When you come across a headline like “Karrine Steffans Calls Oprah Winfrey A ‘Hoe,’ the knee-jerk reaction is “No She Didn’t!” As in, here’s another ridiculous click-bait title whose article content won’t come anywhere near that of the headline. And then you go to Karrine’s Twitter timeline and see she actually did call Oprah a hoe — and Maya Angelou — and you want to be mad, but when you read deeper into the point she was making in doing so, you think, wrong delivery, but important message nonetheless.

The controversy began when a woman told Karrine she’s nobody’s role model, because of her promiscuous past, and the former video vixen reminded the woman her sexual history isn’t all that different from other stars the lady holds in high regard.

“Hoe” is a harsh word, but the promiscuous shoe fits. And Karrine is absolutely right when she says if labeling Oprah and Dr. Angelou as such makes you uncomfortable, you should feel just as uncomfortable when it comes to other women, like her.

Whenever most people think of Karrine and her infamous book, Confessions of a Video Vixen, the focus is on kissing and telling, which rapper she slept with when, and essentially how she gained fame by lying on her back, as some would say. Little, if any, attention is paid to the Caribbean immigrant’s sad past of growing up in St. Thomas with a physically abusive, mentally ill mother and being raped when she came to the states. Those experiences influenced Karrine’s sense of self-worth and that damage only continued when one of her mother’s boyfriends introduced her to stripping and the woman we know today began to form, and abuse continued to be a part of her life in many other ways in future relationships with men.

If there’s anything that separates Karrine from Oprah and Dr. Angelou it’s that her wounds don’t quite yet seem to be healed, as evidenced by some of her romantic choices, because the history of sexual assault is consistent in all three women’s lives. And, as Karrine noted, their sex plays a part in their stories of success.

I can see why some have a difficult time distinguishing Karrine from the likes of a poet and civil rights activist or a media mogul, as her fame is still very much connected to, and was built upon, her sexual proclivities, but slut-shaming won’t erase that past or her present success. And further, who are many of us to judge? In these pro-feminist times, we can’t bash men for letting trending topics like “She a hoe” run rampant on Twitter and then turn around and do the same in our personal day-to-day lives.

You don’t have to like or even appreciate what Karrine Steffans exemplifies, but she is right when she says a woman’s sexual past doesn’t determine her worth and purpose. And, like Amber Rose, her voice on this subject exposes many of our hypocrisies because we like to declare a woman can have agency over her body up until that freedom becomes unabashedly sexy and maybe even promiscuous — though there’s a wide variation on what many consider such behavior — and then we fall into crass slut-shaming judgement as well.

What’s most tantamount in this discussion is healing, understanding your worth isn’t solely in your body — as it relates to both attaining success and being held back from it — and having more compassion for the decisions women make at various points in their lives for reasons, hopefully, many of us will never be able to understand from a personal perspective, but that data on sexual assault suggests we very likely will, or have.  There are likely many women in our own personal circles who we could say the same about — if they’ve even been willing to acknowledge a sexual trauma, much less openly share that experience.

Oprah and Maya Angelou appear to have overcome their sexual traumas, perhaps Karrine is still on her journey or is simply more transparent about it. Whatever the case, we seem to be much more worried about her past than the author is, as evidenced by her tweets and this post she wrote on her blog, The Gorgeous Girls Guide, January 19.

I have become a pro at disconnecting, compartmentalizing, and moving on. I think I do it faster than most and I see how it bothers people in my life and even strangers who follow my life and trials via books and social media. I mean, people get legit angry at me because I don’t sit around being butt hurt for too long. But here’s the thing, life is either really short or very long and none of us knows how much longer we have in this life. And personally, I’m almost 40 and I don’t know many women over the age of 35 who sit around wasting time. The more you understand and accept who you are, the more you understand the importance of selfishness and self-preservation, the more you realize tomorrow isn’t promised, and the less time you take getting over things.

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