So what’s a Slut Walk? Round two

Posted on June 7, 2011

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Early last month I posted on the slutwalks that were going down.. sorta. I linked an article to it.  Since then the controversy, fervor, love and hate surrounding these events has not quieted.  The momentum has carried.  So here’s a little more information on the SlutWalks:

Here’s a GREAT VIDEO of Jessica Valenti discussing the slut walks

Here is Jessica’s piece at WaPo:

In a feminist movement that is often fighting simply to hold ground, SlutWalks stand out as a reminder of feminism’s more grass-roots past and point to what the future could look like.

The marches are mostly organized by younger women who don’t apologize for their in-your-face tactics, making the events much more effective in garnering media attention and participant interest than the actions of well-established (and better funded) feminist organizations. And while not every feminist may agree with the messaging of SlutWalks, the protests have translated online enthusiasm into in-person action in a way that hasn’t been done before in feminism on this scale.

I agree that this is exciting and i seriously hope it is the future.  I can imagine “badly behaved” women taking to the streets more and more, but our situation is getting more and more dire at the same time that our means of communicating are getting better and better.. we’re networking in more efficient ways while at the same time learning that internet activism is the diving board, the streets and our communities are the pools.

And here is a piece from Feministe that talks about Jessica’s WaPo piece with some insightful commentary of their own on how people are arguing about the term “slut” in regards to the validity of the action being taken:

But the key, I think, is recognizing that there is no one perfect form of activism, and no one-size-fits-all feminism. Slutwalks ain’t your thing? That’s cool! Think there are problems with using the word “slut,” and that it alienates some women? Yes, that is worth addressing. But we can recognize the imperfections of Slutwalk as a movement while also recognizing that for a lot of women it’s incredibly powerful, and it is pretty cool that these walks have been springing up all over the country, organized locally by grassroots activists in their particular communities. There have been Slutwalks in more than 75 cities across North America and beyond, and there’s no organization or central group being the phenomenon. That is pretty awesome.

I think if something makes us uncomfortable (like the word slut, for example.. or the notion that women should dress so scantily), we should explore that.  Why does it make me uncomfortable? Are the notions it raises in me coming from within me (and if so deconstruct that further to tease out the society monster vs. past experiences raising bias, etc) or are they genuinely instilled by the information i’m taking in (ie: this really doesn’t jive with my vibes)? For example, I’ve heard people saying things like “how can you support something that encourages women to dress like sluts?”.. well i’m pretty sure these slutwalks aren’t encouraging women to dress in this fashion at all times.  Jessica does a great job of breaking it down in the video when she talks about the performative aspect of it all, and how the message is “no matter WHAT I’M WEARING I don’t deserve to be raped, or blamed for rape.” It’s not saying “hey go dress like floozies all over the place”.. it’s “if we feel like wearing a skirt that’s okay and it’s not an open invitation to my vagina nor should it in any way be a valid excuse for someone making the choice to violate my body

I also think a super salient point that Jessica makes is this underlying notion in all of this that if women wear turtlenecks and long pants all the time they will be safe from rape.  As if anything I do can totally prevent someone from attacking me.  Women are trained from a very young age on things to do to remain safe.  Take out a piece of paper and write down every little thing women are told to do to stay safe:  don’t walk alone at night, have pepper spray, don’t pull over for a cop until you’re in a populated area, park under street lights, wear your hair in a pony, lock all your doors at night, check under your car before you get in, go to the bathroom in pairs, never leave your drink alone, take self defense classes, etc etc.. try it.  What do YOU do to stay safe?  And yet it doesn’t matter.  Not only because in most cases your aggressor will be someone you know (and not someone in a bush) but also because as a women the only definitive factor in you becoming a victim of SA is your gender.  Because it isn’t about what women do.  It’s about the fact that they’re women, period.  It’s about the need for power, and to control, and entitlement.  It’s not about sex, it’s not about women teasing or “asking for it”.  It’s about a culture that supports men’s use of violence against women as a means to limit their freedom and deny them total agency over their lives.  And as women I believe sometimes we support these notions about “well I wouldn’t have done that” or “I wouldn’t let my daughter wear that” speaks to our need to feel safe.  To feel like it can’t happen to us.  That bad things only happen to bad people.  Because what does it mean if we acknowledge what is really happening?  Well, shit, then we’d have to actually do something about it (in order to maintain our idea of ourselves as good people, at least).

Would I let my daughter go out dressed like that (if i had a daughter)?  YES.  I would hope by that time we could have an open relationship and she would have an understanding of herself in a larger context than a sexual object, or even being, and understand that wanting to be desired isn’t what it’s all about.  So if she still wanted to wear high heels and a short skirt?  YES.  Because life is a performance, and it’s supposed to be fun.  Women deserve to wear whatever they want without fearing for their safety.

And yet even with the slutwalk we’re still focusing on the victim.  I wonder what kind of grassroots campaign would help to flip the script from “what’s her problem” to “what the fuck is his problem?”

Sexual violence against women should be a hate crime. Come to think of it, sexual violence against anyone should be a hate crime (with the exception of those diagnosed with pedophilia, as i do believe it is a mental health issue and not a power and control issue)

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