Monday, May 23, 2011

Slutwalk. I can't tear my eyes away from it

Women marching in a Slutwalk event.
Image source:
I have found the whole Slutwalk thing enthralling. Especially as it kind of came out of the blue and exploded.
I'm thrilled to see women getting mad and speaking out. Any form of victim-blaming needs to be knocked on the head once and for all. Right now.
Yet ... I too share in some of the reservations other observers have expressed. The shying away from the term 'feminist' by some of the protesters, for one. Also, the notion that shouting about your love of sex is a worthy, even admirable way, to bend people to your cause and win power. Why must we be people who have a strong, public association with sex to be valued? Why can't we be valued simply because we are people?

Here are some views, and background information, on the event I've found interesting (warning: the language isn't exactly G-rated in some of these pieces):

"Having been a confident slut for sometime, this January the word was slung out again as an epithet, but this time it wasn’t by a high school kid. It was by someone who demands respect by way of authority. Someone who’s charged with a person’s safety. Someone who should know better. So when I read the quote in the Excal, “don’t dress like a slut…”, I could almost hear the blame dripping from the word.
It angered me to think that while I managed to learn about healthy sexuality in my adulthood, why hadn’t this person done the same? Who was he to insult people in such a way? I knew that he hadn’t read the Ethical Slut. I knew that he wasn’t using the word in a positive light, as many do these days. He used it as a slur, and it was laced with ideas that some people don’t deserve respect. Sure, he may not think that sluts deserve to get raped, but he didn’t launch a conversation that day about sexuality and language. He continued to perpetuate a stereotype."

"Many will simply take away the idea that it’s now OK to call women sluts if they’re showing some cleavage.
Others will see it as an easy opportunity to perve on a bunch of semi-clad chicks. Older people and conservatives will see it as proof of the moral laxity of today’s women.
But worst of all, it will enforce the idea that women should be defined by their sexuality.
It will have an effect on girls and young women who will see these protests in the papers, online and in the news. And it will reinforce the already widespread impression that sex, for a woman, is power. Or the route to power."

"I followed the progress of Slutwalk Toronto and, in particular, the threads and posts on their Facebook page, as it seemed to be the place where the most of the conversations were happening. I looked and looked for some mention of feminism, some alignment and acknowledgment that this was, indeed, a feminist issue and a feminist fight – a fight that has been being faught by women for decades. Instead what I found, over and over again was, not only a refusal to align with feminism, but often, an outright aversion to it. 
I saw numerous attacks on radical feminism and radical feminists and I witnessed the reinforcement of negative and untrue stereotypes about feminism (you know the ones: man-hating, misandrist, no-fun, sex-negative, etc). While I do believe the organizers had good intentions, desiring that Slutwalk be inclusive to all, it began to look a lot like the ‘funfeminist’ – NO NO WE’RE THE CONVENTIONALLY ATTRACTIVE FEMINISTS. THE FUN ONES. WE’RE OK. WE LIKE PENISES AND PORN AND LOOKING SEXY kind of feminism that, in the end doesn’t successfully challenge much of anything, and simply repackages sexist imagery in ‘empowering’ wrapping paper."

"On May 16th, Slutwalk Calgary issued a statement which addressed the whole issue of ‘The Name’, concluding that “This will probably be our last comment on the name. That conversation is nothing more than a distraction from the real issue, which is our communities blaming sexual assault survivors for the actions of their attackers. Period.”
Well. Ok. I agree. Sort of. The conversation should be about blaming victims for having been assaulted. But wait. Then WHY is the conversation continually being re-focused back onto the whole name thing? And the assertion that one group, on behalf of all women, regardless to how this might impact them, are ‘taking it back’. MY opinion on this? If you don’t want to talk about the name, then don’t call your event Slutwalk."

See? An endlessly fascinating topic, wouldn't you agree?
It saddens and frustrates me that a cause like this has to be presented in such a way to gain this level of traction. Any well-earned success of the 'movement' notwithstanding, the fact it takes something called Slutwalk to gain mainstream attention shows how far we have to go, and the strength of the stereotypes women are so often confined to even today.

I will be watching with great interest to see what happens after all the walks.

I would LOVE to get your thoughts on this. (Not necessarily right away, or today. If you do read all the above pieces in full it will take some getting through). But, like I said, I find people's views on this topic fascinating. Does any of it resonate with you, or do you think it's irrelevant? I'm also keen to see anything you may have read on the issue and found interesting.

1 comment:

  1. I had seen #slutwalk hashtags used on twitter, but didn't click through to see what it was about. I'm going to have to do some research now.

    At a totally top-level view, based on your post alone, it doesn't really resonate with me.

    I mean, I agree that blaming sexual assault survivors for the actions of their attackers is wrong, but if this is the right way to go about spreading that message? I don't think so.


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