'Slut'. I hate that word. I really really hate that word. Even as used in The Ethical Slut. It just sets my teeth on edge.
But I totally support the SlutWalk. To recap, a stupid cop in Toronto, during a talk on rape prevention, suggested that if women didn't want to get raped, they shouldn't dress like sluts. (I won't unpack the idiocy of that statement here because many feminist blogs have done so quite adequately already.)
In response, women in Toronto and now all over the world have staged SlutWalks in protest of the victim blaming inherent in the cop's statement, and in solidarity with the women who are so often on the receiving end of this kind of crap.
And I think it's great. Not because it is a 'reclamation'*of the term as has so often been said, but because it taps into the Riot Grrrl credo of the 90s that I loved so very much. Riot Grrrls were all about rubbing your face in patriarchal assumptions about women. You get treated like property? Write the word 'Property' on your belly and make people confront what they think of you. It was aggressive and raw and made people very very uncomfortable because of the way they would see their internalized assumptions about women externalized on women's bodies, often in grotesque and disturbing ways. In short, it rocked.
There's been much talk among the participants to 'slut it up' for the walk. Lots of discussion of what 'provocative' stuff they'll wear and how it's such a celebration of women's sexuality. I see the politics of it a little differently. I don't think there is any particular need to dress any differently than you normally would, because somewhere out there is someone who thinks it's ok to call you a slut regardless of how covered or uncovered you are. So rather than yet again reinforcing the stereotypical image of a slut as someone who dresses and acts in a particular way, I would like to see people take that horrible little word and slap it across every woman of every age in every kind of dress and say, Riot Grrrl style: THIS is what you think of us for simply having been born female.
Because that's the point. If you get sexually assaulted, NOTHING you were wearing or were doing is going to be good enough. There will always be some moron going on about how you shouldn't have gone there or done that or worn such-and-such or had a sexual or professional or intellectual history. The bottom line is that we live in a global society that believes femaleness is a fault and that if something happens to you, well then that's just what you're going to get if you insist on existing while female.
So yes, I'm going to the Melbourne SlutWalk and I'd encourage anyone of any gender and any orientation who can attend to do so. Because this isn't about one kind of woman or one kind of world view or even women as a group. Victim blaming and a culture that allows and even expects it are toxic for all of us, whoever we are and wherever we are. It is important then that, when handed the opportunity on a silver platter, we lend our voices to the protest against it.
*Because I am a nerd: 'slut' has been a pejorative used to shame women from the 11-12th century (Middle English, basically). Its secondary and less often used meaning of female dog only appears in the late 19th century. Think about that for a second. 'Bitch' meant female canid before it was used as an insult for women (Old English, and 14th century, respectively). 'Queer' meant strange or weird before it was used to insult gay people. These words were neutral once and can literally have that neutrality 'reclaimed'. 'Slut', on the other hand, entered the world (or at least the OED) fully formed as an insulting term for a woman. I'm all for rendering it useless and refusing to let it be used to shame women, but I don't think it's a candidate for reclamation as such because there's nothing to reclaim.