Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Slut Wha?!!!

I am a proud supporter of the Slutwalk movement. I will not apologize for it or justify what I wore on the march or distance myself from the participants in skimpy clothing.


I support the Slutwalks because they have the audacity to state unequivocably that they will not participate in our cultural game of “othering” women and making them targets because someone decided to label them with a broad slur against their sexuality. They’re calling out this phenomenon and naming it and making us talk about it. Hiding from the term does us no good because, at present, the slut-slur needs neither our permission, our participation, or any basis in facts or reality to do us harm.

Slutwalk has been quite a journey for me. Originally, just I felt such relief that this issue was being talked about and confronted so unapologetically (albeit quite diplomatically). And when the numbers of "attending" on the Toronto page kept rising, and it started catching on in other cities it was just beyond elating.

The first detractions I recall were all surrounding people not thinking "sluts" were worthy of support or emulation. There was a lot of "Duh, sluts r bad", and the more annoying concern trolls, "But skirts do cause rape because a woman walking naked down an alley will always get attacked over a woman in overalls. I'm just slut-shaming women with my ridiculous analogies for their safety, donchaknow?"

There are still many of those, especially when Slutwalk comes to a new city (I occasionally will "adopt" a new Facebook page to patrol and defend. It's become a hobby.)

I also find it frustrating when some people say they would support the movement, but can't because of some misogynistic, sexually-shaming reason.
"I'd support the SlutWalks if the participants weren't such sluts."
Right. That's like saying,
"I'd support OWS if there weren't all those icky unemployed and homeless people."
Or, let's just stop beating around the bush already,
"I'd support a movement or protest against oppression if the overwhelming majority of visible supporters were part of a privileged group that is blissfully ignorant of or immune to the issues being raised and thusly didn't make me feel uncomfortable or have to question any of my deep-rooted and harmful prejudices."
Now, that's not to say that this movement is one-size fits all and anyone who doesn't support it is stwoopid in their stwoopid faise. That's certainly not the case. I can understand someone having such negative experiences with the slut-slur that they are not able to march under the banner, even in solidarity with other survivors against victim-blaming. I understand not being at the point in one's journey where this type of movement speaks to them.

Much more out of the blue (to my mind) were the accusations of racism. My initial reaction was "Huh?" But, having already done some anti-oppression work, I knew better than to knee-jerk into protective momma bear mode ("NUH-UNH! U just don't understand!!!")

I wanted to know more. How could I miss this? Why isn't this inclusive? What part of this movement isn't reflective of the common experiences of women?

It's not so much the experience isn't common (even if the words themselves change across geographic and cultural lines). It's moreover the additional baggage of oppression overlapping that makes it all the more pressing to march against slut-shaming, while marching under the banner of slut is much more fraught and threatening. While I've experienced slut-shaming and homophobia, my relative privilege has given me a voice and several steps forward in the battle that many of my sisters' haven't.

Reclamation, while on the same continuum and working towards the same goal of disarming words as barring them from verbiage, perhaps seems too ambitious a goal at this time. It's clear that, while white women have a long way to go to be able to keep that word from being hurled at them as weapons, further marginalized groups such as LGBT, women of colour, disabled persons, sex workers, etc and combinations thereof, are starting so much further back that they can't even see the starting line from which white women are able to approach this word at present.

With that in mind, rather than keeping on sprinting forward and risking leaving them in the dust, we must listen to their concerns and slow our ambitions so we can all move forward. Which I believe will strengthen all of us.

I support Slutwalk and will march with them again this year to bring an end to slut-shaming and victim-blaming. Our allies are not ready for reclamation, so this is not my priority, but continuing to bust down rape myths is and will continue to be.

Here are a few articles that I've found illuminating and that I think do a great job of explaining Slutwalks, rape culture, rape myths, and a bunch of other bullshit Slutwalk aims to address.

*Trigger warning for frank, and sometimes graphic discussions of rape*

Slutwalk Explained!

You can call us that name, but we will not shut up

Why men should join Slutwalk

We're Telling

Who hear you when you speak about rape

Oh, one more thing

A woman walks into a rape, uh, bar

If you've made it all the way through those links, make yourself a tea or crack a beer, etc, and enjoy a kitty on the bird cage.

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