got your back.