Critical Perspectives on the SlutWalk Debate

It’s pretty easy to get overwhelmed by the many responses to SlutWalk, from initial press coverage of the first few rallies to more thorough criticisms (and defenses, and counter-defenses, and so on) in the feminist blogosphere.  This is especially true because there are still SlutWalks being planned and implemented now, two years later, and while the protests are not as publicized in the general media they are still receiving a lot of attention— and therefore continuing to generate debate— in the feminist community. Rather than pick a “side” of this debate and defend it, my goal for this project is to place the debate in context and complicate the idea that there are hard right and wrong conclusions to draw from SlutWalk. In this blog posts I’ve chosen to focus on three patterns in the media, public, and feminist response to SlutWalk: analyses of power dynamics within feminist communities, especially in reference to reclaiming the word “slut”; similarities between traditionally conservative and feminist criticism of the rallies; and the perpetuation of patriarchal capitalism via SlutWalk’s neoliberal, personal-empowerment approach.

SlutWalk as a White, Middle-Class, and Western Movement

A lot of women have probably been called a slut at least once in their lives. No matter the justification— a “slut” could be a woman who dresses to expose ‘too much’ skin, has ‘too much’ sex and/or with ‘too many’ partners, enjoys sex at all or ‘too much,’ and so on— the gist is quite clear: when a woman is called a slut, she is being reprimanded for stepping outside the boundaries of acceptable behavior. These boundaries are constantly in flux, and are dependent on space and time; regardless, they are used to police women’s appearance and actions and to justify any ‘punishment.’ Not only were the founders of SlutWalk critical of the victim blaming that occurs in cases of sexual violence, but they also urged women to reclaim the word ‘slut,’ transforming it from a point of shame to one of pride. Heather Jarvis, one of the cofounders of SlutWalk, compares ‘slut’ to other slurs that have been reclaimed by certain groups in the past, such as ‘queer’: “I think slut can be a very positive and empowering word. Queer has a very similar history. This used to be a godawful word, and look what’s happened. Thousands and thousands of people identify with this word now in a really positive and empowering way. Language is not static” (Guelph Mercury 2011).

A lot of feminist criticism of the SlutWalk movement focuses on the reclamation of the word ‘slut.’ While women are punished for being or looking ‘too slutty,’ they are also condemned for not acting or presenting sexual enough— women who are perceived as ‘frigid,’ for example, suffer as well within a patriarchal society. According to Kathy Miriam, a feminist scholar, “sexual self-presentation is a double-bind since, whatever choice of presentation is made by a woman, she will be punished— or sometimes both rewarded and punished. Women are both exhorted to self-present as sexy, and yet are punished as sluts: failure to self-present as sexy is punished as prudish or as lacking worth within a system that bases women’s value— and indeed very visibility— on competency in displaying sexual availability (aka ‘sexiness’) without falling into the ‘slut’ category. The duty of female sexual self-presentation demands the futile enterprise of negotiating a fictional line between sexy and slut, or between good girl and prude” (Miriam 2012: 263).

White, straight, middle- and upper-class women have historically had the most freedom in negotiating this double-bind, while women of color and from lower-income populations are more quickly labeled as ‘sluts.’ Many women of color have objected to SlutWalk on the grounds that “women of color have been historically… and concretely exploited as always already slut and thus unrapeable” due to the colonization and slavery of brown and black female bodies (Miriam 2012: 264). The Black Women’s Blueprint’s statement on SlutWalk expands on this, detailing the differences between White and women of color’s ability to refer to themselves as ‘sluts’ and the potential consequences of such actions:

“As Black women, we do not have the privilege or the space to call ourselves ‘slut’ without validating the already historically entrenched ideology and recurring messages about what and who the Black woman is.  We don’t have the privilege to play on destructive representations burned in our collective minds, on our bodies and souls for generations.  Although we understand the valid impetus behind the use of the word ‘slut’ as language to frame and brand an anti-rape movement, we are gravely concerned.  For us the trivialization of rape and the absence of justice are viciously intertwined with narratives of sexual surveillance, legal access and availability to our personhood.  It is tied to institutionalized ideology about our bodies as sexualized objects of property, as spectacles of sexuality and deviant sexual desire. It is tied to notions about our clothed or unclothed bodies as unable to be raped whether on the auction block, in the fields or on living room television screens. The perception and wholesale acceptance of speculations about what the Black woman wants, what she needs and what she deserves has truly, long crossed the boundaries of her mode of dress.

Black women have worked tirelessly since the 19th century colored women’s clubs to rid society of the sexist/racist vernacular of slut, jezebel, hottentot, mammy, mule, sapphire; to build our sense of selves and redefine what women who look like us represent. Although we vehemently support a woman’s right to wear whatever she wants anytime, anywhere, within the context of a ‘SlutWalk’ we don’t have the privilege to walk through the streets of New York City, Detroit, D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, L.A. etc., either half-naked or fully clothed self-identifying as ‘sluts’ and think that this will make women safer in our communities an hour later, a month later, or a year later.  Moreover, we are careful not to set a precedent for our young girls by giving them the message that we can self-identify as ‘sluts’ when we’re still working to annihilate the word ‘ho’, which deriving from the word ‘hooker’ or ‘whore’, as in ‘Jezebel whore’ was meant to dehumanize.  Lastly, we do not want to encourage our young men, our Black fathers, sons and brothers to reinforce Black women’s identities as ‘sluts’ by normalizing the term on t-shirts, buttons, flyers and pamphlets.” (Black Women’s Blueprint 2011)

The Black Women’s Blueprint expressed hesitation at joining a movement which “even in name exemplifies the ways in which mainstream women’s movements have repeatedly excluded Black women” (Black Women’s Blueprint 2011), and urged the cofounders of  SlutWalk to consider the histories of people of color and rebrand and relabel the movement in order to center the experiences of all women and communities.

Many feminists leapt to the defense of SlutWalk from such critiques. Andrea O’Reilly, the professor of some of the cofounders, explained that claims that organizers excluded certain populations such as transgender people, sex workers, and people of color were misguided because outside of a Facebook page explicitly inviting “all members of the feminist community to participate in planning and attending the event,” there was no “formal organization that could or could not exclude people” (O’Reilly 2012 247). O’Reilly excuses the cofounders’ failure to reach out to marginalized populations due to the fast pace of planning the rally in six short weeks with no infrastructure or funding, and indicates that “these young women had no idea they were about to create a global movement that would later put their initial SlutWalk under scrutiny” (O’Reilly 2012 248).

In contrast, Hannah Altman, a SlutWalk Philadelphia organizer,  was driven to “make the SlutWalk as inclusive as possible” and noted that “as a young, white, college-going woman, it was important to examine my privilege if this was to be more than just another white heterosexual movement” (Altman 2012 251).

“I emphasized the importance of reaching out to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and also to people of color communities. Philadelphia has a history of being a violent city— especially towards people of color and transgendered individuals. It was vital that we have a broad representation among the speakers, and I was proud that the six phenomenal speakers at SlutWalk Philadelphia included a transsexual activist, four people of color, a Muslim woman, two lesbians, two academics, and a state senator.” (Altman 2012: 251-252)

Additionally, Altman and the other organizers of SlutWalk Philadelphia prioritized blaming the perpetrators of sexual violence and not the victims, rather than emphasize reclaiming the word ‘slut.’ “I felt very strongly that our message should be focused on those who use and justify sexual violence,” (2012 252) Altman explains, rather than freedom of expression through clothing.

Both Altman’s commitment to reaching out to women of color and other less privileged populations and rebranding of the marches as critical of the perpetrators of sexual violence show that it is possible for SlutWalk marches to prioritize intersectionality, even with organizing complications and a short time frame. Explanations that point to such challenges as excuses for the feminist movement’s failure to purposefully reach out to marginalized populations such as queer, disabled, lower income, or communities of color, are lazy at best. In sweeping legitimate criticisms under the rug and indicating that groups were welcome to join the movement as stated on Facebook, O’Reilly and the cofounders of the original SlutWalk are ignoring the history of exclusion within feminism and assuming that all groups occupy similar levels of power and privilege when that is simply not the case. Additionally, indicating that the cofounders be protected from scrutiny because they didn’t expect the movement to go global erases the legitimacy of criticism from women of color and other communities in Toronto.

Protests in India similarly drew criticism for being exclusionary. Some questioned whether “the provocative attire would draw attention to women’s bodies, rather than highlight the sexual violence different women faced” (Mitra 2012: 255). Others suggested, as in Canada and the United States, that “the movement is exclusionary, only representing middle-class, urban, bourgeois values and leaving out lower-class Indian women and women working in the sex industry who deal with sexual violence every day” (Mitra 2012 : 255). Protiti Roy, one of the organizers of the Bangalore event, later reflected that:

“…as with most social movements, this one too is an exclusive concern of the middle class. We have often thought about, but never actually approached women living in slums to join us, or even asked them for their opinion. It is a major drawback, and we hope that in the time we have gained because of this cancellation, it is something we can correct.” (Mitra 2012: 259)

The marches also drew backlash from those who disapproved of SlutWalk’s role in India. Organizers in Bhopal, the site of the first SlutWalk-inspired march in India on July 18, 2011, chose to change the name to “Pride Stride for Women” (or Besharmi Morcha, or Shameless Rally, in Hindi) to be more inclusive, and attendees were asked to dress conservatively; the marches that followed Bhopal would “[attempt] to shift the focus away from provocative dress to a more normative language of women’s rights and gender violence” (Mitra 2012: 255). Despite this, critics claimed that SlutWalk activists carelessly disregarded social norms seen as culturally intrinsic to India and indicated that SlutWalk’s presence in India was reminiscent of colonialism (Mitra 2012: 256). In Delhi, a large number of foreign women participated in the rally. Most signs protesting sexual violence and harassment were in English, as well as newspaper reports and online discussions of the event. According to Durba Mitra, a feminist historian at Emory University, “the Delhi walk was critiqued as a divide between East and West, and many critics suggested that the ‘Western’ framework of the SlutWalk did not suit women’s rights movements in India” (2012: 256).

Slut Shaming and Victim Blaming in Feminist Responses to SlutWalk

Predictably, a bulk of the backlash against SlutWalk was from people who disagreed with feminist critiques victim blaming in society. A discussion board hosted by London’s The Sunday Times regarding SlutWalk, which quickly became host to jokes and speculation about the attire of the protestors, is fairly typical of the patriarchal attitudes that lead people to hold survivors of sexual violence responsible for their own assault(s). Several of the commentators justified the phenomenon of victim blaming in cases of sexual assault, blaming women’s clothing choices for “tempting their fellow humans” (The Sunday Times 2011).

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They weren’t the only ones to seize the opportunity to publicly condemn survivors of sexual violence, either. One Ontario editorial contributor, for example, contradicted himself throughout an article, preempting his victim blaming with “let me state clearly that it’s wrong to blame victims of sexual assault because they were dressed scantily or provocatively” yet concluding that he saw the “figurative truth” in Sanguinetti’s comments and “would still “caution my daughter to carefully not go too close to the fire” (Mulas 2011).

While it’s disheartening to witness to many people publicly blame victims for sexual assault and not feel embarrassed or ashamed of themselves, it is not surprising. After all, SlutWalk originated from very similar comments, and we live in a patriarchal culture that normalizes violence against women and sexual assault. However, while I expected such commentators to lean towards conservative, I was shocked to read much of the same from self-identified feminists. Jennifer Selway, a writer for London’s The Express, ridiculed the cofounders of SlutWalk for being unrealistic and instead defended Sanguinetti’s remarks:

“Where exactly does the poor plod (who incidentally has been disciplined for his perfectly sensible remarks) say that rape is OK? Who in their right mind does say that rape is OK? Nobody I know.

Feminism has nothing to do with dressing in next to nothing and then affecting surprise and outrage when men find it a turn-on. That’s men for you.

Feminism has nothing to do with getting off your face on cheap cocktails and then being amazed when some creep takes advantage of the fact that you can’t put one foot in front of the other. Feminism has nothing to do with having a fit of the vapours when someone uses the word ‘slut’.

Real feminism is about looking after yourself , being independent and taking responsibility for your own safety and for your own body.

It’s about not being helpless and hopeless and vulnerable and living under the delusion that everyone is going to respect you.

Grow up ladies. March in your underwear if you must. Hope the weather turns out nice.” (Selway 2011)

Similar disdain for SlutWalk activists can be found throughout criticisms of the movement. In an editorial for The Times in London which otherwise offered a striking analysis of the problem of prioritizing personal empowerment over sustainable liberation, Janice Turner, like many others, took a moment to ridicule the marchers. “Hurrah, that twentysomething women, raised in happy complacency about feminism’s hard-won gains, have finally risen from their waxing salons,” she writes, and then offers a scathing caricature of the protestors: “I may be more successful or more powerful, richer or faster or smarter than you, there may be 50,000 of us marching here, but honestly we’re not threatening or ball-breaking. Here, we’ll prove it, have a quick ogle at our fun bags.” She goes on to use the stories of survivors of childhood sexual abuse to call into question the legitimacy of SlutWalk participants, and in doing so positions survivors as deserving strictly of pity, invalidating their individual choices or agency. “Who wouldn’t want to sleep with a succession of lovers until you find the right one? Yet the notion that the pursuit of relentless, empty-hearted couplings is in itself a source of deep happiness is a sad deception. Listening to Molly Parkin on Desert Island Discs, however rumbustious her adventures and witty her tongue, her tales of bunk-ups with faceless, nameless men seemed tinged with melancholy if you knew that as a child she was sexually abused. As was the author Roxana Shirazi, who related her sexploits as a rock groupie in The Last Living Slut” (Turner 2011).

Many feminists have criticized SlutWalk for prioritizing the freedom of women to dress like ‘sluts’ without being shamed for it, and have asked why the feminist movement has not instead devoted its energy and popularity to dismantling the prude/slut double standard imposed on women by a patriarchal culture. I think such criticisms are valid; in fact, I talk about them extensively. But what do we gain as a feminist movement by adopting the misogynistic and dismissive language of conservatives? Where is the value in mocking other feminists because we disagree with them, and to target their promiscuity in order to invalidate their arguments? What form of internalized misogyny motivates self-identified feminists to validate victim blaming and reduce other feminists to mere children (“grow up ladies”)? And for anyone to publicize the past sexual abuse of activists and then use their survivor status as grounds for dismissal and mockery should be unacceptable within the feminist community and recognized for the rape-culture-masquerading-as-feminism that it is. Thinking critically is absolutely to recognize and change, or even avoid in the first place, problematic aspects of feminist activism, such as the original SlutWalk cofounders’ failure to strive for intersectionality. I argue that the same critical thinking is needed when evaluating the ridicule and disrespect towards women and feminist activism perpetuated by these types of feminist critics.

SlutWalk as Feminism Lite

As discussed above, a significant amount of media coverage focused not on the feminist rally’s anti-rape culture message but on the choice of using “slut” as a focal point and on the physical dress of attendees. Even media outlets that offered supportive coverage of the protests centralized articles on protestors’ ‘sluttiness’ rather than host thoughtful discussions of the dangers of victim blaming. An article announcing Boston’s own SlutWalk, for example, began with “If you’re offended by provocatively dressed, sexually promiscuous women prancing through the streets, you might want to stay inside on Saturday, May 7” (Metro 2011). The article briefly touched on the organizers’ goals, couching “slut-shaming” in sardonic quotation marls, and then made sure to highlight the fishnet stockings and high heels present at the original march in Toronto before ending on Sanguinett’s infamous gaffe.  Coverage of a SlutWalk rally in North Carolina is similar: “More than 100 supporters showed up wearing very little to support the campaign” (Channel 10 News). Russell Contreras of the Associated Press later quipped that “This social movement really gets around,” and noted that male supporters in Boston showed up to the rally reading shirts that said “I love sluts” (Contreras 2011).

The choice of media outlets to focus their attention on the attire of the protestors and to make jokes about the assumed their assumed promiscuity, rather than engage in a serious discussion of the dangers of blaming the victims of sexual assault, is a continuation of the trivialization of sexual assault in our society. The attitudes that fuel the refusal to take SlutWalk’s message seriously are the result of being socialized in a rape culture, or a culture which normalizes sexual assault. One must even question the motives of male supporters wearing “I love sluts” t-shirts to the rallies— are these men true feminist allies, or are they merely men raised in a patriarchal culture who have been given license to call women sluts in the name of feminism? (Contrast this to male supporters such as Dave Rini, a volunteer at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, or Ben Atherton-Zeman of the National Organization for Men Against Sexism, who told reporters that men have a “really strong role to play” in ending sexual assault and harassment, since “most rape is committed by men… So it’s our responsibility to stand up against it” (Szaniszlo 2011).) Janice Turner echoes this concern: “On the New York SlutWalk, watching women parade in fishnet tights and basques while carrying signs that read ‘Sluts say yes’ were supportive men wearing ‘I love sluts’ T-shirts. Well, how could they not? These marching militants were set to join the male fantasy lexicon of naughty nurses and sexy schoolgirls: the feminists of men’s dreams” (Turner 2011).

However, while it is true that media coverage of the SlutWalk protests obtusely refuses to discuss the serious issues behind the marches in favor of guffawing over the spectacle of thousands of scantily-clad women in the streets, it is also true that the cofounders of SlutWalk themselves prioritize reclaiming the title and dress of ‘slut’ in part to attract more followers. When asked about the name ‘SlutWalk’, cofounder Heather Jarvis explained, “We called ourselves something controversial. Did we do it to get attention? Damn right we did!” (Valenti 2011) Jessica Valenti, a feminist blogger, excitedly described SlutWalk’s cofounders as “generating excitement,” and quoted a Stanford University SlutWalk participant who said that “the idea of ‘sluttiness’ resonates with younger women in part because they are more likely than their older counterparts to be called sluts… It’s also loud, angry, sexy in a way that going to a community activist meeting often isn’t” (Valenti 2011).

Obviously, not all feminists are as excited about the movement’s focus on reclaiming ‘sluttiness.’ “Feminism badly needs a flash of new life in its old cause,” Turner mused, “yet what a shame that the SlutWalkers feel that to be heard they must get ’em out for the lads” (Turner 2011). Kathy Miriam similarly rejected such defenses of the movement’s emphasis on reclaiming ‘sluttiness’:

“The most common defense of the name SlutWalk— when the event has been often debated— is that it attracts attention and that it is a brand that travels well. But does it really take media savvy… to utilize the same currency of patriarchal fantasy that makes mass media everywhere go round: the figure of the sexualized, young, thin female? … What does it mean when activists trade on the very semantics of rape culture— male fantasy— to relay a message against rape? What does it mean when the branding of a message assumes greater importance than the message, with the message itself off the table for any serious deliberation or theorizing?” (Miriam 2012: 262).

Miriam goes on to question why, if SlutWalk is demanding the right for women to dress how they choose, “if the choice of sexual self-presentation for women were such a free, unconstrained choice, why does it seem to come in only one flavor, namely, some preconceptualized variant of the patriarchal construct of ‘slut’? And why does corporate patriarchy have such a mammoth investment in this construct?” (Miriam 2012: 262)

Women are obligated to signal sexual availability within a patriarchal society, and there are massive corporate investments in marketing narrow interpretations of female sexuality to women as empowering, as good for their self-esteem— think Victoria’s Secret, makeup, and elective medical interventions such as breast implants and ‘vaginal rejuvenation surgery.’ Rather that viewing the choice to dress in stilettos and lingerie as a radical act, Miriam situates SlutWalk as “more like a declaration of self-deception than— as intended— self-determination” (Miriam 2012: 263). Many others express the same concerns, and question why the participants of SlutWalk mimic the patriarchal ideal of female sexuality instead of rejecting it altogether. One woman, in an online comment, rejected the call to reclaim the word ‘slut’ because it “is not a generic noun – it is applied distinctly, according to a value system instigated and perpetuated by men. And likewise, the race riots of the Sixties were not carried out in slave costumes or Black and White Minstrels get-up, whereas basques, corsets and stockings are a common feature of SlutWalks. Why should we appropriate archaic clichés when we can come up with our own feminist code of sexual ethics?” (Walker 2011) Gail Dines, the author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, and Wendy J. Murphy, a professor of sexual violence at New England Law, agreed:

“As teachers who travel around the country speaking about sexual violence, pornography and feminism, we hear stories from women students who feel intense pressure to be sexually available “on demand”. They have been told over and over that in order to be valued in such a culture, they must look and act like sluts.

Women need to find ways to create their own authentic sexuality, outside of male-defined terms like slut. The recent TubeCrush phenomenon, where young women take pictures of men they find attractive on the London tube and post them to a website, illustrates how easily women copy dominant societal norms of sexual objectification rather than exploring something new and creative.

Women need to take to the streets – but not for the right to be called “slut”. Women should be fighting for liberation from culturally imposed myths about their sexuality that encourage gendered violence. Our daughters – and our sons – have the right to live in a world that celebrates equally women’s sexual freedom and bodily integrity.” (Dines and Murphy 2011)

Miriam offers a critical perspective on not only SlutWalk but on the feminist movement’s departure from prioritizing liberation, or the “militant transformation of the dominant social order,” to personal empowerment (2011: 265). Neoliberal feminism reprivatizes personal experiences— a departure, you’ll notice, from the ‘the personal is political’ slogan of earlier decades—and emphasizes “individual choices comprising one’s consumer-modeled identity. In this context, political consciousness need not interfere with women’s personal choice of dress, sexualization, or self-presentation in any way” (Miram 2011: 265). Hence structurally adjusted feminism, like SlutWalk, “functions like a product placement ad for capitalist patriarchy itself” (Miriam 2011: 265). Others, while similarly critical of SlutWalk, are more hopeful that the movement will use its popularity to effect change. “Unless the international slut walkers are willing to back their cause with united political muscle, their movement will be nothing more than a testament to the power and success of the soft porn/pop culture industries,” one commentator says. “The world will be waiting to see if this is just another example of faux feminism, embracing faux sexuality, for faux power, or strongly committed women ready to take on the issues and see them through” (Duffy 2011).

Similarly, SlutWalk has been articulated as a form of feminism ‘lite,’ valuable in its criticism of not only rape culture but of the broader feminist community itself. Ratna Kapur, for example, admits that while SlutWalk does not promise transformation or articulate a strong theoretical position, it is still a site of critique “not only of dominant attitudes towards women’s sexuality, but also of some segments of the feminist movement’s complicity in reinforcing a sexually-sanitized understanding of female subjectivity… The critique marks a moment when it is perhaps time to stop thinking in terms of revolution, while at the same time not resign to the impulse of liberal reformism as the only option left” (2012: 12). Kapur urges critics to avoid  giving too much credit to what is “only a brief moment in the life of gender critique,” but also warns against dismissing SlutWalk altogether, as “it is precisely in such performances embodying feminism ‘lite’ that deeply held beliefs are challenged and analytical space clearing occurs” (Kapur 2012: 18).

So how does one navigate the many responses to SlutWalk? Is SlutWalk feminist, or not? I argue that perspectives on SlutWalk as a movement lacking intersectionality or sustainable opposition to patriarchal capitalism are valuable, and necessary. SlutWalk is not the pinnacle of feminist activism; as a movement is has excluded women of color in addition to other disadvantaged groups, and it fails to question why its version of empowerment mimics patriarchal capitalism-approved constructs of female sexuality. But I also recognize the benefit of SlutWalk as a form of ‘feminism lite’ that has provided a space for articulating and contesting not only the problems of victim blaming and rape culture in our society, but also the tendency to homogenize the feminist community and dismiss types of thought and activism that aren’t revolutionary enough. According to Kapur, “constantly engaging in critique for the purpose of space-clearing may help guard against the re-emergence of the conceit that turned a certain brand of feminism into a self-righteous proselytizing project” (Kapur 2012: 18). In other words, there is value in having these types of discussion at all; SlutWalk, and feminist activism in general, does not have to meet the strict requirements of some elitist ‘feminist community’ in order to catalyze conversation and critical thinking about the patriarchal culture in which we live.

 

 

Works Cited:

Altman, Hannah. 2012. “SlutWalk Philadelphia.” Feminist Studies 38 (1): 251-253.

Black Women’s Blueprint. 2011. “An Open Letter from Black Women to Slutwalk.” Black Women’s Blueprint. Online. Accessed August 5, 2013. <http://www.blackwomensblueprint.org/index.php/an-open-letter-from-black-women-to-the-Slutwalk.>

Channel 10 News. 2011. “06:00:02. ABC – 10 WPLG.” Channel 10 News,April 23. (Retrieved from Newsbank Online Database on July 29, 2013).

Contreras, Russell. 2011. “’SlutWalks’ put provocative message in the streets.” Associated Press Archive, May 6. (Retrieved from Newsbank Online Database on July 29, 2013).

Dines, Gail, and Murphy, Wendy J. 2011. “This is not liberation: Women need to take to the streets to condemn violence, but not for the right to be called ‘slut’.” The Guardian, May 9.(Retrieved from Newsbank Online Database on August 14, 2013).

Kapur, Ratna. 2012. “Pink Chaddis and SlutWalk Couture: The Postcoliial Politics of Feminism Lite.” Feminist Legal Studies 20 (1): 1-20.

Metro. 2011. “Boston women to hold ‘Slutwalk,’ which is what it sounds like.” Metro – Boston, April 5. (Retrieved from Newsbank Online Database on July 29, 2013).

Miriam, Kathy. 2012. “Feminism, Neoliberalism, and SlutWalk.” Feminist Studies 38 (1): 262-266.

Mitra, Durba. 2012. “Critical Perspectives on SlutWalks in India.” Feminist Studies 38 (1): 254-261.

Mulas, Antonio. 2011. “Blame is wrong, equal rights essential, but I’d still caution my daughter.” The Hamilton Spectator, April 5, p. A10. (Retrieved from Newsbank Online Database on July 30, 2013).

O’Reilly, Andrea. 2012. “Slut Pride: A Tribute to SlutWalk Toronto.” Feminist Studies 38 (1): 245-250.

The Guelph Mercury. 2011. “Heather Jarvis – 25 Activist, SlutWalk co-founder.” The Guelph Mercury, June 23, p. D6.(Retrieved from Newsbank Online Database on August 9, 2013).

The Sunday Times. 2011. “The danger of deshabille – MESSAGE BOARD: Do skimpy outfits invite trouble or should women be able to wear what they like without fear?” The Sunday Times, May 15, p. 27. (Retrieved from Newsbank Online Database on July 29, 2013).

Turner, Janice. 2011. “SlutWalks are treading on dangerous ground – Bra-clad protesters’ look-but-don’t-touch feminism poses a problem when porn fashion dominates the high street.” The Times, May 14, p. 22. (Retrieved from Newsbank Online Database on August 13, 2013).

Selway, Jennifer. 2011 “This silly feminist protest.” The Express, May 14. (Retrieved from Newsbank Online Database on August 13, 2013).

Szaniszlo, Marie. 2011. “Making a stand against violence – ‘Sluts’ rally vs. sexism.” Boston Herald, May 8, p.7. (Retrieved from Newsbank Online Database on August 13, 2013).

Walker, Harriet. 2011. “March yes, but that word you use is helping no one.” The Independent: Web Edition Articles, May 10. (Retrieved from Newsbank Online Database on August 14, 2013).

Valenti, Jessica. 2011. “Jessica Valenti: SlutWalks and the Future of Feminism.” The Washington Post. Online. Accessed 26 July 2013. <http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2011-06-03/ opinions/35235904_1_successful-feminist-action-slutwalks-young-women>

 

Comments

  1. Matthew Litovitz says:

    I found your thoughts on the SlutWalk interesting, but found your accusation that some of the critics who are critical of the movement are participating in “rape-culture-masquerading-as-feminism” to be a little extreme. I obviously recognize that that accusation was particularly directed at anyone who uses a rape or childhood abuse survivor’s status as a survivor to de-legitimize or mock the survivor, but it seems that most of your criticism seems to be directed towards Janice Turner; and I’m not sure that’s what she was trying to do at all. I think that she feels deeply for the victims and survivors of sexual assault, and that she is not in any way chalking anybody’s assault up to their sexual promiscuity. On the contrary, I think that she is offering a valid criticism of the movement, which is to say that it could be interpreted as lionizing promiscuity. Her point is not that Molly Parkin’s childhood sexual assault is any way related to her later sexual promiscuity, but rather that sexual promiscuity and sexual assault are two entirely separate concepts, such that she cannot happily listen to her tales of promiscuity without becoming melancholy.
    I think that victim-blaming is entirely reprehensible, and I think that ultimately any form of promoting awareness about the reality of sexual violence is a good thing; but I ultimately think there is much to be said for the idea that the SlutWalk is not an inclusive movement. You seem to take offense with Janice Turner, and suggest that there is no place for people like her in the feminist movement, and I think many people within the organization agree. But that is precisely the problem with the feminist movement; it needs to become more inclusive. Many feminists would not feel comfortable participating in the SlutWalks, either because they do not feel comfortable reclaiming a sexist term created by patriarchal societies, because they do not wish to participate in a march in their undergarments for whatever reason, or because while they feel strongly against victim blaming, they recognize the term “slut” as having a semantic connection to promiscuity, created by patriarchal society or not, and do not feel that there is any necessary connection between defending victims’ rights and sexual promiscuity. Furthermore, as a somewhat unusual young white male who self-identifies as a feminist, I feel that SlutWalk was downright exclusionary towards men who wished to participate in the movement. I was aware of the movement at the time, and considered participating briefly, but felt that my presence in a mob of women clad in provocative clothing might not be interpreted by my fellow participants as being benevolently motivated. I understand that this is more about what I do and do not feel comfortable doing than what the organization allows, but I still think that the movement to increase awareness of victim blaming, rape culture and sexual violence should be made accessible to anybody and everybody without anyone needing to step out of their comfort zone.

  2. sarahoverton says:

    Hi, Matt! Thanks for your comment. My concern with some of Janice Turner’s comments, and comments from other feminists as well, is that they are indeed “offering a valid criticism of the movement” but doing so in a way that mocks and belittles SlutWalk participants. Perhaps it is my mistake for not writing more clearly, but there is a lot of merit in feminism criticism of SlutWalk— what I take issue with, and criticize in this portion of my blog post, is people shaming women for dressing promiscuously in the name of feminism. It is possible to discuss how SlutWalk could be improved without also taking a moment to mock participants for their outfits, a nuance that many feminists recognized and respected.

    I do not entirely understand your claim that Turner’s “point is not that Molly Parkin’s childhood sexual assault is any way related to her later sexual promiscuity, but rather that sexual promiscuity and sexual assault are two entirely separate concepts, such that she cannot happily listen to her tales of promiscuity without becoming melancholy.” Turner is explicitly linking Parkin’s pride in her sexuality with her past childhood sexual assault, and implies that her sexual promiscuity is DUE TO the abuse she survived. If her point was that sexual promiscuity and sexual assault are two separate concepts, as you claim she meant, then there’s no reason to have brought up Parkin’s childhood at all.

    I also acknowledge that SlutWalk could and should have been more inclusive. In fact, I said so myself in this point, repeatedly, and named several of the reasons you mentioned in your comments. I agree with you that any “movement to increase awareness of victim blaming, rape culture and sexual violence should be made accessible to anybody and everybody without anyone needing to step out of their comfort zone.” Yes, yes, and yes.

    What I don’t agree with you on is your insinuation that SlutWalk needs to become more inclusive to men. I believe that male allies are important and valuables, but to be honest with you, I am skeptical of many self-proclaimed “male feminists” for reasons that you have reinforced in your post. My take on men who support the feminist movement is to show, and not tell; use your privilege with other men to reduce sexual violence and to direct people to feminist voices that have been silenced in our patriarchal society. I will not sympathize with you that SlutWalk was “downright exclusionary towards men who wished to participate in the movement,” because making men comfortable and included is not a priority of feminist movements, especially a movement concerning sexual violence in a society in which nearly all sexual assault perpetrators are men. I urge you to continue the process of examining your own male privilege (self-work that I’m sure you know is key to men who want to be considered allies to the feminist movement) and question why you think that male inclusion of SlutWalk needs to be a priority.

    Thanks for your comment! Good luck with the rest of your Monroe Project.