Last Friday, after the Disney Channel announced they would be making a movie based on 13-year old superstar athlete Mo'Ne Davis' life, Bloomsburg University baseball player Joey Casselberry sent out a tweet calling Davis a slut. Casselberry took the tweet down by Saturday, but the university still removed him from the team. Davis asked for the school to reinstate Casselberry, but they are holding firm in their decision.
Two years ago, on the biggest night of her young life, The Onion published a tweet calling then 9-year old Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis a cunt. The tweet was deleted an hour later, and CEO Steve Hannah issued an apology the next day. I distinctly remember spending the night blocking Twitter trolls telling me I was overreacting for wanting The Onion to issue an apology for not only sexualizing but dehumanizing a 9-year old girl. I just couldn't comprehend how an editor even let that tweet happen, let alone fail to see its part in the historical devaluation of successful black women. I remember people saying it wasn't a big deal, that it was just a joke, as I pressed mute and block for what seemed like hours.
When I read about Casselberry, all I could think was "Here we go again." Both Casselberry and The Onion failed to realize that behind their terrible tweets is a legitimate and systemic issue of men trying to take power away from women by calling them sluts, or otherwise lobbing sexually denigrating insults at them. It's disheartening
We should be worried when we see this happening at all, but we should be horrified when it is happening to successful young women. Slut is not an adjective, it's a concept, dreamed up by men to keep women from enjoying sex (or at least sex with anyone but them); the casual use of the term to describe Davis reveals so much about how misogyny has infiltrated our language, and how men are taught to sexualize girls the minute they're born, and that the worst insult you can lob at a woman is still "you have a lot of sex!" The power of Casselberry's tweet is not only in his use of the word slut, but the way he knew precisely how to personally hurt a girl who he probably couldn't come close to professionally.
Danielle Henderson is a lapsed academic, heavy metal karaoke machine, and culture editor at Fusion. She enjoys thinking about how race, gender, and sexuality shape our cultural narratives, but not in a boring way.