Friday, 27 May 2011

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There is a march happening in Brisbane tomorrow called SlutWalk which is a protest rally the came into being in retaliation to a Canadian police officer who suggested women could avoid sexual assault by not dressing like a “slut”.

I had never heard of this event before until a work mate mentioned it to me today. Her friend is keen to take part in the rally and asked her to help support the cause, but my workmate was feeling conflicted about what she thought of the event. We had a great discussion about our thoughts on what SlutWalk stands for, and even had some male perspective thrown in from another work mate.

If you’ve never heard of it, it is essentially a rally for women who have had enough of the perception that a woman deserves to get raped because of the outfit she was wearing or the way she was acting. It is also claimed they take back the world “slut” so that the meaning becomes that of someone who enjoys sex, as opposed to the negative meaning it currently has.

I have to admit, I am very conflicted about this as well. As I have said in previous posts, a woman should be able to walk down the street completely naked without fear of being raped. And if a girl wants to wear a short skirt, dance suggestively and have a party pash while extremely intoxicated, she has ever right to do so without running the risk of EVER being raped. Men should be able to handle their desires for sex, they should be able to look at a girl in skimpy clothing and not want to rape her. But I am also a realist and feel that women who can’t handle their alcohol or give off a vulnerable vibe need to be more mindful of how they’re perceived in order to lower their chances of being attacked by the kinds of people who are out there with rape on their minds.

I also absolutely abhor the word “slut”. I think it is the most repulsive word. I find it far worse thasn the C-bomb because of what it means to most people and how it gets used. To me a slut is someone (male or female) who has frequent, unprotected sex without any regard for their own well-being, let alone that of their sexual partners. But that’s not how most people think of the word nor how they use it. It’s a word used specifically for women (if ever it gets used for men, it’s always male-slut) and is used for any female who happens to enjoy having casual sex. It doesn’t matter that she uses protection or even if knows the guy/s, the fact she’s having sex with men who aren’t her boyfriend more than once in a blue moon is something to look down upon and use a foul name to describe her character.

I don’t know how they expect to reclaim the world slut, because it was never “ours” to begin with. It’s not like the word faggot (another one of my most hated words) that actually means a bundle of sticks. Nor the word “cunt” which is a slang word for vagina and in my opinion, should not be considered the worst swear word, because there’s nothing wrong with vagina’s, thank you very much! The word “slut” has negative connotations and can never be reclaimed. It didn’t once mean something nice and innocent, it’s always meant the same awful thing. I’ve never heard the word used in anything but a hateful, demeaning and misogynistic way and I don’t want it reclaimed, if ever that were possible. If I had my way the word would be wiped from everyone’s memories and never used again.

I feel they are going about this the wrong way. As my male workmate said, rapists usually aren’t targeting women for what they’re wearing, they’re targeting the vulnerable. Why would they target a girl confident enough to wear a micro mini skirt when they could go for the meek girl who’s covered up but obviously wouldn’t put up much of a fight? This perception that women who wear “slutty” outfits or stumbles around drunkenly after a big night out and then get raped were “asking for it” is not the opinion of the rapists, but of the general public. Even in this modern day and age, many people still have the old-fashioned and sexist idea that a woman is asking for sex (consensual or not) when she wears certain clothing. These ideas are hideously old fashioned but they’re also deeply ingrained in many people, so having a march called SlutWalk isn’t going to make them say “Oh, they’re right, a woman should be able to wear what she wants and not get raped for it”. More than likely they think all of the participants are being hysterical feminists or that they’re just trying to justify their wicked ways with a protest.

I appreciate what the SlutWalk is setting out to achieve, and I hope I am wrong and it does raise awareness on the matter and converts some peoples way of thinking about women who enjoy sex and/or likes to wear skimpy clothing. But I really do think there’s a good chance they’re doing just as much harm as good by drawing attention to and essentially reinforcing the negative stereotypes of promiscuous women by calling it SlutWalk and then having half the participants dressing as “sluts”. If I didn’t have plans tomorrow, I’d go on the walk and see what it’s all about, in case I am missing something that would allow me to be more enthusiastic about the event. After all, anything that encourages feminism in younger generations is a good thing, and for that I am thankful for the SlutWalk phenomenon.

For now I will leave you with an comment left on an article on the Brisbane Times which sums up my feelings about the whole thing quite well:

This reminds me of bra burning, something that still defies a reasonable explanation. This action will do little to change the minds of arrogant men and disappoints others by it being a manic over-reaction.

I would like to know what you think on this issue, and if you’ve attended one of the SlutWalks. Am I being too sensitive because I hate the word “slut” so much? Or do you agree that this could be done in a different way with an even more positive outcome?


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Cara Westworth
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