This slut is made for walking

Soooooooo the big ol’ SlutWalk issue.  The ultimate expression of grrl power ever or massive enforcement of the dominance of cis white voices in gender-oriented progressive politics?  THAT IS THE QUESTION.  Nah, that’s just me being trite.

That Whole Reclaiming Thing

The aspect I probably have the least issue with is the reclaiming of “slut”, because it’s a reclamation I’ve made for years.  Back in my Livejournal days I was a member of a community called sluts4choice, a group with a stated goal of fucking with the heads of antichoice scum by saying yes, we enjoy sex and yes, we can have abortions if that goes wrong and no, we aren’t going to keep our legs shut or apologise or play the moralistic but-my-contraception-failed-and-I’m-monogamous-and-my-life-was-in-danger, the distancing oh-I-support-choice-but-I’ve-never-had-a-dirty-yuck-abortion games.

And it was pretty fucking successful, and pretty damn empowering.  I was a freaking virgin when I joined s4c, and for years during the beginning of my life’s quest to piss off antichoice scum online.  And I was able to take that word, that entire message which was being used to control and monitor people’s (primarily women’s) sexuality and say “So.  Fucking.  What.”

It taught me that “slut” was one of the thermonuclear bombs in the misogynist arsenal (used primarily against white cis women in this way) because it was so fucking amorphous, so completely devoid of concrete meaning, it could be used against any of us and it worked because it was so ingrained in us to flinch, to withdraw, to immediately deny its assault on our (white cis) feminine dignity.

And when a white cis girl says nah, actually, I’m not going to be shamed into silence and I’m not going to make excuses to justify myself and qualify my defence of reproductive justice … well then antichoicers generally get paternalistic and pearl-clutchy and “I am ashamed of you, young lady” (another assault playing to our privilege because of course we should be expected to behave) … but eventually they shut up and fuck off, because there’s plenty of other “oh but I don’t believe abortion should be used irresponsibly” hacks out there to harass into incremental surrender.

These are my reasons.  They don’t resonate with everyone and plenty of people choose not to reclaim slut, like other slurs – and as a lot of the critiques of SlutWalk have shown, it’s not a word that means the same thing to people who aren’t in a predominantly white, cis, middle-class Western environment so it’s not something they want or even feel they can reclaim.

That Whole Privilege Thing

SlutWalk is a protest form very specific to a certain sector/region/culture/demographic of the world, and one that generally has a lot of privilege and often dominates feminist discourse and certainly feminist media coverage.

This is a problem when it means that that privileged demographic gets more than the lion’s share of mainstream public attention, and when organisers start insisting that actually, it is a protest that does work for everyone and if you’re a marginalized person who ain’t feeling it then well you are just wrong because the nice white ladies say so.  It’s a problem when /if the word “slut” becomes the be-all and end-all of sexual policing of people, primarily women, and the only way in which victims of sexual assault are ever silenced.

I don’t think these latter things have necessarily happened in the SlutWalk movement as a whole (the white cis women telling other marginalized women to shut up and get under the umbrella definitely has).

I like to think (and come from a position of privilee in doing so) that kyriarchal policing of sexuality and behaviour is something we can attack at all levels simultaneously: at the level of police officers telling college women not to dress like sluts, at the level of poor women of colour working in service jobs being targets for rich white men like Dominique Strauss-Kahn, at the level of sex workers being assumed to have no ability to refuse consent or treating rape as “theft of services”.

The trick with SlutWalk is to make sure that we don’t just spend all our energy and vigour on it.  The trick is to not sit back afterwards and pat ourselves on the back and then [in many cases, continue to] ignore the voices of other women and other groups who need our white cis asses to get in behind them – without fucking everything up by dominating the conversation and taking over and talking about ourselves all the time, thanks.

The Criticisms I Find Kinda Hilarious

You’re just giving men what they want!

Because “men” (I’m assuming here we use the term to describe “soulless hetero cis automatons of the patriarchy who are motivated solely by the whims of their cocks”) definitely “want” to see a pack of cis women and allies walking down the street chanting Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me and refusing to accept sexual assault being ignored via victim-blaming.

You’re actually making it harder for young girls!

Because young cis girls definitely need to have it reinforced to them that the word slut is bad and evil, and they will totally have the analytical skills to deduce that this is because it’s a patriarchal weapon of oppression.  And they won’t basically end up associating “slut is a bad word” with “being a slut is bad” and ending up in the same fucking mess of questioning their feelings and urges and sexuality that their older sistren are already in.  It would definitely be damaging for them to see large numbers of women marching in the fucking streets saying actually, we refuse to be shamed, actually, we refuse to accept your judgement and in 100% of cases would never lead to an awakening of feminist thought.  At all.

You’re just making this all about what women are wearing!

Sorry, were you paying attention?  Cause, um, I’m not sure how to break this to you, it’s already about what women are wearing, because of that whole don’t dress like sluts to minimize your chances of getting raped thing, which does in fact go back just a liiiiiitle bit further than this one Toronto douchebag (sorry, good peeps of Toronto).

IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT WHAT WOMEN ARE FUCKING WEARING.  Now go back to your pre-101 readings and look up male fucking gaze, objecti-fucking-fication, fucking beauty standards, and basic fucking victim blaming.  In the meantime I will happily collect whatever ridiculous sums people like Gail Dines get paid to talk out their asses.

~

NB  I’ve used the qualifier “cis” a lot here.  I don’t think SlutWalk is universally or automatically exclusive of trans* people but it is an issue that has been raised and I want to avoid just referring to “girls” or “women” when my points are generally more relevant to cis women.

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5 comments

  1. Pollyanne Pena

    THANK YOU QoT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I am the Wellington organiser and it’s articles like this that help me keep on keeping on in the face of the trolling, insensitive, misguided and downright disgusting attitudes that I’ve come to face every day on both the Wellington and Auckland event pages.

  2. Dan

    I’m basically going because my partner & some women mates are going. My involvement begins and ends with supporting them… I get a bit squiffy when I read other guys saying they’re out to reclaim the word.. or even help reclaim it, really. I’d rather just be there with friends who are doing that, for themselves, and quietly back them up.

    My second thought is that I think it should be pointed out to some guys that reclamation of a word like this doesn’t give feminist men free range to start shooting it around like they’re suddenly part of the club. Some black people choose to adopt the N word for themselves and it’s exactly the same principal. Probably hugely obvious to readers here but I wouldn’t bet a cent that it won’t happen.

    • QoT

      Hey now, Dan, I’m sure some of their best friends are women and they call each other sluts all the time so what’s the difference and why are you being so sexist against men and denying their freedom of speech, hmmmm?

      • notafeminist

        Favourite quote from JaySmooth: “If you’re not the original target of an insult, you can’t be the one to reclaim it.” Had to remind my male friends of that a lot when they got all upset about me calling them out on joining 17 different Facebook groups of the “Women get back into the kitchen lol” variety.

        APPARENTLY THEY WERE ACTUALLY RECLAIMING THE IDEA!!!!!!!1!!!!!

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