So What’s a Slutwalk? Round three

Posted on June 13, 2011


Easy activism tip for the day: Refuse to degrade women who are expressing their sexuality or fashion sense. aka: no more calling women sluts.  

SlutWalk protests: A dress is not a yes – I keep posting about this topic because i think it’s probably one of the most important news/politics/culture stories/activism pieces I’ve seen. Ever.  And at the rate I consume news information, that’s saying something.  In case you missed Round 1 and Round 2 of this exploration, there ya go. Round three is an article from Chloe Angyal (who I first read at Feministing and can’t get enough of.. she has a magical ability to say what i feel in a much, much more eloquent fashion. And in general, she’s just kind of a boss).

Whereas Rounds 1 and 2 were more describing what a slutwalk actually was about and what the reason for it was, Chloe’s article takes it a different route: what’s up with the word slut?   Why do women use it against each other?  Obviously it is one way to make us feel better about ourselves as Chloe points out with her story.  It’s a way to bond.  But the scary part is how it gives women a false sense of security, and how that false sense of security is coming at the cost of women who are victimized and ourselves:

But secondly, and more disturbingly, making the distinction between “sluts” and ourselves creates a false sense of safety. “Sluts,” we tell ourselves, are women who invite violence, and often, that invitation is answered. When “sluts” are raped, police officers suspect they must have done something to deserve it. So as long as we aren’t sluts, we are safe.We won’t be raped, and if we are, the justice system will take care of us. We won’t be raped, and if we are, our friends and family will be sympathetic. We won’t be raped, and if we are, no one will say we deserved it.

Unfortunately, this simply isn’t true.

Repeat: it isn’t true. it isn’t true. it isn’t true.  I don’t know how many times i could say that.. how many times would it take to get the message through?  no women ever does anything that invites sexual victimization.  ever. ever. ever. There is nothing keeping a woman who wears a turtleneck and pants more safe than a woman who is wearing a skirt and heels.  Because someone else acting violently with us is out of our control.  I can take one million safety precautions (the way women do: park under lights, get escorted places at night, bring mace, etc etc etc), but if someone wants to rape me, they’re going to.  Regardless of what I’m wearing, where I am, etc.  Rape is a crime of power/domination, not lust/right place, right time.  So what happens when we use the word slut against other women:

When women hurl that word at other women, we aren’t just buying into the lie that some of us deserve violence more than others. We’re also lying to ourselves about our own safety. We’re pretending that rape could never happen to us – that it’s something that happens to other women, women who bring it on themselves. And by endorsing that myth, we make it easier for men like that Toronto police officer to pick and choose who sees justice and who doesn’t.

When we use the word slut we’re perpetuating ideologies that allow all women to be victimized by individual men and by our criminal justice/legal systems, all to make ourselves feel safer. It’s nice to feel safe.  But we’re not.  In our hearts, a lot of us know this.  when 1 in 4 of us will be raped do we really believe that all of those women were wearing short skirts or were otherwise “slutty”?  Do we really?  Do we really believe that all sexual violence happens from dirty skeezy men at bars or creepers who launch themselves at us from a bush because of a shirt a lady was wearing? Really?  These dominant narratives only obscure the realities that are our lives.  It’s seriously about time we rethink our words and what messages they convey, but also what ideas we have about rape and sexual assault.  Do we picture the mother of two being raped by her batterer who is a stellar employee?  Do we think of the highschool girl who’s out on her first date?  Not only do we need to reassess how we perceive victims of rape and sexual assault, we seriously need to shift focus to the people who are perpetrating this violence (hate crimes) and explore what ideas we have fixed about them.. because i bet we’re wrong.