SlutWalks: Feminism in fishnets
Over the next two months, women clad in scanty attire will be taking to the streets in cities around the world to heighten awareness about sexual violence.
“Brace yourself for the summer of sluts,” said Brian Alexander in MSNBC.com. Over the next two months, women clad in push-up bras, short skirts, fishnets, and other scanty attire will be taking to the streets in 70 cities all over the globe—including Los Angeles and Chicago last weekend—to raise “awareness about sexual violence.” This feminist movement began in January, when a policeman told students at Toronto’s York University not to dress like “sluts” if they wanted to avoid being raped. That single phrase sparked global outrage because it “reconfirmed all the clichés” about sexual assault, said Janet Bagnall in the Montreal Gazette. SlutWalks are giving women a chance to show their fury at the justice system’s continuing inability to grasp the obvious: that no victim of sexual assault is “asking for it,” regardless of what she wears, and that only the assailant deserves blame.
This is such a “myopic” protest, said Julie Szego in The Sydney Morning Herald. In dwelling on relatively minor grievances of Western women, feminism ignores the problems of the “world’s most vulnerable women.” Rape victims in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are considered adulterers and are “brutally punished.” In recent years, thousands of women and girls have been raped in Congo. “Yet what triggered SlutWalk?” Not the suffering of Congolese or Pakistani women, “but the supposed oppression of the women of Toronto.” The SlutWalk movement also ignores the role our “hypersexualized society” has played in distorting women’s self-images, said Jenny McCartney in the London Telegraph. Internet porn and pop culture exert enormous pressure on prepubescent and teen girls to dress like Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, and other pop stars, and act sexy “before they even understand what sex is.” I’m familiar with the concept of “reclaiming the word,” but maybe young women should be rejecting “slut” instead of embracing it.
You’re missing an important historical point, said Jessica Valenti in The Washington Post. Going back to the suffragettes, who wore pants, and the ’60s feminists, who burned their bras, women activists have always used clothing to shock men and make a political point. The “slut walk” protests are operating on that same principle. For too long, feminism has been “on the defensive.” Now women are back on the streets, generating controversy and demanding respect. With that uncompromising attitude, we hope to “change our supposedly respectable society into one that truly respects men, women, and yes, even ‘sluts.’”