the slander of a woman

Most of the laws in Washington state are, let's face it, pretty dull. The state statutory scheme is not much more than a century old, so there hasn't been the time to accrue the crenellations of, say, Massachusetts.

So imagine my delight to discover today to find that the crime of slander of woman is still on the books in my adopted state. Not surprisingly, the publication rule generally necessary to prove damages for slander is a necessary element of the crime as well. The last, in fact the only reported decision addressing this statute is State v. Paysse, decided in 1914. Also not surprisingly, there is a bill in the Legislature this year to repeal the Slander of Woman Act.

Despite my relish for the archaic in law, however, I think it's best for this law to be put to rest (although why on earth anyone in the legislature is fretting about this when the entire system of elections appears to be broken is beyond me) . First of all, this law specifically offers no protection to "common prostitutes"; the logical end to that line of thinking is Gary Ridgway. Second, I don't like the idea that our law preserves a notion that a woman's primary asset is a public perception of her sexual conformity. When reputation matters in today's world, it matters equally to both genders, and sexual integrity only a part of the larger whole.

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