Feminism in SlutWalk
Feminism of SlutWalk
SlutWalk is a protest event that began in April of 2011 in Toronto to express freedom of expression and anger at double standards. It has since expanded to other cities including New York and Chicago. SlutWalk Toronto was originally spurred by a Toronto police officer who suggested that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” This made a lot of people angry.
SlutWalk Toronto’s website explains that this statement is wrong and hurtful for many reasons. Sexual assault is a serious crime and has nothing to do with the clothing a woman wears. No woman is “asking for it” when she wears a blouse that shows cleavage or when she wears sky-high platform pumps. By placing blame on the victim, it makes her less likely to report it to authorities or seek professional help.
The main purpose behind SlutWalk is to protest the derogatory use of the word “slut.” It is used to describe a woman who has had multiple partners, enjoys sex, or is rumored to have a sexual appetite that society disapproves of—that is to say, any at all outside of a heterosexual marriage. Urban dictionary describes a slut as “a woman with the morals of a man,” which is a terrible statement about society. It is not the morals of a man that she has, it is a disregard for the double standard. If a man has multiple sex partners, no one thinks much of it. If a woman does, it is a mark against her character and her integrity, according to society.
Urban Dictionary describes slut shaming as “An unfortunate phenomenon in which people degrade or mock a woman because she enjoys having sex, has sex a lot, or may even just be rumored to participate in sexual activity.” This definition goes on to denounce slut shaming because it decreases the likelihood of the particular “slut” sleeping with those doing the shaming. In addition, the second definition reads that slut shaming is a feminist scheme to convince men that sluts are “as good as any virginal nubile woman.” The article discourages slut shaming in order to manipulate already slutty women into more promiscuous activity. Sadly, Urban Dictionary is the first link when one searches “slut” on google, which suggests to me that this is a more acceptable belief than the idea that all women are equal and should be respected.
One of the most common defenses of potentially provocative fashion choices is that dressing is personal expression. One should be allowed to express oneself through outward appearance without fear of forced conformity. Some of the main functions of clothing—aside from warmth, hygiene, and covering “indecency”—is to express personality, such as gender, culture, and class. There has been growing concern about what women should be allowed to wear, because certain styles are considered provocative and distracting and even morally wrong.
This blog by Darshan Chande, a man living in India attempts to deliver an objective view on clothes and rape. He mentions that even women wearing burqas are ogled and raped, not just women in skin-baring clothes. He writes that women who do wear provocative clothes do so in order to attract attention from suitable males, and then feel insecure and victimized when a man who is not to their standards appreciates their beauty. As the vulnerable woman refuses to take responsibility for the male gaze, she labels men perverts “like a narcissist.”
Most rapes are planned and executed on women who are vulnerable and whom the rapist believes is unlikely to tell. Dressing to enhance one’s assets is not a crime, and should not be treated as such. Disregarding social norms is likely to cause a stir among other people. For example, a bikini that one might wear to the tanning salon may not be appropriate for the pool at the country club. It shows more skin, perhaps makes some people uncomfortable, but in no way invites a man to violate her.
This blog also makes the point that “Since male is designed to seduce, and female is designed to be seduced, we won't find an active female.” Therefore, women “pull maneuvers” in order to invite males to “make bold advances.” I am certain that there are cultural differences between where I live in middle class America and where Darshan Chande lives in Mumbai, India, but I still find this either insulting or naïve. I have seen that women are as capable as men to make bold advances, just as I have known men to manipulate women indirectly. Gail Dines and Wendy J Murphy say it well: “Whether we blame victims by calling them "sluts" (who thus asked to be raped), or by calling them "frigid" (who thus secretly want to be overpowered), the problem is that we're blaming them for their own victimisation no matter what they do.” Victims do not create themselves.
Slut shaming decreases the value of women in the minds of those who shame, those who are shamed, and even innocent bystanders who happen to hear the conversation. Condemning a person for actions that have nothing to do with you makes no sense. Much like Rick Perry’s condemnation of homosexuality in the military because the idea could make people uncomfortable, it’s none of his business. If he disapproves of homosexual sex, he can choose not to participate in it. If a person disapproves of a woman having and enjoying sex, he or she can choose not to participate similarly.
A woman’s life is her own business, including who she sleeps with and how often, what contraception she uses, and what clothing she wears and when. Some choices may be more appropriate or healthier than others, but it is the woman’s choice. Rape is never excusable, nor is sexual assault or battery. A woman does not contribute to a man’s idea that it is acceptable to violate someone unless she specifically gives permission, which would then render the act not a violation but sex between two consenting people. In response to Chandra’s assertions, a woman’s clothing does not signify consent. Consent is given verbally, and if there is none or if a protest is ignored, it is a violation.
SlutWalk’s purpose is not to reclaim the word slut, but to assert that all women deserve respect regardless of sexual preferences or actions. Feminism, if defined as equal respect and equal treatment for all genders, sexes, classes, races, ethnicities, cultures, and orientations, is the core of SlutWalk. SlutWalk promotes the idea that all women, regardless of their sexual practices, are equal to one another as well as to men. A slut deserves the same amount of respect as a “virginal nubile woman.” Who, in turn deserves the same amount of respect as the police officer in Toronto, as well as the bored individuals who wrote the Urban Dictionary definitions.
Call me old fashioned, but I believe that sex is best with a partner with whom one is in a loving, committed relationship where both partners respect one another equally. However, a person’s sex life is their own business, and no one else’s. If there must be criticism, whether a woman sleeps with one person or one dozen, the health of the woman and her partner(s) should take precedence over socially constructed rules for a woman’s use of her body. Someone who calls a woman a slut because she enjoys sex is, in high probability, a hypocrite.