an email about slutwalk
October 5, 2011 6 Comments
A friend of mine asked me for my reactions to this article about slutwalk. I’ve reprinted my response here. It certainly doesn’t go beyond the brilliant analyses by FCM , Meghan Murphy, and Womon on a Journey, FCM’s graphics at SCUM-O-RAMA, and Dworkin’s _Right Wing Women_, which I have just finished reading. But it’s my explanation to a friend, and I wanted to share it.
My friend emailed me this story from Ms. Magazine about one women’s experience at slutwalk. Here is my response:
I think it is good that this person had a positive experience at the walk.
I wish it weren’t called slutwalk. The main reason I object to the name is because I think it is actually an insertion of rape culture into feminism. The idea is that women should and must be accessible to at least some men, regardless of their politics. This plays out on two fronts: the right wing, and the left wing.
From the right wing side, the idea is that women should only be the property of one man, hence the “she asked for it” response that the Tornoto cop made regarding the victim’s outfit. The thought is, the rape victim shouldn’t have been acting as if she were available to all men; she should have only been available to her husband/future husband in the privacy of the home. This idea is, I think, is what slutwalk is protesting.
From the left wing side, however, the idea is that women should be the property of many men, and if they are, then men won’t rape them. By publicly dressing up in panties and duct tape, these women seem to me to be placating the men, saying, “I’ll consent, so you don’t need to rape me! See, sex is on the table, so no need to go forcing anyone.” See this photo for a perfect example of this (link to “Sluts Say Yes” photo). (I know not all participant signs were this misguided). That’s why men approve of slutwalk (as evidenced by this screenshot from the Slutwalk DC fbook page).
I don’t see space within slutwalk for women to take a third route which says, “You can’t rape me no matter what! Whether my sisters and I never consent ever again, you still can’t rape us. We protest the idea that women are the property of one or many men– we are no one’s property.”
I want a feminism that gives women an actual, free choice to consent, without the threat of rape influencing her decision. This consent would not be in the context of male property of women– it would take the third route. I don’t see that option provided in slutwalk– hence my deep objection.
Perhaps you’ll say, “Well, what you’ve just said is a flawed part about the walk, but these protests still says some good things about men not raping women, so it’s flawed but at the same time it’s one good baby step in the right direction, right?”
But my response to that is that as long as women are blind to the left wing aspects of rape culture, they really aren’t protesting rape culture itself. In fact, these protests hide the left wing front, which actually gives it more power, and doesn’t question the idea that women belong to all men.
Also, the protests seem to be about individual empowerment, rather than systemic change. The author of the piece you sent says, “We must ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to determine how someone else should embody a feminist stance of resistance?’”
My response to that is, “I can, we all can, and any other feminist can critique a feminist stance!” For goodness sake, feminism is not about whether my own choice is personally empowering. It’s about working towards dismantling/smashing the patriarchy. Critiques of feminist activism can ask whether feminist actions are effective towards this goal, whether they are neutral, or whether they are actively participating in rape culture/propping up the patriarchy/etc.
Empowerment only provides individualist solutions, and does not (in my view) challenge the patriarchy. In my analysis, the slutwalk protest is not challenging rape culture (for the reasons I list above), so my critique is well placed despite the fact that the author doesn’t think I have the right to critique it.
If we held off critiquing any activity that individual women find personally empowering, I believe we’d have a very weak feminist vision indeed.