why i didn’t attend slutwalk
According to the facebook event page, around 385 men and women marched down King William Street on the afternoon of June 11. And even though I invited people to Slutwalk, and encouraged my friends to go, and argued with strangers on the event page, I was not with them.
The simple answer as to why is that I accidentally scheduled a phone interview for the same time because anything I don’t immediately pencil into my diary becomes something that I immediately forget. But I can’t say with complete confidence that I would have gone even if this had not happened.
Like many feminists, I feel very conflicted about Slutwalks. I think people should be able to dress how they want without fear of sexual violence, but I’m not convinced that the type of attire that has been encouraged by Slutwalks wasn’t encouraged by men in the first place. I completely believe that feminism shouldn’t alienate men, but the role that many of them have played in being leering and even derogatory observers at Slutwalks around the world isn’t a way in which I want them to be included. And even though this is the only event sparked by feminism or women’s lib that I’ve heard many people even bother to talk about, none of the conversations I heard in the lead up to the Adelaide event were centred on the actual goals of Slutwalk. It was all about the attire.
If my friends had been saying, ‘Slutwalk is fucking dumb, we already have Reclaim the Night and isn’t that much more compatible with feminist ideology?’, I probably would have made them pancakes. But they weren’t, they were criticising Slutwalk without any mention of, or even interest in addressing the problem of victim shaming in a different manner.
By the time Slutwalk actually happened, I was exhausted. I was tired of thinking about it, talking about it and arguing about it, and it was all for a cause that I wasn’t even sure I could wholly support; it was all based on the fact that Slutwalk was getting far more media attention than similar efforts. When someone wrote to me, ‘I have most certainly heard of Reclaim the Night, which received unanimous support from those proud of the feminist tradition. I seriously doubt you can say the same about support for Slutwalk though’, I thought he was absolutely right.
The word ‘slut’ is a loaded one. It’s the reason Slutwalk has gotten so much press, and it’s also the reason that it has so many opponents. I think it is possible to “reclaim” words, but I have zero interest in reclaiming this one (granted, the Adelaide event organisers stated, ‘We are not reclaiming the word ‘slut’ but reclaiming the right to be who we are without being attacked, to bring greater awareness to the fact that ‘No means no’ and we shouldn’t have to fight for respect and justice’, and this was why I felt I could support this particular Slutwalk), and media attention has never previously been a good reason for me to invest myself in something.
By all accounts, it sounds like it was a fantastic afternoon, and part of me thinks that maybe I should have gone. But all the comments leading up to it had made me feel angry and negative, instead of energised and optimistic as I had upon first hearing about the event.
I suppose wanting change has to be propelled by some kind of anger, or at least discontent. I’m not a feminist because I’m not pissed off that women are largely subordinate to men, but feminism has primarily been a positive influence in my life. It has been a way to connect with like-minded people and invest myself in something that I feel is important. Of course I am aware that these are not the predominant views, and that I can’t always stash myself away in my happy bubble, and I am somewhat disappointed in myself that I let all the naysayers bring me down on June 11. But I also remain unconvinced that Slutwalk is entirely compatible with my values, and thus probably isn’t the best place to focus my energies.
You’re not always going to be right, and your values aren’t always going to be aligned with those of everybody (even anybody) else. Ultimately though, the person that you’re answering to is you, and if you’re defending something you don’t wholly believe in, you’re going to be worn down very quickly.
Moreover, even when you are struggling to defend something you do value, you’re still going to come up against people who almost seem to derive pleasure from belittling you and anything you say. People who actually want to bring you down (because let’s face it, what’s scarier than the idea of every single woman in the world being a feminist and demanding change in the world? Of course the bigwigs want to nip that in the bud). People who you can dodge in your inner circle, but who you’ll probably need to tolerate if you are to ever be a functional human being, particularly if you ever want to enact, or be part of, any kind of widespread change.
It may not be for Slutwalk, but keep fighting the good fight, girls and boys!
For more information about Reclaim the Night Australia, be sure to visit the website.
(Image credit: 1.)