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Lapsed anthropologist-turned-burlesque performer and post-modern punk housewife/homesteader living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with a hunky husband, gorgeous daughter, adorable corgi, fluffy rabbit, and three clucking fabulous chickens.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The "SlutWalk" Debate

A friend of mine linked to this article on her facebook page, and it started a dialogue. The authors of the article are of the opinion that using the word "slut" in the name of the event harms feminism, that the word "slut" is too far gone to ever be reclaimed, and that the even itself promotes "general sluttishness".
I think that they are completely missing the point. Completely.
If every woman who is raped is actually a slut, then we must all be sluts, because it can happen to anyone. SlutWalk is not "promoting sluttishness", it's highlighting the hipocrisy in admonishing women to not dress in a way that arouses men while not admonishing men that just because they find themselves aroused by women, that doesn't mean they have the right to force her into sex. Many of the commenters on the original article make comments to the effect of "You don't leave your door unlocked, do you?" or "You don't wear a fancy watch in a bad neighborhood". I find comments like that so offensive it sickens me. If I leave my door unlocked, I don't deserve to be robbed. If I wear sexy clothes or go out unescorted, I do not deserve to be raped. No one deserves to be raped. No one is "asking for it".
On the subject of "don't tempt the rapist", not all rapists are triggered by the same thing, if women are expected to avoid dressing in sexually arousing ways then what is left to wear? Everything is sexually arousing to someone. How about, instead, we get it into people's heads that other people's bodies are not public property, no matter how much you want them. This is, I think, the point that many men struggle to grasp, since they've never lived in a world that regarded themselves and their bodies as public property. When you catcall a woman, when you grope her in passing, you're essentially saying "You're an object of consumption, available to anyone who wants to use you." You take away her personhood.
Also, it's not just about clothes, "slut" is applied to behavior as well. "Why were you out alone at night in that bar/party/your boyfriend's room? What did you expect?" Because women are expected to civilize men. We have to remove the temptation from them because they simply can't help themselves. This is utter bullshit that men should be upset about as well. I cannot believe that more men aren't up in arms about the "she was asking for it, I couldn't help myself" defense of rape, since it paints all men as subhuman and utterly at the mercy of their impulses. I refuse to accept the idea that these men cannot control their actions. Men are just as capable of being good people as women are(I also have a problem with the trope that women are innately "good", moreso than men. It's patronizing bullshit), the overwhelming majority of them are not rapists. To show them over and over that society doesn't think them capable of being human beings is just as big a problem as showing women over and over that it's their fault if they are victimized. Rapists are not gentle, giving lovers who were led astray by revealing clothing; they know what they're doing to their victims. Rapists don't rape because she wore a short skirt. They're bad people. Victim blaming in no way addresses the real problem.
Not all women who walk in the SlutWalk wear revealing clothing. Many wear business suits, tshirts and jeans, knee-length skirts. In doing this, they expose the rationalization of rape as a natural response to displays of female sexuality as the abhorrent lie it is.
If you're going to sit your daughter down and tell her that she can't dress a certain way or go certain places alone, then sit your son down as well and explain to him that he does not have the right to force himself on anyone or use his size and/or strength to intimidate. I don't care what certain political representatives are trying to make people think, coercive rape is still rape. Marital rape is still rape. Acquaintance rape, date rape, it's all still rape.
The bottom line is that this ridiculous double standard of men as insatiable manbeasts who can't control their actions and shouldn't be held responsible for them because it's women's job to civilize them and remove any temptation from them, while at the same time holding women as second-class citizens who are supposed to be subservient to men since men are stronger/more intelligent/more capable/etc. than women, has absolutely got to go. It's not doing a service to either side.
This isn't a battle of the sexes. It isn't women versus men. At least, it shouldn't be perceived that way. I am not a man-hating feminazi because I despise rape culture. I love my man, the partnership we have based on mutual respect. I am not emasculating him by expecting him to treat me as an equal person, I am honoring him as an intelligent, capable, good person. What SlutWalk is asking is that citizens engaging in criminal behavior against their fellow human beings be held accountable for their actions and punished. Why is our society so resistent to that?


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