The Slutwalks spreading across Canada and the US (And apparently Tehran, although this walk is problematic in ways the Canadian and US walks are not) are some of the most publicized and heavily debated anti-victim blaming actions occurring in recent times. They’re also a mixed bag. While I’d like to believe that their popularity stems from women and men finally becoming serious about ending the toxic culture of victim blaming, it seems that most of it comes from the controversial and “exciting” name.
Calling these marches Slutwalks succeeds in drawing in many who would normally not participate in protests against victim blaming and slut shaming. Raising awareness of such a worthy cause is admirable, and the walk organizers clearly have the best of intentions. Asking what a victim was wearing, saying that she was “asking for it”, and really placing any blame on a victim of rape or assault is appalling. It’s important that the public is aware that this occurs and that we speak out against it.
It’s past this point that problems arise. Many of those drawn in by the name don’t realize what the walk is for. A number of my friends and acquaintances who plan on going to the walk did not realize it was a response to victim blaming, they thought it was a fun parade of skimpy clothing and showing skin. Which is all fine and well, if anyone wants to show some skin, they should be allowed to show some skin! But this attitude is becoming confused with the walk’s message. Media venues are reporting the walk not for its main purpose, but for the fishnets and lingerie and “controversial” way of expression.
More after the jump!
Take this entry for Slutwalk’s DIY Poster contest. The contest rules were simple. Make a poster which displays the walk’s date and website prominently while conveying the purpose of the walk.
Clearly that is not happening here.
Rather, we’re seeing a poster conflating women (or sluts, here) with candy. The idea seems to be that sexually active women (again, “sluts”) are like candy. Sweet, delicious, and for other’s enjoyment? This is one of the worst, but there are several others which seem to follow this line of thinking, that women are there to pleasure the senses of others, with little personal value. Other voters made similar comments, asking what the point of this poster was and how it conveyed Slutwalk’s message. To be fair, only five people liked this entry.
Other posters show women in positions that depict women as objects. We see bodies but we don’t see faces. These have a particular ick factor, as they’re accompanied by phrases that further objectify women. “Fuck yeah slut yeah” and “Forever slut” don’t really offer any useful information to those who aren’t already aware of the walk. From these messages and images alone it would be difficult to gather the purpose.
You have to wonder, do the majority of Slutwalk participants understand what the walk is about? Some of these posters lead me to believe otherwise.
However, the winning poster works well. It’s a little confusing, but it gives the necessary information in a way that doesn’t insult the audience and subject. The overall effect is really good! And shamelessly self-promoting, although my poster had five less votes than the first place poster (probably should have campaigned harder, but oh well! Vacation!), the guerilla organizers of the event named it as their top pick! They liked it enough to make a last minute decision to distribute both as flyers at the guerilla street performance this Saturday (Info here). I’ll still be on vacation unfortunately (fortunately?) so if anyone could pick me up a flyer I would greatly appreciate it!
Moving away from the posters and back to the walk, the name itself is controversial in that it is attempting to reclaim the word “slut”. There are many others who have discussed this, and discussed reclamation of offensive words in general, to the point where I really don’t have anything useful to add. My feeling is that reclaiming “slut” can be helpful to individuals, but as so many others have been hurt by this word and find reclamation of “slut” to be even more hurtful, I feel as though our energies are better focused elsewhere. I don’t condemn those who support reclamation, nor do I disagree with those who do not.
So I’ve presented all of these flaws one could find with Slutwalk, but what remains is this. There are very few widespread and wide reaching movements that support the end of victim blaming. To ignore this one as imperfect would be a wasted opportunity. The great thing about Slutwalk is that it reaches out to those who don’t identify as feminists or activists and slowly introduces them to feminist ideas. While many may come to Slutwalk without knowledge of victim blaming, slut shaming, and rape culture, I hope that we all leave learning something new and being encouraged to speak out and act further.
Hope to see you all there on June 4th! Looking forward to meeting new people who are passionate about ending victim blaming!