I’ve been getting lots of email from folks asking for my take on the Slut Walks. I’m sure many of you have heard about these protests taking place all over the world this summer. If you haven’t, here’s the gist:
While giving a crime prevention forum a Toronto police officer proclaimed that, “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”. In short, his comment explicitly implied that women are responsible for being raped because of the way they dress. AKA: victim blaming. AKA: slut shaming.
Let’s be clear here: no sexual harassment or rape victim is EVER responsible for the crime committed against them. Ever. Absolutely no exceptions. The blame lies with the rapist and the rapist alone. This fact is what spawned the global protests coined “Slut Walks” in which women take to the streets in any clothing they so choose to wear in order to reclaim the term “slut”.
The objectives of the Slut Walk protests are (from SlutWalk Portland):
“It’s a frightening world when one of the biggest insults you can use against a woman is her sexual freedom. SlutWalk aims to change that, as sexual freedom is absolutely a positive thing and should be treated as such. Together we are standing up as Portlanders and saying we’ve had enough of the slut shaming, enough of the victim blaming, and enough with the violence: against women, against children, against men, against people of color, against members of the LGBTQ community.
SlutWalk is equally about changing attitude around rape as it is about reclaiming slut as a positive force and embracing expressing sexuality.
How often do we hear “She was practically asking to be raped” or “Well, she shouldn’t have been dressed like that”? We aim to abolish rape culture and rape-excusing. No one ever, ever asked to be raped or assaulted. No one is ever “asking for it”, or “had it coming”.
Rape cannot be stopped by carrying your keys between your fingers or “remaining vigilant at all times”. Rape cannot be stopped by considering sex sinful or bad.
Rape can only be stopped if rapists stop raping. ”
The Slut Walks have been a divisive event amongst gender equality activists. Some say the term “slut” is better left to die than reclaimed as an empowering term. I have also read criticisms that it is just an excuse for women to bear all in public and has little to contribute in terms of the abolition of slut shaming and victim blaming. Obviously, proponents think otherwise: they assert that the term can be reclaimed for sexual empowerment and the walks will help to raise awareness about the fear and violence that globally surrounds female sexuality.
I am a strong supporter of the objectives behind the Slut Walks (obviously). Sexual violence is so astoundingly prevalent that it hurts to even think about its magnitude and effects. Let it be known: there needs to be more awareness and there needs to be change.
But something in my gut has a volatile reaction to the term slut and I personally have no desire to “reclaim” it. To be clear, I am not the type to dismiss language’s ability to be reclaimed. I, and plenty of others, have already reclaimed the word “cunt”.
What’s the difference for me between reclaiming “cunt” and reclaiming “slut”? Well, cunt refers to a body part. It was not always a shameful word, it has just become that way over time. Slut, however, does not have empowering roots in the respect of the female body and it’s amazing capacities. It has roots in sexism and misogyny. It is a quantification of what is “too much” in terms of a woman’s sexuality. The term slut explicitly implies that there are special limits for women and that, when crossed, she deserves to be degraded and put back in her place.
I see nothing to reclaim about this word. Even in reclaiming it, it still brings stigma to female sexuality. I will not call myself a slut and I do not find it empowering.
I think that a better course of action would be to help people understand that the term slut, in and of itself, is an oppressive tool. In my opinion, it would be better to assert that:
-There is nothing wrong with having lots of sex.
-The term slut is sexist and oppressive. Calling a woman a slut is sexist and oppressive.
-Women are not sluts. Men are not sluts.
-There is no “should” when it comes to consensual sex.
-Cultural shaming should not be focused on the woman/”slut” — this is victim blaming. Instead, blame those who perpetuate violence. Blame rapists.
-Let’s abandon the term “slut” and push to adopt an enlightened view of sexuality where someone’s private life and personal decisions are not stigmatized either way.
To close, just because I disagree with reclaiming “slut”, that is not to say that I don’t think the Slut Walks are harmful or pointless. I support the protests on the whole because I still think they are a good way to raise awareness around these issues. I also think that the people who are pointing fingers calling this “an excuse to bear all” are part of the problem, not the solution. The whole point is that we shouldn’t need an excuse to dress however we want. Best of luck to all those who are participating. Let’s hope you can enlighten a few.
Sorry if that was rambly. My 2 cents. What’s yours?