Why I’ll be at Slutwalk LondonPosted: May 14, 2011
Whichever way you look at it, I am a slut – I’m living with a guy I’m not married to, and cleaning my bathroom rarely gets to the top of the priority list. Yet there’s something about saying I’ll walk under the slut-banner that is really uncomfortable.
It’s a nasty word, that sums up some really nasty attitudes towards women. There’s been a lot of arguments that we shouldn’t be reclaiming the word. That rape crisis counsellors have had people making jokes about how “they knew rape victims were sluts really”. But we can’t just ignore this word. I personally, wouldn’t want to use it. But if by reclaiming the word, we can stop society using it, that is a really strong motivation.
I’m also horrified at how many comments and how much victim-blaming has been uncovered by the popularity of Slutwalks. Jessica Valenti has brought together many of the comments, and @SantaEvita has written a great post about why you can’t compare rape to car crashes – preventing rape is not as simple as just wearing your seat belt.
Firstly, exactly what is “dressing like a slut”? Short skirt and tight top? Except lots of men like a bit of mystery. Or formal attire, or maybe knee-high boots. And there’s that famous case of a judge throwing a rape case out as the rapist couldn’t possibly remove tightly fitting jeans without the victim’s assistance. So basically, we need to wear long baggy clothes. Kind of like a burka. Except, rape happens in arabic countries where women are wearing burkas, and rape is still the victim’s fault and she is punished for adultery. How exactly should we dress to prevent rape?
And then, there’s the idea that otherwise good men will be driven so crazy by this glimpse of flesh that they just have to rape. I know plenty of men who have managed not to rape women, whatever they’re wearing. Ben Pobjie has written a wonderfully useful 7 point guide showing men how not to be a rapist. Rape isn’t because men just can’t help themselves. Rape victims shouldn’t be told to feel flattered that someone wanted to rape them, or guilty that they led him on. Rape is a violent crime. Last year, a young man was walking home, was attacked and had a paving slab dropped on his head. The press weren’t asking what he was wearing, or how come he was walking on his own anyway. No, they were talking about the horrific nature of the unprovoked violent assault. There is no other crime where people are so preoccupied with checking the victim wasn’t at fault. If you report a mugging, you’re not told “well, it’ll be your word against the mugger. Are you sure you didn’t just give him your handbag?”. If you tell your neighbours you were burgled, they won’t be thinking “well, I did see that you left your window open last week”.
The Home Office stats on rapes actually show that the two factors that make you most vulnerable to intimate assaults are being disabled or long term sick, or having recently ended a relationship. Women can’t protect themselves from rape by behaving modestly. Rape is not the fault of the victim.
And this is why Slutwalk is so important. By using the word slut, and all it’s connotations, society is keeping the discourse of rape focused on blaming victims. And by suggesting that rape victims aren’t really victims, it makes it easy to justify removing funding from and closing rape crisis centres. When actually, the criminal justice system is failing victims on a consistent basis. The policeman who made the comment that started the Slutwalk movement is based in Toronto. But I’m sure (from all the comments I’ve seen) that some UK policemen would agree with him. That judges still allow a woman’s sexual history to be brought up as “context” in trials. That victim’s compensation is reduced if a woman has been drinking.
The way that society deals with rape and views victims with suspicion is wrong. Which is why I’ll be joining the London Slutwalk.