This Saturday the “Slutwalk” phenomenon that began in Toronto comes to London. As this is my constituency I thought it timely to impart my feelings on the subject. As a protest movement, it is one that has divided feminists (in that way not unlike many other feminist protest movements) and I have to say that in this instance I have to come down on the side of those feminists who don’t think that “Slutwalking” is the best approach to this issue.
As a feminist who has been active for many years in the realm of women’s rights, it is of course heartening to see younger generations continue the struggle. I also believe that the initial spark for this protest movement is grounded in very real issues. I have, in a previous blog, discussed my views around how rape and rape victims are treated within our society – overwhemingly as at least partially responsible for the abuse they suffered. This despicable situation is one that absolutely must change and we as women should fight to ensure society recognises this injustice, but I’m not sure stripping off is exactly the right way to do it.
Of course women should absolutely have the right to wear what they want and no matter what a woman wears she is never ever asking to be raped. However, you have to question why many women feel obliged to dress this way to begin with.
While I think Germaine Greer’s article in the Telegraph in defence of the “Slutwalkers” makes some excellent points I disagree that in dressing in a provocative manner women are simply liberating their sexual desires. I would argue that sexual attractiveness and exposure has actually become a societal obligation upon women rather than a freedom given to them.
You only have to look at what is in the media to realise that we currently inhabit a culture that both objectifies women and encourages women to objectify themselves. If we look at other recent issues, the return of Playboy to London for instance, the selling of padded bras to seven year olds and the proliferation of lap-dancing clubs, is this really a landscape of female emancipation? We live in a world where young girls are groomed to believe that “they’re sexually hot or they’re nothing” and where women believe more than ever that success is dictated by your body shape rather than your career.
What’s even worse is that it’s not simply the case that women are expected to be sexually alluring, even promiscuous, they’re also still judged negatively for it as well. I suppose in the 50s at least you knew where you stood. As a woman growing up now you’re told to look sexy in order to be valued by society then, if you are raped, told it’s your own fault for wearing such clothes.
The Slutwalkers seem to recognise one part of this oppression but are ignoring the other. I applaud the Slutwalkers for their passion and their anger. I too feel their rage against an establishment that blames women for being victims of rape. But I ask them to look again at what society has convinced them liberation is and whether that’s really the “freedom” they want.