Let’s Discuss: SlutWalk and ladies’ personal choice

16 Jun

A couple days ago, Tara sent out an email to Mislabeled about the recent SlutWalk being organized in India, which Kelsey quickly followed with an opinion piece stating that “SlutWalk is repulsive not simply because it’s misguided.”

Women shouldn’t dress like “sluts” not only because it’s foolish, but more importantly, because it undermines so many of the educational and professional accomplishments women have made in recent decades and redirects the conversation back to women’s bodies.

The following debate ensued…..

Rachel: This is a really interesting thing, but I think it speaks to the complexities and number of issues feminism touches on. YES, we want to be taken seriously. YES, we want to be more than our looks.

But those are separate issues from rape and consent, and I think that’s a point the author misses. I don’t think SlutWalk really is the best way to talk about consent, but it is definitely getting the conversation going, and you know I just LOVEEEE conversations.

Kelsey: Lol yeah… Actually, thinking about it objectively, I think SlutWalk is a poor tactic just because it is so easily dismissed as radical lefty propaganda. It turns the conversation to whether women should or should not reclaim the word “slut” instead of sending a clear message that what a woman wears has nothing to do with whether she has given you consent. I imagine that participating in a SlutWalk as a woman would certainly be empowering, but from a broader perspective, the message it sends is more ratifying to its audience than anything else.

And notice the similarity in argument here as the bar scenario. [Ed note: a “Let’s Discuss” feature on ladies in bars is coming up next week…] It’s a fine line. Yeah if I’m walking around naked/drunk I’m not consenting to have sex with you, but at the same time it’s pretty obvious that I have a higher likelihood of being taken advantage of than if I were sober and “covered up.” So there’s got to be an element of responsibility and personal choice in this debate.

Rachel: Yes, and I think those need to be a part of the conversation (choice and personal responsibility)…. The hard part of that is you get crazy people saying scantily clad ladies get raped more (not true) and they put all the responsibility (read:blame) on the woman. We cannot let that happen, and that’s what makes it so difficult to even bring up personal choice. It gives the crazies too much ground to say the victim is at fault.

Kelsey: I haven’t heard of any research on the correlation (or lack thereof) between clothing choices and incidence of sexual assault — would be very interested in seeing it if it does exist — BUT I know there have been studies of the relationship between alcohol consumption and sexual violence  (by both the victim and perpetrator).

Bottom line — I don’t think it’s “crazy” to recognize women’s cognitive abilities to make responsible choices. That doesn’t condone the abhorrent behavior of sexual predators or misogynistic frat culture, but shouldn’t part of women’s empowerment be learning that you can choose whether or not to participate (to some degree)?

Those college boys can only have competitions like that because some girls agree to get up on the bar and deep throat popsicles, [Ed note: again, teaser for next week…] but what happens when no one is willing to do that anymore? Fun’s over.

To be fair to the nature of women’s choice, I also know that there are lots of girls out there who WANT to participate in those competitions — and possibly get banged out vacation-style — and to them I say GO FOR IT! But to those who are horrified/embarrassed/etc. by those competitions I say STICK IT TO THE MAN. Show him you ain’t that kinda girl and hang out with the types of people in the types of places that will accept and respect that about you.

But what if you’re the one who WANTS to deep throat popsicles and WANTS to get so drunk that you can’t give consent but DOESN’T WANT to be made out with on the dance floor or be taken home? Then what? Should you have to sacrifice your fun because stupid boys can’t keep their hands to themselves? I don’t know what to really say about that.

Readers: Your thoughts, as always, are welcome…..

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3 Responses to “Let’s Discuss: SlutWalk and ladies’ personal choice”

  1. Brianna June 17, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

    So I’m a little late on the response here, but I think on my third glass of wine and my first chance at non-Big Brother-monitored internet access is as good a time as any.

    OK, so let’s talk “slut.” There is a philosophy that I formulated my freshman year in college, when one of my friends was actually one of the most — lets say “energetic” — girls in the sexual/frattastic scene. I determined, upon examining her behavior, that there is a definite separation between “sluts” and girls that get what they want when they want it. “Sluts” in my mind are those women who need to acquire validation through what they may call sexual “conquests” — when in reality, the men are winning and the women are losing in those situations. On the other hand, there are the women who get *mislabeled* as sluts because they choose to sleep around — not so they can seem cool to SAE, or so they can get into the next KDR register, but because that’s what they want. We can’t deny that we are sexual beings, and those mislabeled women are the ones who are going and getting what they want and need.

    Now, on to the SlutWalks. I think that most of the women participating in them are likely the ones that are in the latter category I described. Quite frankly, I can’t think of a single woman who gets laid for validation that consciously upholds any feminist values … but that could just be my limited circle.

    I think that the word “slut” should be reclaimed from men who mislabel those women who seem to follow in the “free love” movement, or simply those who don’t give a fuck about what other people think. That, I think, is an important movement — to get away from the “men are players, women are sluts” cliche.

    However, those women who I may still label as “sluts” in my freshman-year philosophy are women that may need some help from the feminist movement, as well. There’s something terrible about thinking that a woman’s only ability to advance in certain social circles is by being a sexual servant to some douchebag. The worst part is that these women don’t realize it. But that’s an entirely different issue for another time.

    Where I disagree with Kelsey is that our bodies are a key part in the discussion of the advancement of women. We wouldn’t be women without them. I know that sounds stupid, but hear me out:

    I had a recent run-in with my boss regarding my wardrobe choice (I work for a Fortune 500 company that does not take well to anything with spandex involved). I looked at the company handbook and the dress code and realized that most of the rules were centered upon articles of clothing women wearL”Nothing too short, too tight, too low cut, etc.” While I felt a deep sense of rage thinking that as a young woman, I can’t wear anything that may subjectively “offend” or “distract” my coworkers, I realized there was something else at play. I even felt kind of awesome to be a woman when I thought about it: Women’s bodies DO have some sort of “power” over others — whether it is men or women, and that’s why so many rules are in place to cajole us into absolute conformity and invisibility. So why don’t we reclaim the knowledge that FUCK YEAH, women’s bodies are awesome (whether in a strictly physical or symbolic way)?!

    All in all, I would place myself in that category of mislabeled women … But I don’t think there’s any problem in dressing in super short skirts or super low cut tops to go out at night. Sometimes I just want to be found attractive, and that’s not just a feminine attribute. Men wear cologne and go to the gym and spend 45 minutes on their hair before they go out. While there are times that women (unfortunately) need to hide their sexualized body parts (i.e.: certain work atmospheres), there are other times when women should feel comfortable wearing whatever the fuck they want for whatever purpose they choose. Yes, men sometimes take our wardrobe to mean that we’re easy, but that’s a problem with male mentality, not ours.

    Hell, half the time I wear low cut shirts, I just do it to shoot down men … it makes me realize that my body — the thing that is focused on so much — is my own. I own it, I rock it, and most importantly I have the self confidence to tell that Ed Hardy-wearing d-bag to befriend his bottle of lotion and tube sock tonight because he ain’t getting a damn thing from me.

  2. Samantha June 20, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    I’m not sure if there is research out there regarding a correlation between clothing choices and rape, but there IS a precedent of judges rulings regarding consent. In the past year, a woman (in St. Louis, I believe?) pressed charges against Girls Gone Wild because they used video footage of her bare breasts without the subject’s consent. She had told the Girls Gone Wild producers that she was not interested in participating when her top was pulled down and she was exposed. The judge ruled against the woman, claiming that her mere presence at the bar was consent for Girls Gone Wild. According to this judge, simply being physically present in the environment was consent. To me, this is a very very very scary precedent.

    • Alan June 20, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

      Wow. That is HORRIFYING bit of jurisprudence. Had no idea anything like that was happening.

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