Feminism in SlutWalk

bluebox's picture

 

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.

Comments

funky_lady's picture

I completely agree with

I completely agree with Brody. You see, the problem with modern feminism is that it has disrupted a gender equilibrium that has existed for millenia. And yes, that equilibrium had men exerting their control and superiority over women, but it was an equilibrium nonetheless that has helped the human species perpetuate and colonize the Earth. Feminism’s successful foray on mainstream culture has destroyed that balance and made it increasingly hopeless for today’s man to land a decent woman who cherishes him, let alone one who can be a suitable mother to his children.

I will concede that some aspects of feminism are just and proper. Women should have some say of how many children they want, if they want to work, and if they want to get married (and with whom). They should not be held as sex slaves against their will. They should be rewarded based on their skills and accomplishments just like a man should, and equal pay for equal work is reasonable. However, today we have women overreaching and demanding more than their fair share. They want high positions not based on their skills but simply because they are female, continually shoving false “glass-ceiling” and unequal pay myths down our throats. They want courts to subjugate men they divorce for the most trivial of reasons, and they want to put-down and play any man who attempts to form a connection with them using a provider (beta) game that has worked for his most recent ancestors.

Unfortunately there will be no setting back of the clock. As long as women retain suffrage, our politicians will continue to appease them for votes by refusing to scale back anti-man laws. Unfit mothers will continue to keep custody rights while fathers pay support for a child who is brainwashed against him. Single motherhoodwill increasingly be glorified. And as long as American-style capitalism provides decreasing job opportunities for men, women will continue to excel in mundane office jobs that better suit their social, emotional brains instead of the factory and engineering jobs of the past that provided men with a fair income for his entire family.

I believe that today’s man can still restore his dominion in a world that is skewing against his favor by doing one thing: becoming a sexist. He must possess sexist beliefs for three reasons:

1. To have sexual relationships with women who are at least as pretty as he is handsome.

2. To assert his superiority over his female competitors in the workplace by playing the office game as well as they do (e.g. constantly bringing up accomplishments to managers, being outspoken, being two-faced, ass-kissing, and backstabbing).

3. To get laid at all.

In the past you didn’t have to believe that you were superior to women. The system was set up so that all you had to do was go to school, get a good-paying local job, and ask your mom to put in a good word with the neighbor’s cute daughter. The first girl you fucked would probably be your wife, you’d have your two kids, and you’d live the so-called American dream. Today this is not possible. Your father’s father would be unsuccessful at mating in today’s climate of feminism which has allowed a tiny percentage of alpha men to monopolize the best women. As American women become more obese and gross, there are fewer desirable women left outside of the alpha males’ harems. The nice guy is left with nothing but scraps—and those scraps have attitude.

While it doesn’t look good for you in terms of marriage, at the minimum any educated, employed man in a first-world nation should be able to sleep with a handful of decent women a year. But without having sexist beliefs, he will wholeheartedly struggle in that front. Here’s what it means to be a sexist:

Having a low level of respect for women.

Having the belief that the genders are not equal (you should nod or smile at the following quote: “A woman can do anything a man can do, as long as a man first shows her how”).

Not listening to them about anything.

Studying flavors of game based on the alpha-male model, an effective countermeasure to feminism.

Preferring the company of compliant, feminine women of different nationalities where feminism has not made strong inroads (Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, South America).

You don’t have to hate women and you don’t have to abuse them. You don’t have to commit any crimes against them. But you must believe that you are superior and deserve more than them. With the addition of game practice, you will then be sexually rewarded for those beliefs.

It’s a sad fact that the modern feminist withholds sex from the nice guy, disgusted with his subservience, while servicing the sexist alpha man, increasing his power and rewarding him with more sexual delights than he could have experienced since the days of Itzcoatl. The nice guy is weak and starved, left sexless and alone, a pathetic specimen resigned to the brunt of jokes in beer commercials and crappy sitcoms. If he wants to be procreate, he has no choice but to rise from the ashes a sexist. The more of those beliefs he accepts, the more he’ll get what he wants in the fucked-up world we currently live in.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Has a women ever ever ever

Has a women ever ever ever heard a man call her a slut because "she likes sex"? This is why feminism is so rediculous. Have you ever heard a man disaprove of the fact you enjoyed sex with your committed partner? NO. Its the amount of different men that you have had sex with (intercourse or oral). Have you ever heard a man disaprove at the amount of times a woman has had sex with her commited partner? No!

Look, bottom line its about power. All women realize they have a sexual power that men do not have. And some women want to use it for whatever the case may be, maybe just to sleeep with attractive guys. But in the ned they don't want it to hurt their chances of meeting a great guy when they want to settle down. So, a man's aversion to relationships with promiscuous women is seen as a threat to their power and it infuriates them.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Actually...

Yes, I have been called and have heard other women be called sluts because they enjoy sex. I know women who have been demeaned for having lots of sex with a single partner. You're lucky to live in a place where irrational labels like this one don't exist.

I agree, power is an important part of this discussion. Maybe women don't realize they even have a "sexual power" that men don't have. Maybe men are afraid of it, and this suggestion that women can be better than men--in attractiveness, sexiness, brains, or other areas--terrifies them. So men avoid women who utilize their "power" because it emasculates them.

dear.abby's picture

question?

How is a parade of women dressed as "sluts", whatever they perceive that to mean, an effective way to combat generalizations that blame the victim or assert that women are "asking for it"? I am missing the connection here. I don't see how this act of owning/exploiting the term "slut" will in any way diminish its usage as a "derogatory term".

S. Yaeger's picture

While, I think you're right

While, I think you're right to question whether taking back the word "slut" would diminish its usage as a slur, I'm also not sure that the aim of slutwalks and other protests is to do that.  I think the first goal of the movement, or action, was/is to raise awareness of the fact that women are blamed for being attacked by the very people who they turn to for help, thus highlighting some of the continuing structural misogyny that exists.  The second goal, as I understand it, is to get people to interogate the word, as its meaning is utterly slippery, and relatively contextual.  The hope, I suppose, is to make people uncomfortable with the term, and uncomfortable with the way it's applied to women.  It absolutely doesn't fix the problem of women's sexuality being scrutinized, but it does highlight a need to discuss the issue and perhaps that's the goal.  Perhaps the very fact that this discussion is occurring makes the walks a success.

S. Yaeger's picture

While, I think you're right

While, I think you're right to question whether taking back the word "slut" would diminish its usage as a slur, I'm also not sure that the aim of slutwalks and other protests is to do that.  I think the first goal of the movement, or action, was/is to raise awareness of the fact that women are blamed for being attacked by the very people who they turn to for help, thus highlighting some of the continuing structural misogyny that exists.  The second goal, as I understand it, is to get people to interogate the word, as its meaning is utterly slippery, and relatively contextual.  The hope, I suppose, is to make people uncomfortable with the term, and uncomfortable with the way it's applied to women.  It absolutely doesn't fix the problem of women's sexuality being scrutinized, but it does highlight a need to discuss the issue and perhaps that's the goal.  Perhaps the very fact that this discussion is occurring makes the walks a success.

Dave's picture

Girls everywhere and all you

Girls everywhere and all you emasculated “men” who are trying so hard to be politically correct at the expense of your masculinity, listen up.

Men and women are equals. This does not mean that they are equal in every single thing they do. For example, men are, on average, physically stronger than women. It is much easier for a semi attractive (even a 6/10) woman to go out and get laid. The same cannot be said about men. Men have to work at it, have some skill (game) and thereby get a woman to sleep with them. It is a LOT harder for an equally attractive man to get women than it is the other way around. This is one of reasons behind why we, as a society, naturally celebrate men who are successful in bedding multiple women; while at the same time shame women who bed multiple men.

Let us briefly visit the topic of virginity from both perspectives. Virginity in a man is not a desirable state or label when it comes to an attribute that the opposite sex wants. This is because he has obviously not been preselected by other women. However, female virginity is not looked at negatively in the least by men. If she looks decent, no man cares if the girl is a virgin or not. In fact, a female virgin is often wanted more.

Now don’t get me wrong, men LOVE sluts. We will never turn down an opportunity to sleep with a good looking slut. Partly because she’s good in bed, partly because it’s sex. But any decently intelligent, self-respecting man will know that it is a terrible idea to emotionally involve himself (i.e. date) a slutty girl. That would be a very dumb move. Why would any man want to get emotionally involved with a girl who’s had 15+ sexual partners? We would just be setting ourselves up for failure. There are many nice worthy girls out there who don’t have daddy issues and haven’t slept with an entire fraternity house. But, by all means, fvck the brains out of sluts in the meanwhile.

Most guys can detect when a girl is a slut by the first few dates and by what he hears about the girl from other people and from the girl herlself. We put this information together and figure out if she is dating material or not. If not, I like most guys, will still go in for the prize but have no intention of following through with dating the dirty little tart.

To put it simply, a lock that can be opened by many keys is a useless lock and of little worth. But a key that can open many locks is a master key and is valuable.

onik's picture

you are so right

you are so fucking right!!

Brody's picture

Women complain about how

Women complain about how unfair it is that men are called studs when they sleep around, yet women get called sluts for the exact same behavior. It’s actually not a double standard though, because both scenarios are pretty different in terms of circumstances and consequences. I can think of at least four crucial differences:

First, sleeping around is easier for women. Regardless of how you feel about promiscuity, we can all agree that a guy who manages to rack up a lot of sexual partners has to have some skills. It’s challenging for men to rack up partners, even for men with low standards. A man needs social intelligence, interpersonal skills, persistence, thick skin, and plain old dumb luck. For women, though, a vagina and a pulse is often enough. Whenever an accomplishment requires absolutely no challenge, no one respects it. It’s just viewed as a lack of self-discipline. People respect those who accomplish challenging feats, while they consider those who overindulge in easily obtained feats as weak, untrustworthy or flawed.

Second, women have potential to do more harm by sleeping around than men do. Say a man sleeps around with a bunch of different women. He’s definitely doing harm to these women if he pretends to be monogamous while sleeping around. He may cause them emotional pain by his promiscuity. He may cause unwanted pregnancy. He may spread VD. When women sleep around, however, they can cause not only all these same ill effects but one additional crucial ill effect: the risk of unknown parentage.

If one guy sleeps around with five women, each of whom is monogamous to him, and they all get pregnant, it’s a safe bet as to who the father is. If you reverse genders and have one woman who sleeps around with five men who are monogamous to her, and she gets pregnant, the father could be any of the five men. And if one of those men is tricked into raising a baby that isn’t his, he’s investing time, money, estate and property to provide for a child that isn’t carrying his DNA into the next generations, a costly mistake from an evolutionary standpoint.

Our two basic primal drives are to survive and to reproduce, and promiscuous women traditionally make it hard for a man to know for sure whether he is truly reproducing or is secretly raising another man’s child. Men stand a lot more to lose from promiscuous women than the other way around. And it’s no picnic for the child to not know who his real father is either. And it’s a mess for the women carrying on the deception as well. Or just look at any random episode of the Maury show if you don’t believe me.

Since the DNA test and the birth control pill didn’t exist until recently, there were no reliable ways to prevent pregnancy or prove parentage for most of human history. For this reason society developed a vested interest in preventing promiscuity among women, and society accomplished this by creating the slut stigma. And even though the creation of birth control and DNA tests have made this less of a risk than the past, longstanding traditions and customs are not easy for society to break so the slut stigma remains.

Third, men have evolutionary reasons to be programmed to sleep around more. A lot of women roll their eyes when they hear that men are “hard-wired” to sleep around. But from an evolutionary standpoint, it makes total sense. If the two primal drives of humans are to survive and to reproduce, nothing leads to maximum reproduction like one man sleeping with multiple women. If one women sleeps with many men in a nine month period, she can only get pregnant just once. Nine months of rampant promiscuity would give the same result as nine months of highly sexed monogamy: one pregnancy. Now if one man sleeps with many women during a nine month period, you can get many pregnancies during that period. The more women he sleeps with, the more possible pregnancies.

So from an evolutionary standpoint, there are concrete advantages to men being promiscuous compared to women being promiscuous. This doesn’t mean that women have evolved to be strictly monogamous. Women have evolved to be somewhat promiscuous too, something men badly underestimate. However they haven’t evolved to be as rampantly promiscuous as men.
Fourth, promiscuity poses more risk to women than to men. A woman has more to lose from choosing bad sex partners than a man does. She’s the one who gets stuck with going through a pregnancy and taking care of a baby alone if she chooses a deadbeat. For this reason, promiscuous women throughout history have historically been viewed as being a vastly more irresponsible risk takers than promiscuous men, who rightly or wrongly could always run away from the consequences of unwanted pregnancies easier than women could.

These four reasons explain why the longstanding tradition came about of men being rewarded for multiple partners while women get socially punished for similar promiscuity. Of course all this is gradually changing, but we’re up against millenia of evolutionary and cultural conditioning here, so don’t expect any dramatic overnight reversals.

Understand that I’m just explaining why the double standard came into existence and not condoning or condemning it. This is not an attempt to pass judgment or be self-righteous in any way. It’s just an explanation of why the two conditions are treated differently.

Anne Dalke's picture

"Victims do not create themselves"

bluebox--

I was so pleased to see that FrigginSushi's study of the double standard operating in Korean pop culture was informed by the work you did here--such collaborative feminism among us makes me glad!

Your own first webevent looked @ girl scouts, transitioning; this one looks (not unrelatedly?) @ a range of responses generated by women's choices about how to present themselves in public, particularly when those choices involve clothing "read" as suggestive or "inviting" sexual contact; your bottom line here is that "clothing does not signify consent."

Along these lines, you might be interested to learn more about a more local event--the Consent Is Sexy campaign @ Haverford --started by a group of students who were enrolled in the gender studies core course last fall:

Reflections on the Consent is Sexy Campaign: Moving Forward, Looking Back

Sexual Misconduct Policy Reform @ Haverford

Speak About It Advertising Campaign: A Work in Progress

There's much more to learn about in this domain, both politically, in local campaigns like this one, and theoretically, in terms of the larger questions about our role as individuals who both express ourselves and read others' self-expression within the context of larger communities. For instance...

* your finale grants equal respect to "a slut," a "virginal nubile woman,” the Toronto police officer who made the "wrong and hurtful statement" that initiated SlutWalk, and "the bored individuals" who write the Urban Dictionary definitions. Are there any limits to respect?

* In such a community, is it the case (as you say) that "a person’s sex life is their own business, and no one else’s"? Right now, I'm reading a compelling biography of Alice Neel, the famous feminist portrait painter whose volatile sex life had horrid consequences for her children (who were abused by her lover).

* You say that "someone who calls a woman a slut because she enjoys sex is, in high probability, a hypocrite"--what are the grounds for that charge? How might you know?

(If you want to go on thinking about questions such as these, a good starting point might be John Humbach's 2001 essay, Towards a Natural Justice of Right Relationships, Human Rights in Philosophy and Practice, Burton M. Leiser and Tom D. Campbell, eds., 2001. 1-18.)

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