SlutWalk Wellington (and Christchurch, and Perth) was yesterday. While the turnout wasn’t up to last year’s, I thought it was a great event. Minus the abusive drunken heckler who seemed determined to insist that “no one should call themselves a slut” while labelling those who did so “cunts”. Slightly mixed message, there, mate.
Anyway, here’s what others had to say. If you weren’t there yourself, check out:
(And MJ’s speech from last year)
(And Brooklynne’s speech from last year)
ETA: Natalie Gousmett’s speech (Natalie is from Wellington Rape Crisis)
Other related reading:
An interview with MJ on The Lady Garden
PickledThink on SlutWalk Christchurch
DomPost reporting (the comments, at time of drafting this, surprisingly in the positive category)
Not much to report on tonight. Class sizes are going up, prescription costs are going up, John Banks is somehow still an elected representative of the people of Epsom (to be fair, a majority of them may well aspire to a life of helicopter trips and bags of cash), Elliot Turner’s defence lawyers think “but he loved her so he can’t have killed her” is some kind of compelling argument, and Labour screwed the pooch on The Nation (either because of leadership wank or because of sheer incompetence, I don’t mind which you pick.)
Roll on the weekend! Just one more day to go …
(And if you’re in Wellington on Sunday, do join us at SlutWalk.)
This weekend sees the second Wellington SlutWalk, which I am attending.
Because there’s still a lot of discussion and questions and concerns around the whole concept of SlutWalk (and probably will be until the vaginocracy perfects its hivemind technology) I want to recap why I support SlutWalk (in general).
It’s because SlutWalk is a big, flagrant middle finger to mainstream, acceptable attitudes which basically dictate all women need to stay indoors dressed in nuns’ habits because damned if we actually care to stop people committing rape.
It’s because SlutWalk is a gateway protest. I know, far be it for me to preach breaking things to people gently, but the fact is if a group predominantly made up of “respectable” middle-class white women, most from the ever-self-centred Generation Y, stand up and say they aren’t taking some shit, people pay more attention.
What we have to absolutely make sure of is that we don’t stop there and say “oh well, white cis women are OK so let’s go do brunch”.
It’s because SlutWalk makes you feel not-alone in a world constantly invading your head with rape culture and victim blaming. It lets you know people care. And within its privileged framing (see below) it sends a hell of a message.
There are large numbers of people in this world who will happily state in the anonymous sewer of Stuff comments that women are like billboards, rape is just men’s way of “reacting” to Hot Chicks, that victims do indeed deserve blaming. I’m just saying this: if any of those sad fucks were at last year’s march, I sure didn’t see any of them having the spine to say it to our faces.
It’s because this whole thing kicked off in January 2011 when a Toronto police officer told a group of university students that to avoid being attacked, women shouldn’t “dress like sluts”.
And in May 2012, Whanganui police are saying women shouldn’t walk or jog alone in the CBD.
This shit is not okay. It’s not actually acceptable. And when I go to SlutWalk, I and everyone else marching will hopefully be sending a big old message: we won’t tolerate our police force saying women should live in fear. We won’t tolerate society excusing violence because the victims dared to live their lives, dress up, have a few drinks, or even stay at home and expect not to be attacked by their friend or partner or ex.
SlutWalk is by no means perfect. In the first place, I want to hope that this year we won’t see repeats of that incident. We won’t see women wearing faux burqa. We won’t appropriate other struggles just because it’s easier than developing our own language.
Let’s be honest, someone will. Someone who isn’t thinking about comparative privilege or intersectionality, someone who’s just focused on her own particular types of oppression (oh look, history of white Western feminism coming at ya). In a way, that’s part of why I want to be there – because the people who are on our side for the wrong reasons need to be educated just as much as the people we’re opposing.
SlutWalk is never going to be able to tackle the totality of sex-policing in our society – not when some groups of women are considered so lowly, so unable to refuse consent, that the word “slut” isn’t really a weapon used against them. Not when some groups of women are considered unrapeable, and any assault – even murder – committed against them isn’t really seen as a crime.
I do find it ironic, as someone who is so often hardline and unwilling to compromise, that despite all these things I still support the concept of SlutWalk. But it does feel good to do something, and I do believe it has the potential to start off change which we can spread to other, less-“obvious” (to the privileged) forms of sexual oppression.
LudditeJourno has fought the good fight once more against the forces of misogyny:
Two women fought off separate attacks from an unidentified man in central Whanganui. Police suspect the attacks were related, as both involved women being targeted from behind, while they were out running.
“It’s clear we have a predator trying to target female joggers,” said Detective Inspector Plod. “We’d like to praise the strength and ingenuity of the two women who successfully stopped potential sexual attacks.”
If only it were so. Our police force’s actual advice is:
“Police are warning the public, females in particular, to take particular care when walking or jogging in the broader CBD area, and encourage they do not head out alone for such activities.
“This approach should continue until positive results are achieved in locating the offender or offenders for these attacks.”
Because, you know, there’s only one or two sexual predators targeting women in the whole of Whanganui. And once the police catch them, sexual assault will be a thing of the past! Hurrah!
Shit like this is why, despite a lot of the issues around its ignoring of intersectionality and the different ways sexuality-policing affects different classes of women,* I’ll be going to Wellington SlutWalk 2.0. It’s not just about the wider societal bullshit. It’s about the fact that in 2012 we still have a police culture which tells women to stay in the kitchen if they know what’s good for them.
*But, I’m going to say again right from the outset, I have zero time for the critiques which are basically “lol how can u reclaim the word slut when u r dressed like sluts, slut”, which (unsurprisingly?) is the main type of criticism noted on the Wikipedia page for SlutWalk – which has one para on the issues raised by some women of colour but conflates it with the usual simplistic “but you can never reclaim bad words!!!!!” critique.
Deborah has an article in the DomPost about SlutWalk.
But what is wrong with enjoying sex, and sexuality, and with seeking out opportunities to have sex? A man who enjoys sex and signals his interest in having sex is called a stud. He’s a player, but she’s a tramp. He’s a Don Juan, but she’s a loose woman. It’s an old double standard, and it’s time we got rid of it. Women shouldn’t be shamed for enjoying sex and sexuality. Like “stud”, the word “slut” should be said with pride.
As Julie commented at The Hand Mirror,
DON’T READ THE COMMENTS
Which are words well deserving of their capitals. But if you want the edited highlights, I have invoked the protection of a few beers and thus present the following Wisdom from Stuff Commenters, or, How I Learnt to Stop Worrying And Love Reactionary Douchebaggery Which Makes No Sense.
[trigger warnings in place for rape apologism and mansplaining]
- women are billboards, and “if you put a billboard up you expect folk to look at it” (and we all know men are genetically hardwired to rape billboards)
- it’s not going to achieve anything and you should do real work against rape, you know, not something so meaningless as loudly and publicly declaring en masse that victim blaming is wrong
- women encourage rape by posting sexy pictures on their Facebook and friending their cousins
- by writing about SlutWalk and her own relationship, Deborah is actually just saying “haha, sucks to be you, rape victims” [no, seriously, that’s their argument]
- awesome new euphemism for sex work: “the unwanted profession”
- if we end rape then no man will find us attractive again because we’re trying to stop them “reacting” to us
- inevitable car theft metaphor
- inevitable “vagina is like waving around a wallet full of cash” metaphor
- blaming the victim is wrong but sometimes it’s their fault
Dear readers, truly I have learnt a valuable lesson this day. Unfortunately I just can’t let my bitchingly awesome signs go to waste so see y’all at SlutWalk Wellington!
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.
Wellington SlutWalk is coming up on 25 June, and I’m going to be there. But there’s a hell of a lot of different views out there on the SlutWalk phenomenon,and gosh darn it if I don’t think this is a damn good discussion for feminism to be having.
I don’t agree with all the perspectives linked and cannot vouch for the safety or non-triggering-ness of comments on other blogs. It’s also going to be pretty Southern-Hemisphere-centric!
New posts added at the top:
The stupid, it burns at news with nipples (whom I give major points for persisting with a “I’m not blaming the victim, I’m just saying your short skirt will get you raped” commenter)
An Open Challenge to mainstream media re SlutWalk Sydney at Hoyden About Town
In Defence of SlutWalk at Versatile Identities
Brief Thoughts at iced-chai
Octavia Spitfire – Walk don’t walk – how we remain BFFs is beyond me for clearly we girlish harpies cannot handle disagreement or divergence from the hivemind.
News With Nipples on “personal responsibility” and what effect SlutWalk could have
Racialicious – To March or Not To March
Clem Bastow (a Melbourne SlutWalk organiser) in The Age – Hey girls, we’re all sluts now
Karen Pickering, another Melbourne organiser, on Crikey
Another View at The Angry Black Woman (Muslim WOC perspective)
LudditeJourno – However we dress, wherever we go
Crunk Feminist Collective: Slut Walks vs Ho Strolls
A link round-up at Feminist Frequency (critical)
Post your own links in comments! I’m sure I’ve forgotten some utter corkers of posts!
Next up on Ideologically Impure: my own view on the whole damn thing!
Danyl at Dim Post doesn’t think SlutWalks are necessary or have any point or will change anything or are really serious and omg feminists aren’t a hivemind so it’s all doomed to fail.
In lieu of merely typing *EYEROLL* a few thousand times, some shoutouts to those with the spoons and ability to respond to Danyl without just saying (as I did on Twitter last night) OH THANK YOU, DANYL, NOW YOU’VE PASSED YOUR ALMIGHTY JUDGEMENT ON WHAT FEMINISTS SHOULD BE THINKING, DOING AND WEARING I’M GOING TO JUST GIVE THE WHOLE THING UP SINCE WHAT I WAS REALLY AFTER ALL THIS TIME WAS A MAN TO LAY DOWN THE LAW.
You don’t think the right for women to choose their own clothing is important? What do you think about restrictions on women’s clothing in religious countries? Recently a (conservative) Israeli paper erased two women from a picture – I’m sure you’re familiar with this – they don’t print images of women for, you know, the usual reasons: women are dangerous. Our bodies, our images. The way we dress. Our visibility. These women were pretty conservatively clothed: there is *nothing* women can wear to avoid this! “The right to dress like a slut” doesn’t exactly have a ring to it when you put it that way, no. But the right to be seen? The right to be heard? The right to see and the right to speak? *those* are the rights that the word “slut” is used to curtail.
How shameful I find a particular woman’s outfit is a measure of how fucked up I am, not a measure of anything about her. Just a pity the late-night streets are a smorgasbord of male fucked-up-edness.
I personally avoid skipping the other comments due to victim-blaming, mansplaining and some wonderfully petty Danyl v Russell Brown wank.