Will the ‘Slut’ Vote Matter in 2012?

A young activist wants to rally women voters around recent scandals to fight what critics have called a conservative "war on women."

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Rush Limbaugh’s ‘slut’ comments from late February had immediate consequences: after referring to Georgetown grad student and contraceptive rights activist Sandra Fluke as a slut and prostitute, the radio host faced immediate condemnation from women’s groups and the departure of a flurry of advertisers. Now, however, comes the inevitable sequel: The Sluts Strike Back.

In the runup to this fall’s U.S. elections, activist Susan McMillan Emry has created a women’s rights group called Rock the Slut Vote (RTSV) United, inspired by the Limbaugh incident and a string of others that caused feminists of the country to cry foul.

(LIST: From Suffrage to SlutWalks: A Brief History of the Women’s Movement)

According to the RTSV Website, the group’s mission is “to fight the GOP effort to bully, subjugate and silence women. We will wrest the power from the word slut and help women get informed, get involved, get registered and vote.”

Emry, a study guide publisher, was inspired by article in the Huffington Post by Mora Aarons-Mele titled, “Getting Out The Slut vote in 2012”.

The group’s namesake alludes to the controversial Rush Limbaugh incident but also highlights others, including the Komen Foundation’s decision to cut funding for Planned Parenthood and an increase in pro-life legislation has led some to label the events of the past few months a conservative-led “war on women.”

As Emry told the Daily Caller:

“With humor, we have created a checklist of the types of women the GOP and their spokesmen consistently paint as ‘sluts,’ and it’s very broad-ranging. It’s clear they use words like ‘slut’ to try to shame women into staying quiet about issues involving reproductive rights and sex. Regrettably, from the legislation and the public remarks the GOP and their spokemen make, they give the clear message that any woman who doesn’t share their point of view is tainted as a slut. Our mission is to take all the power from the label ‘slut’ and defuse it with equal measures of humor and outrage.”

Unsurprisingly, the group’s goals aren’t exactly being embraced by the right. Kristen Kukowski, press secretary for the Republican National Committee, told CBSDC that women should be focusing on getting President Obama out of office.“Women in Obama’s economy are suffering at disproportionate levels,” she said.

Since the website was launched, nearly 2,000 men and women have “enlisted” and the Facebook page has even more support, with nearly 3,000 likes. The website offers help registering to vote and provides letter templates for members to send to congressmen voicing their outrage.

It’s not the first time someone’s tried to retake ownership of ‘slut’: last summer thousands of protesters took to the streets of Toronto for what organizers called a “SlutWalk,”  after a local police constable told a safety class that women “should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” By the end of the summer the movement had spread throughout North America and even as far as India. As TIME’s Megan Gibson wrote in the wake of the Limbaugh incident, the word seems to be losing the power it once had:

Slut is, and has long been, a nebulous word used to judge and intimidate women. And the fear of being labeled with such a derogatory slur might have at one time kept women from speaking out. In this instance, however, fear hasn’t appeared to be an issue.

Come election time, RTSV hopes, it’s the people who once used the word ‘slut’ so cavalierly who should be afraid.

MORE: A Brief History of Women’s Protests

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