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pissed-off feminist fights back: slut-shaming is a current affair

It seems about time that a column was dedicated entirely to pointing out the sexist undertones (and overtones) in our nation’s media. Whether in newspapers, on television, on the radio, in music, film, literature, art, whatever; misogyny runs rife. It’s there and someone needs to point their middle finger up at it in a far-fetched attempt to stop people propagating what my potty-mouth calls ‘bullshit’. It’s alright, calm down, I volunteer.

Our media outlets may in fact be disseminating sexist content unintentionally. What this means of course is that such an ideologue is so naturalised that people don’t seem to realise that what they’re ‘reporting’ propagates sexist myths. This is almost as bad (by a thin margin) as someone cackling to themselves ‘DOWN WITH WOMEN’ as they prepare their column for The Australian or some other trashy publication about the ways in which women are lesser people.

So to the subject of this column, for the week starting August 30: A Current Affair’s chilling expose about sluts in Kings Cross. They did not of course, explicitly use the word ‘slut’. They implied it. They implied it every time they spoke about young girls in revealing clothing, and then proceeded to zoom in (without consent) on one such woman’s behind. And then another, and another, and another. Because this is what hard-hitting reporting is: plenty of butt-shots (if you need a reminder of what such a shot looks like, type ‘beach volleyball’ into image search).

Now A Current Affair ran out of dodgy business-owners and amazing diets for Monday’s show and instead prepared this report which had some semi-respected figures in the media, aka Ita Buttrose and Charlotte Dawson talking about the fashion choices of the girls who go out into the Cross. Unless you’ve somehow switched off from news media for the last month (congratulations!), you’d be aware that Kings Cross is currently a highly contested site with discussions about liquor laws and assault in the wake of Thomas Kelly’s murder. So you know, this expose is timely.

Now the wisdom of these older women was of course that scantily-clad women will a) suffer the consequences of their actions – although these were never precisely spelt out; and b) not be taken home to a sexual conquest’s mother. The underlying assumption of the latter is of course that girls go to the Cross to find a husband and live happily ever after, doing so by any means.

Slut shaming involves victimising the person who is assaulted and is symptomatic of rape culture. What that denotes is a society in which women are expected to undertake preventive measures so as not to be sexually assaulted, as opposed to men being discouraged from practicing sexual violence. Slut shaming is but one instance where girls are belittled because of the way they dress or their sexual behaviours and are deemed responsible for the consequences of making the aforementioned decisions. Sound familiar? It’s like reading from the email that pitched this garbage to the producers.

What this means is that a girl dressed in a provocative fashion is ‘asking for it.’ If a woman chooses to dress in skimpy clothes, the connotation is that she’s sexually active, although that is not necessarily the case. That’s the point about connotations, they’re not fixed, they don’t objectively exist; they’re created by society via the constant reiteration of such notions.

So we’re faced with a conundrum here. We have on one hand, the proliferation of highly sexualised images of young women in music videos and film and so on. Often these women are successful, are feminist role models and appear perfectly content. At the same time, we’re being urged to cover up so we can bag a man, and if we don’t, we’re ‘sluts’. Never does the thought that perhaps marriage is not a priority to women in their early twenties occur to the producers of the show. Never is it considered that such a double standard could be, say, damaging to young people growing up.

A Current Affair has no business policing my body or your body or the bodies of the girls who wear sequined shorts to Kings Cross. Decisions about our bodies are just that, ours. These choices are not for public discussion, for parents to weigh in and chide young people for being so vulgar. My body, my choice.

(Image Credit)

8 thoughts on “pissed-off feminist fights back: slut-shaming is a current affair

  1. Check out ‘News with Nipples’, a feminist blog that aims to expose sexism is the media. Recent article on the same ACA issue:

    Slutty McSlut Sluts won’t find themselves husbands and then what will they do?

    • Well both men and women can be sluts and still find a husband/wife so your argument is quite invalid. Nice try. It sounds like you have visited newgrounds.com throughout your life.

  2. Pingback: Slut-Shaming is a Current Affair | stoneagegraffiti

  3. This seems to be quite a shallow article. Sure, on the most basic level, what a woman wears is her decision. But to what degree is she really making the decision? The “slut” in question may say that they are dressing for xyz, but in all essence, is dressing the way she is because of the way she is conditioned to dress. Saying “my body, my choice” seems a rather naive statement to make, one that is reactionary and childish, and it doesn’t address the deeper underlying issues. Such as, the ways in which bodies are conditioned to move and act in society. It sounds similar to the sex positive/slut/lipstick feminism argument. “I dress this way because it empowers me”. Do you* really want to dress in a way that is going to people stare at you, sexually or otherwise? They claim to be using their sexuality against men, but to what degree are they actually being deceived by men in order to give them exactly what they want (short skirts, cleavage, etc)? C’mon. It also sounds like the “It’s a free country” spiel.

    *You as general, SP feminists.

  4. J – “The “slut” in question may say that they are dressing for xyz, but in all essence, is dressing the way she is because of the way she is conditioned to dress… Do you really want to dress in a way that is going to people stare at you, sexually or otherwise” – This seems like a pretty circular argument. What’s to stop me flipping it around by saying that *men* are being conditioned to stare at women, “sexually or otherwise”, because they dress like that?

    If you’re going to raise the specter of “conditioning” then you can’t just apply it to one gender.

  5. Everyone should watch Snog, Marry, Avoid on Channel 11, a reality show about getting young women to dress more naturally and less dramtically.

    Many of the women on the show say they dress a certain way because it makes them feel good about themselves and has nothing to do with males. Although this changes when they are shown a video of what random males think of their look. They do dress for males. Often they decide to dress differently when they realise that they are being judged badly by majority.

  6. I feel that the point is less about the way media judges what people were and more the fact that we feel entitled to judge at all. That we *do* feel entitled to judge creates the conditions under which said judgement favourable/unfavourable/approving/disapproving carries any weight. The idea that there is a way to opt out of the ‘what to wear/not wear’ debate is laughable at best. Changing the circumstances of this discussion isn’t as simple as scoffing at the choice we supposedly have, or simple as emphasising that we *do* have choice – these are both inadequate on their own or even mashed together. Several dozen factors in culture need to shift for a discernable outcome in this area to be evident… but keeping the conversation going is certainly one way to encourage that along.

    Nice critique Hannah.

  7. Pingback: Best of the Interwebs! | Scarlet Apple

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