I am a slut

I am going on the Sydney SlutWalk on Monday June 13. And I’ll probably be wearing jeans and a jacket. Because you don’t have to wear fishnets, stilettos and leopard print to take part. (Here’s a hint to journalists covering the story: give the cliches a rest for the day. If you look at the photos from the marches around the world, most participants are dressed “normally”.)

Predictably, the story is getting a lot of coverage in the mainstream media because of the word “slut”. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s excellent that it’s getting coverage, but if it was the Walk Against Victim Blaming it would be lucky to be a brief just before the world section.

And – also predictably – someone writing for The Punch has missed the point. Tory Shepherd’s piece today: The sluts protest too much, methinks

Passionate protestors too often get caught up in their own hype and do themselves and their chosen issue an enormous disservice.

Last week a father who just wanted access to his children instead earned the wrath of a city after his one-man protest closed the Sydney Harbour Bridge and left irate drivers stuck in traffic for hours.

I don’t know the background story, but it’s a pretty safe bet that if police have stopped this guy seeing his kids, there’s probably a good reason – which is a question most journalists don’t appear to have asked. Anyway, back to SlutWalk:

Victim blaming is a horrendous compounding of the original crime, an archaic misdirection of shaming. It’s hardly a widespread sentiment outside fundamentalist Islam, inbred Bible Belt communities, and apparently the occasional police station.

Still, where it happens it should be loudly condemned.

Hardly widespread? I suggest you take a look at the way News Ltd journalists report violent crime against women. And the way Fairfax journalists report violent crime against women. And the way that Punch reader after Punch reader will suggest that a woman “asked for it”.

I think the name has a far bigger problem than that. People’s attention spans are spread so thin these days that everyone except the already converted will probably miss the point entirely.

Many will simply take away the idea that it’s now OK to call women sluts if they’re showing some cleavage.

Others will see it as an easy opportunity to perve on a bunch of semi-clad chicks. Older people and conservatives will see it as proof of the moral laxity of today’s women.

Well Tory, that seems to be your understanding of the issue. That it’s just about reclaiming the word slut and getting your tits out. You’ve missed the point and added nothing to the conversation. Ooh, and that’s what The Punch is all about, isn’t it? “Australia’s best conversation”.

Maybe you should have gone to the SlutWalk Melbourne website to see what the global protests are really about:

We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault.

Join us in our mission to spread the word that those those who experience sexual assault are not the ones at fault, without exception.

It’s pretty funny that she says people will miss the point and then does exactly that.

It will have an effect on girls and young women who will see these protests in the papers, online and in the news. And it will reinforce the already widespread impression that sex, for a woman, is power. Or the route to power.

That it is cool, and tough, and desirable to label yourself a slut. That a woman should aspire to be sexy at all costs. That if you are not a slut, you are not cool, you are not powerful. That sex equals success – and a paucity of it, therefore, failure.

Um, what the fuck? That’s not the message AT ALL. But we really should thank The Punch for this contribution to public discussion. And for publishing this comment:

Tim says:
07:50am | 16/05/11

I would give more credence to this protest if all of the organisers hadn’t been hit with the wrong end of the ugly stick.
I don’t think any of them are in any danger of being victimised for their clothing choice.

And this one:

Sonny Carrington says:
10:01am | 16/05/11

If half of all the sluts in this country turn up for this protest, it will be the biggest rally Australia has ever seen. But I doubt the single mothers will have the will power to get out of bed – Since there is no mention of a handout for their participation.

“Australia’s best conversation”? Sure, if you like talking to douchebags.

44 responses to “I am a slut

  1. Rhiannon Saxon

    WELL SAID!
    That’s disgusting.
    The commenters on The Punch make me so ill I rarely if ever read any of that ‘Best conversation’.

  2. Another Punch story confuses the National Chaplaincy Program with teaching scripture in public schools. Completely misses the point. Punch Smunch. Best conversation if you like talking through your arse.

  3. HARDLY WIDESPREAD!?!?!! We wish. And any concept that this is about saying being a slut is a great thing just so misses the point….

    Everything you see written like this just reinforces the (sad) need for this kind of protest.

    • Oh, how I wish it was hardly widespread. Wouldn’t that be lovely?

    • Rhiannon Saxon

      I guess, if rape victims aren’t being stoned to death it ‘hardly counts’ as victim blaming. We Western Feminists, we are just a pack of ball-breaking whiners bloated with privilege doncherknow.

      I finally read the comments – I felt sorry for the people who had reasonable things to say, though I’m glad they said them, but what a horrible flood of the ‘sorry, ladies but if you dress like that blah blah blah blah’.
      Ugh. Just UGH.

      • I’m always amazed at the nasty comments that get published on stories/opinion pieces about women. I judge places on the quality of the comments they publish.

        • It absolutely astounds me. I have said this many times. There can be an article about something pretty offensive, or the article itself can be offensive. But it is nothing compared to the vile comments that get published in response.

          Maybe we are just too high-brow. Maybe the idea of the Slutwalk is so sophisticated and complex that very few people understand it. Or maybe there are just far too many dip-shits out there. I mean, what is so hard about it:

          Women should be able to dress how they want without it being seen as inviting sexual attention (including rather pathetic name-calling);
          Victim-blaming is a HUGE problem, as evidenced by the comments in response to the protest.

          I sure as hell am attending the Wellington Slutwalk. Like so many others, I’ll be dressed “normally” – besides I don’t really suit suspenders and a bra – can’t find any to match my eyes.

  4. I really don’t know why I bother reading the Punch. (I read it occasionally in my facebook stream when I am REALLY bored.)

    Tory Shepard annoys me. More and more she sounds like another Janet/Miranda. We should call them Jarandory.

    • I only read it when I want something to blog about. Which means I shouldn’t read it, but it won’t go away if I ignore it. I think it’s important to call them on their bullshit.

      • Rhiannon Saxon

        I love the fact that you read the stuff that makes me enraged, so I don’t have to actively search for indignation.
        (Goodness knows there are enough indignation-triggers around)

  5. Thank you so much for writing this and calling that article out. I was rolling my eyes at the start of the article, knowing it was going to focus on the use of slut while ignoring the actual point of the march. But then nearly spit my coffee into my computer screen when I read:
    “It’s hardly a widespread sentiment outside fundamentalist Islam, inbred Bible Belt communities, and apparently the occasional police station.”

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only one. So many people don’t seem to have the capacity to think about issues or events in any depth. But for a journalist to not even bother going to the website of said event and make an effort to actually understand the point of it is truly disturbing. What was she doing to prepare this article? Sitting around at the pub on a Sunday afternoon listening to everyone else was saying instead of, gee I don’t know, doing some actual research.

  6. >>“Australia’s best conversation”? Sure, if you like talking to douchebags.
    OH SNAP!

  7. We need more sluts

  8. I will comment not entirely in accord with you on this. If it is about not blaming the victim why is it a slut walk? That name is being chosen precisely for the reason it will involve the tv and media in the hope of some salacious images. Would a Dowdy walk have achieved anything near the interest if it were women of my mothers generation walking in their comfortable shoes and clothes? Don’t we as women need to demand the right to dress in a dowdy manner without being seen as less successful or valuable.

    I think we do need to be cautious and agree with the dissenting voices when school girls are walking around with I am a slut and I like sex plastered over their clothes. I can truthfully say that I am a slut but I have maturity and a cast iron ego that looks people in the eye and requires them to respect me, I am not certain that younger women have this and are being set up to suffer.

    • Jayne, I don’t know why this particular name was chosen, but I imagine it was to get as much MSM coverage as possible. So, it worked. What bothers me is that after a week of coverage, journalists are still talking about what a “slut” would wear to the march when, from what I’ve read, the organisers in each city have said it doesn’t matter what you wear. And in the background of all the photos of the marchers are women dressed normally, so it’s the photographers who are focussing on the flesh.

      I think the second part of your comment is about a different issue. Sexualisation of kids and the right to not be blamed when someone else commits a crime are two different things.

  9. given that i’ve just read SlutWalk: A Stroll Through White Supremacy, i’m curious to see what the sydney walk will look like. i suspect it’s going to be mostly white. what do you think?

    (asking as a whitey mcwhiterson who couldn’t get any whiter unless she glowed in the dark.)

    • Yeah, I also reckon it will be mostly white.

      White Western feminists get criticised for focussing on white person issues, but it would be incredibly arrogant for me to think I can speak on behalf of Indigenous feminists, since I’m not Indigenous. Just as I don’t speak on behalf of American feminists or Vietnamese feminists. There are lots of different feminists and feminisms, and so while some focus on paid parental leave, others focus on Indigenous maternal health and others focus on representations of gender in popular culture. Which is how it should be because a) we can’t all be experts in every area, and b) there’s a fucking shitload of work to be done.

      • Rhiannon Saxon

        Yes, what NWN said.
        I am quite aware that I have educated whitey mcwhite person (love that expression!) middle-class privilege, but that’s all I am qualified to talk about. I can endeavour to become more aware of issues facing other groups and other feminists (and indeed should) but I can’t really immerse myself in those issues except as a supporter, bystander, cheer-squad, whatever, without perhaps being seen as patronising, culturally-domineering, and so on. Like all the suggestions that we replace the Union Jack in our flag with the Aboriginal flag – while I think that that might be nice, and would look good, perhaps Aboriginal people don’t WANT us to take their flag…AS WELL.
        (I don’t know – I haven’t spoken to all of them.)
        So yeah, quite likely that Slutwalk will be predominantly white, for a given value of white.

        • Whilst I am sure slutwalk will be predominantly white, I think it depends on what you think an Indigenous Australian looks like as to how many you think you will ‘see’. In these urbanised areas, we tend to blend in more, perhaps looking more ethnic than Indigenous to the greater masses.

          (As a side note to Rhiannon and the flag…as an Indigenous Australian I would be mortified if anything where to happen to our flag. Though I am immensely proud of my Indigenous heritage, I am every bit as proud of my whitey Mcwhite heritage too. Some of my ancestors have fought and died under our flag, for me, to change it would be to dishonour them. But I do not speak for Indigenous Australia, I only speak for me. )

          • Rhiannon Saxon

            Pretty well that’s what I meant by ‘for a given value of white’.
            I don’t think one can necessarily tell what someone identifies as just by looking at them (unless you are Andrew Bolt)
            AND then telling minorities at a rally that they are merely ‘tokens’ is SO INSULTING.
            I guess what it comes down to is that everyone who attends such a thing is there for their own reasons and representing themselves and making assumptions about who, what, or why they are/are there is pointless and divisive.
            And if people who attend feel empowered and supported, well damn good.

            About the flag – I have no strong feelings about it. None of my ancestors that I know of have fought for it, and I genuinely have no idea what my even immediate ancestors thought of it.
            I think change is necessary only when there is a strong reason for it. That said, loads of Canadians fought under the British flag and yet the Canadian flag is so much more representative (and attractive) of their country. But they have actually cut ties a bit more emphatically (or indeed, at all) than we have.
            It’s not something I have spent a GREAT deal of time thinking about, so I am quite happy to take your opinions into serious consideration should I ever get into some sort of argument about such things!

            • I feel the same. I have no strong tie to the Australian flag. I have no relatives who fought in wars for Australia, because both of my parents are immigrants. The flag doesn’t fill me with pride, or with loathing. It’s just a flag. It makes me nervous when I see young bare-chested men with the flag draped across their shoulders because I’m an elitist wanker who feels she is above such nationalistic displays, but also because the chance that said young men are offensive, racist wankers is pretty high.

            • (yes- my thoughts exactly to the slut walk stuff. I was actually replying to all comments on that part not just yours, but I hit reply to chat about the flag with you!)

              That’s very true about the Canadian Flag. But they changed their flag entirely. The Canadian Flag is unique. Tweaking the flag we currently have or appropriating the Aboriginal Flag IMO is polarising. Neither would represent us all. Changing it completely would win we me over far more than just tweaking the one we have. But again I think in order to do so we would need to sever our British ties more emphatically, to borrow your expression, to claim a flag wholly representative and divorced from the current flag(s) we have.

              • Rhiannon Saxon

                Yes, I basically agree with all your points. For the same reason that I don’t like the suggestion that we should use the Eureka flag too. That is most CERTAINLY unrepresentative.

                @NWN – Also completely agree that nationalistic displays of THAT kind make me nervous.

                • As a cousin across the ditch, I gotta agree entirely. While I still kinda like our flag, it has passed its best-before date somewhat. Still no reason to throw it out, it just doesn’t taste quite as good as it did when it was fresh.

                  And like you, tweaking the old or appropriating the tino rangitiratanga flag would be hugely divisive. Does any country use the skull-and-crossbones yet?

      • White Western feminists get criticised for focussing on white person issues

        no, we get criticised for assuming that feminist issues are monolithic and for not seeking out the voices of other feminists whose experiences are probably different from our own. we get criticised for not listening to those voices. we get criticised for assuming that other feminists need or want us to speak for them. they don’t. they have their own voices. that was the whole point of the article.

        • Rhiannon Saxon

          White Western Feminists get criticised particularly by White Western Journalists for focussing on White Person issues.

          And I believe that NWN was saying that she does not or is unable to speak for other feminists as she does live their experience.
          That was my understanding anyway.

          And I did read your link, and I also read all the comments.

          • I think what we’re all getting at is that white Western feminists can’t win. If we don’t speak for non-white feminists then we’re invisibilising them, and if we do speak for them then we’re taking away their voices. Which is not to say there aren’t some white Western feminists who do silence others, but we’re not all like that.

  10. Did you see that Tory wrote a response to her own post? It’s my flesh and I’ll bare it if I want to.

    • I guess someone from the Rape Crisis Centre called her and pointed out all the rubbish in her other post. But, very little “I was wrong” and lots of “other people are wrong”. Still, it’s a start.

      • At least she kind of gets what it is about now. Though I say that with caution…

        • Rhiannon Saxon

          It was a much better article. And the comments were, yet again, ‘But women should take more responsibility for themselves! That’s what wrong with this feminist society of ours blah blah blah…”

  11. People who proclaim that victim blaming is not widespread are simply living in denial. Denial is a very successful strategy for dealing with uncomfortable things, especially for us privileged folks who can look the other way and still have something pleasant to see. It’s pretty hard to talk someone out of denial.
    I do wonder how Tory Shephard feels about having inspired those misogynist comments you shared with us. Surely she’s at least a little bit uncomfortable in knowing she’s given these guys legitimacy? Or perhaps I’m in denial too.
    BTW thanks for keeping an eye on The Punch. I can’t bring myself to give them any traffic, but I agree that someone needs to call them out on this crap.

    • I wrestle with the same problem (giving them traffic). Particularly because online editors aren’t that sophisticated in the way they view traffic – any hit means people like it but, when it comes to the rubbish that qualifies as “news”, half of those hits are likely to be people laughing their arses off.

    • I have long felt that this is because people then have to look at themselves, and start asking some pretty difficult questions about their motives, their intent, and the consequences of their past actions.
      I can stand up (not with pride – but with shame) to say that I have engaged in victim-blaming. I have contributed to the culture we have today.
      Fortunately, I have the great privilege to understand that I cannot undo the past, but I can change my behaviour. And I can champion the cause and do what I can to male others see the light.
      I would challenge all deniers to do the same, and to take some time out for some pretty tough introspection.

      • I also did some victim blaming in my youth, the whole “she was asking for it” nonsense. Then someone pointed it out to me and I’ve been pointing it out to others in return.

  12. Oh dear. What a mistake. “…to male others see the light” . I think I meant to type “make others” but that is wrong anyway. I guess I meant to say “to shine the light in the hope that others will see it”

    Sorry folks.

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