Slutwalk thinking

Article by Dogpossum (blog) /
15th May, 2011 /
Click here to view original /

I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about slutwalk. Part of me doesn’t understand why Reclaim the Night isn’t enough. The sensible part of me reminds the rest of me that we definitely shouldn’t be restricting ourselves to one act of civil action. And that RTN obviously doesn’t capture younger feminists’ attention the way it did mine years ago.

We’re still talking about women taking to the streets to raise the profile of bullshit attitudes towards sexual violence, and to make it clear that women are not responsible for the violence of men, no matter what they’re wearing.

But I’m not convinced ‘slut’ is a word that can be reclaimed. I’m also not ok with identifying myself as a slut. My sexuality is part of who I am, but it is not all that I am, and I like to use words that reflect that. I am more than the sex that I have or do not have. But this is, of course, to miss the point that these feminists are making.

I’m going to keep thinking about this. I would ordinarily leap at the chance to protest on an issue like this. So I need to find out why I’m not leaping now. Meanwhile, here’s an interesting post at Godard’s Letterbox, and a speech by Jaclyn Friedman.

Incidentally, I have had some problems with the hollaback mission. Or rather, I remember reading a newspaper story recently (buggered if I can remember the article, though) where a wealthy white woman living in a large American city chased down a young white man who’d groped her in a public place, then loudly told him off and went to the police. As I read this article, my heart rate elevated, I got sweaty and felt really really afraid. Ordinarily, I’m in favour of talking back. But in a situation like that… well, as a woman with social power, she wasn’t in the most dangerous situations. But I think of the times when it can go terribly wrong. If you’re not physically strong or able. If you’re somewhere isolated. If he decides to ramp it up. That newspaper article declared that all women should do this sort of backtalk, or responding. Me, I think that women should think very carefully about their safety before they do. In that situation… well, maybe. But I’ve had that go wrong on me, and I’m sure I won’t be pulling that stunt any time soon. I think there are other ways of fucking their shit up. Direct confrontation is only one of those tools.

…I can’t believe that I’m taking such a moderate stance on this. But then, I am a woman who is out on her own at night, during the day, all over the place, on foot, on bike, on public transport. And I know that being safe is about how you act. While I hate it that I have to moderate my behaviour to accommodate the fucked up behaviour of others (men or women), I’m not about to start putting myself at risk to make a political point.

I will be aware of my surroundings at all time. I will not make eye contact with strange men out at night. I will walk with other women if I can. I will ride my bike where possible, I will assist other women when they need me, and I will learn how to defend myself.

More importantly, because most assaults on women happen in their homes, I will think about safety in my house, I will maintain relationships with my neighbours (many of whom are also women), I’ll take care who comes into my home.

I’m also committed to safety at dance events, and I strongly advocate women refusing to act in a way that accepts bullying or manipulation from anyone. I’m also going to continue to keep shouting about the way women represent themselves and are represented in dance talk and on the dance floor. We are more than sexualised bodies. We don’t need to decide whether we are sluts or not, or to reclaim the term.

We can just decide not to accept the premise of the question. I choose to dance in a way that assumes that I have more options for the way I present myself. This is why I like to use male dancers as role models, and seek out historical women dancers who do more than simper at men while tottering about on high heels in diaphanous gowns as they tipper tap across the stage. Someone else can fuck about with girlesque or suspender belts declaring that they are sluts. I’m going to be busy fucking up shit on the dance floor, demonstrating that there are other ways to be a woman that do not exist in a virgin/slut dichotomy.

[edit]tigtog has drawn my attention to “Sex, lies and slutwalking” by Lauren Rosewarne (9 May 2011)[/]

[edit: 15/5/11 8pm] I liked Reclaim The Night because it was for all women. Special effort was always made to make it accessible for everyone, no matter what their age, physical ability, etc. So you’d be walking along next to nannas and little babbies and kids and teenagers and all sorts of women. But slutwalk really doesn’t feel like the type of place I’d feel ok taking kids. I mean, I’m ok grownups talking about sex with kids (their own kids, mind you), but an angry, confrontational protest centred on sex… not really a happy place.[/]