Sisterhood Blog

Criticizing 'Slutwalks' and Again Judging Women For What They Wear

By Sarah Seltzer

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Getty Images via AFP
Women at a “Slutwalk” in London in June

As a loud defender of Slutwalks, I’ve been disturbed by the recent turn the critique of the new grassroots movement has taken, from within the feminist movement and here on our own Sisterhood blog.

I was actually pleasantly surprised, during the first wave of Slutwalks earlier this year, by how much the mainstream media seemed to be getting the message of the walks, which is, in essence, that “she was asking for it” is never an appropriate response to rape.

No, the message is not “we’re sluts and we’re proud!” No, not “it’s great to be a slut!” No, the message is not exclusively “we’re reclaiming sluthood.”

But yes, in the words of Joe Scarborough (yes, that Joe Scarborough) the message is a “punch-back against people who say yes, she got raped, but…”

The entire point of the movement, although it is grassroots and diverse, is that rapists and misogny cause rape. Rape is not caused by women’s attitudes, demeanor, location or clothing. Or to paraphrase a sign from one participant, why does society teach women not to get raped instead of teaching men not to rape? And why, when we hear about a rape, do we ask what the woman could have done (worn a longer skirt, for instance) but why don’t we ask, who among us allowed and encouraged the perpetrator to be so entitled, violent, and vicious?

So when feminists writers focus so exclusively on what the marchers are wearing, and what message those clothes may be sending, that completely and totally buys into the exact same mindset that rape apologists use when looking at rape victims. How about instead we look at what the organizers, the young women marching and their signs are actually saying instead of how much fabric they’ve got on their bodies? Because you know what: if Joe Scarborough can do it, so can we.

I’d like it if feminism had more time and energy to devote to the way strong women are de-sexualized and the way women and girls who don’t flaunt their sexuality in socially-prescribed ways can feel marginalized and hurt in our hyper-sexualized society. But if we’re going to have a complete orgy of hand wringing and head shaking every time a few young women flaunt their cleavage and midriffs, then feminist are going to be stuck playing defense forever and not be able to make these more widespread, nuanced critiques in public ways.

So I say, let the Slutwalkers walk. Because believe me, if the most buttoned-down, covered-up woman in the world was raped, there would still be someone saying she was asking for it.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Rape, Slutwalks

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