Tag Archives: SlutWalk

The stupid, it burns

Yep, I’m writing about SlutWalk again because yet another male writer has missed the point. Jim Schembri has this nonsense in the National Times today: Straining to make sense of SlutWalk:

So, let’s see if we’ve got this straight: if the global wave of “SlutWalks” — as they are affectionately known — have made anything clear, it is this: it’s now perfectly OK to call a woman a “slut”. Or should be. Sort of. As long as it’s meant in a friendly way. Or not. I think.

Firstly, SlutWalk is the name of the march. It’s not an affectionate nickname. Secondly, Schembri demonstrates that like Nigel Bowen, we have another male writer who didn’t bother to even find out what SlutWalk was about before writing about it.

What he clearly meant to say was that the freedom to wear what you like should be tempered with common sense. In certain circumstances, a certain type of outfit will attract a certain type of attention you don’t want. So while the suggestive outfit you wore at the speed dating function went down a treat, it might be less so while taking the last train home alone in a carriage full of drunken bums. That’s all the cop meant. What sensible person would take issue?

I am a sensible person and I take issue with that. As we have to keep saying over and over and over again for the slow learners like Schembri who don’t think too deeply about what they’re saying, if someone decides to break the law, how is that my skirt’s fault? Sure, if you wear a “certain type of outfit”, people will look at your boobs or legs. I look at boobs and legs. But there’s a big difference between looking and leering. A douchebag might even believe he has the right to make a lewd comment to a complete stranger about her body. But it’s a massive leap from that to raping someone. Also, the suggestion that a “suggestive outfit” can cause men to turn into rabid raping animals is just ridiculous and incredibly offensive to men.

But it was form not content that has galvanised a global movement; the word “slut” ignited a Butterfly Effect that, thanks to the unparalleled power of social media to magnify misunderstandings and fuel falsehoods, has women dressing up in garish, provocative garb to protest against . . . to protest against . . . something or other.

Ha ha ha, Schembri reckons others have a problem with misunderstandings and falsehoods. He’s not much of a thinker, is he? As for the “garish, provocative garb”, you’ll find that it’s the mainstream media – such as Schembri’s own newspaper, The Age – that focusses on the tits and arses of a few marchers. And you can bet that when The Sydney Morning Herald and Daily Telegraph run photos of Monday’s SlutWalk in Sydney, they’ll do the same. It isn’t social media that “magnify misunderstandings and fuel falsehoods”.

All right-thinking people agree there is no excuse for any degree of sexual assault, that victim blaming is wrong, that no means no. We get that.

Um, no you don’t Schembri. You said earlier that a man can be excused for sexually assaulting a woman if she’s wearing a “suggestive outfit”. Again, he’s not one for thinking through his opinion, is he?

These people really should be watching a lot more Mad Men.

Women are “these people”? Oh, and what?

Rather than disowning such an offensive, emotionally charged term, the movement has effectively derailed itself by championing it, thus hard-wiring a bad cause into a good one.

Oh, some mansplaining. These women don’t know how to do their own protest the right way, so I’ll tell them.

And, as the media coverage has made painfully clear, the result has been a mess. Instead of offering clarity and unity over an important issue, all the Slutwalks have generated is confusion and division over a stupid one — especially among women.

Uh no. Just confusion among people like Schembri.

He then uses two films from 1933 as evidence that having sex doesn’t make a woman a slut. Yep, two films that are almost eight decades old. And then there’s some “oh, won’t someone think of the children” about how SlutWalk encourages girls to “flaunt their sexuality before they fully understand it”. Take a look around you, Schembri. The advertising and popular culture that saturates our days is what tells girls that their only value is sexual. Oh, the stupid, it burns.

And we want women to march, to protest, to make a fuss. They don’t do it enough. It’s a man’s world. That’s why it’s such a mess. All right-thinking men can’t wait for women to take over. It could use a good cleaning.

Oh, fuck you.

Reading The Punch so you don’t have to

One of my favourite things is to take the piss out of The Punch. Unfortunately that means I sometimes have to read it, but usually I can just see what they’ve published and roll my eyes.

Some days I like to call The Punch “I Don’t Know Why People Care About This Issue But I Will Publish Something Anyway And Demonstrate That I Simply Don’t Get It”. Other days I just marvel at how News Ltd gets away with not paying contributors. Sure, there are some good writers who contribute every now and then, but on the whole, it’s pretty blah.

And today we have a piece by GQ Australia‘s chief sub, Nigel Bowen, who demonstrates that making all the required cultural references doesn’t mean you actually understand why they were important: It’s the Return of the Battle of the Sexes.

Don’t let the headline fool you. It’s really just a piece about how women either think all men are rapists, or spend all their time sexting their friends with benefits.

For those of certain age (that is, old enough to have spent any time on a university campus between the early 80s and mid 90s), the controversies of the last few months – the Penny Wong meow-slur, Slutwalk, the Brocial Network, the Pippa Middleton Ass Appreciation Society Facebook page, ADF sex Skyping, Julian Assange’s alleged sexual misconduct – are like déjà vu all over again… Gen X women sure knew how to put on a feminist protest.

Huh? Since when is sexual assault a feminist issue and not a criminal one?

Back then, when what Helen Garner memorably termed “feminism’s grimmer tribes” still wielded considerable cultural and political influence, every female arts student had a copy of The Beauty Myth on her bedside table, all sex was rape, all men were rapists and women wore sensible shoes and expressions of grim determination to marches protesting sexual assault.

Oh dear, where to start with this one? I was at university in the 90s (and the 00s, and the 10s – I’m a sucker for letters after my name) and “all sex was rape”, “all men are rapists” was not a part of the feminism I knew. Perhaps in a small part of radical feminism, but you can’t suggest that they “wielded considerable cultural and political influence”. And would he rather women smiled and giggled when they marched against being raped and sexually assaulted. Would he mock the “expressions of grim determination” of a group of men marching against being raped? (As an aside, it smacks of “honey, smile”, that incredible sense of entitlement that some men show when they tell a woman, a complete stranger, to smile for them.)

Then an Ariel Levy reference, and a reference to Boomer and Gen X feminists (they think “their Gen Y daughters are ungrateful little sluts”) without understanding that women of different age groups have different concerns.

And then this:

Now, much to the surprise of everyone, the girls gone wild of Gen Y have taken a break from sexting their friends-with-benefits and debating which Sex and the City character they most resemble to march in the streets for, erm, no-one’s exactly sure but it definitely seems to be something that would have once been called “a feminist issue”.

No one is sure what SlutWalk is about? Well, fellow Punch writer Tory Shepherd didn’t know but that didn’t stop her publishing something on the topic, but all of the other opinion pieces in the MSM have been pretty clear. Perhaps, Nigel, you should have read at least one of them before demonstrating that you’ve got no idea what you’re talking about. It’s a little embarrassing for you.

Oh, and SATC reference, check. Don’t let the fact that it’s a Gen X show, not a Gen Y show, get in the way of making your, um, argument.

Slutwalk is just the latest indication that the battle of the sexes is heating up again over, well, sex.

NO NO NO NO NO. SlutWalk is about demanding an end to our clothing being used to justify someone else’s crime. SlutWalk is about demanding an end to police perpetuating rape myths which stops them responding to crime. SlutWalk is about demanding an end to victims of crime being blamed for what happened to them. SlutWalk is about demanding an end to society shaming women for real or perceived sexual activity (I was called a slut when I was still a virgin).

So, as a veteran of the last war, my advice for the young men of today is this — if you’re dating an arts student, be prepared for her to announce she’s decided to become a radical lesbian-feminist separatist at least once before she graduates.

That was supposed to be witty, wasn’t it?

When skirts break the law

I was talking about SlutWalk last night and the conversation kept coming back to personal responsibility. That you need to take personal responsibility for your own safety and unfortunately that means not wearing something too provocative.

I can see why this idea is so widespread, because on the surface it makes sense. But I call bullshit. Because when you say that, what you’re really saying is the other person is not responsible for their actions. And if you dig deeper into that, what does it mean? That women should have personal responsibility but men shouldn’t? That men are so controlled by sexual urges that they simply must stick their penis inside every nearby vagina? We all know that’s rubbish. Even douchebags know that it’s wrong to jump on someone in the street and have sex with them. And we know that even douchebags know this because we don’t see it happening. So how on earth is it my fault – or my skirt’s fault – if someone else decides to break the law?

Our culture pushes the idea that women can somehow prevent rape – by not wearing certain items of clothing, by not getting drunk, by not walking around alone at night, by doing self-defence classes – and all of this ignores the fact that it’s not strangers women should fear. I’m not sure why our culture keeps pushing this lie. Maybe it’s because women are so used to being the ones who have to change – we have to be more masculine at work if we want a pay rise, we have to be different in some way if we want to get a boyfriend, we have to give up our bodies to grow humans, we have to accept that six or twelve months off work will damage our careers forever – that rather than teaching people not to attack or rape others, it’s just easier to make it yet another thing that women should do. I hope this is the reason, because the alternative is just too heartbreaking: that when women are attacked it’s their own fault and so the attacker shouldn’t be punished. Can you imagine if we told men that it’s their own fault for being in public if someone king hits them in the street?

Which brings me back to SlutWalk. I don’t think it will stop fuckwits groping women, or raping them, or believing it’s their right to say something nasty to a woman about her body. You can’t rid the world of fuckwits. But you can get people talking about the shit that women have to put up with when they’re in public. And maybe a journalist will think more carefully about the words they use when writing about violence against women. And maybe when a douchebag makes a nasty comment on a news website, other readers will pull them up. Or the moderator will realise that it shouldn’t be published because it’s offensive. And maybe when some idiot says a woman was “asking for it”, everyone else will point out how ridiculously stupid that is.

If someone else breaks the law, what on earth does it have to do with what I’m wearing?

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.