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June 13, 2011

The Concerned Women for America Slam SlutWalk

If you're at all familiar with the Concerned Women for America, you won't be surprised to learn that they're not fans of the SlutWalk movement that has been sweeping around the world. (And if you're at all familiar with us you already know that we are fans.) CWA's Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse recently wrote a piece called SlutWalking our way to Gomorrah to explain their concerns.

The latest desperate bid for attention by the publicity-starved feminists is to sponsor SlutWalks — events where scantily clad women take to the streets en masse to claim their "right" to dress and behave however they want or to go anywhere at any time without the risk of being sexually assaulted or deemed streetwalkers.
We'd like to thank the Concerned Women for taking pity on our desperation and providing us slutty feminists with the attention that we obviously crave. And get used to the scare quotes that Crouse uses to dismiss the rights that the SlutWalkers are fighting for, because her brilliant analysis is full of them.

Granted the feminists have gotten a lot of mileage out of their attempt to displace the romance of Valentine's Day with their crude and brassy V-Day performances (in case you've been living under a rock, the "V" is shorthand for the Vagina Monologues)
Yes, the Vagina Monologues and the V-Day movement are all about 'displacing the romance' of Valentine's Day, because everyone knows that romance is incompatible with vaginas, or feminism, or something. Fingers on the pulse as usual, ladies.

but if anything illustrates just how outrageous and passé the movement has become, it is their delusional attempt to take back the term "slut."
This is a popular tactic with conservative groups like the CWA - constantly declare feminism to be irrelevant, dead, passé, etc., like they're trying to invoke some kind of anti-feminist Beetlejuice Effect where if they keep saying it over and over it will magically become reality.

They propose somehow to make the point that even if what they wear, their drunken state, or their presence alone in a very vulnerable place might indicate their willingness to participate in a sexual free-for-all, women should not be subject to lewd propositions or be at risk of being raped.
No, the point is that what we wear, where we go, and how much we drink doesn't indicate anything about whether we want to engage in sexual activity. We "indicate our willingness" when we indicate our willingness by actually consenting to sex. It's a little creepy to think that these Concerned Women apparently believe that a woman can consent to "participate in a sexual free-for-all" simply by wearing a short skirt or having a few drinks. And of course it's not just sex, but a sexual free-for-all (whatever that means), because after all, we are talking about sluts here, right? (Or maybe we can give Crouse the benefit of the doubt and say that she just has a dirty mind.)

The SlutWalks are the only indication in recent past decades that the feminist movement has any life left at all. The first SlutWalk was held in Toronto and quickly swept to close to 100 cities around the world.
...meanwhile, we're still waiting for the first signs of life from the CWA's movement. Maybe someday.

The demonstrations are an opportunity for young women to parade around dressed like sluts as a protest against a law enforcement officer who obliquely warned coeds against dressing like sluts because it might increase the odds of being raped. Both students and the press went ballistic and claimed that the officer was going back to the days of "blaming the victim." Students quickly rose to the cause, and more than 3,000 marched the streets of Toronto carrying signs: "My dress is not a yes," "Slut Pride," and "Don't Blame the Victim." It should be noted that the hapless officer apologized publicly for his insensitivity and tried to explain that he was trying to warn young women of dangers, not blaming them for some men's criminal and violent behaviors. His apology went largely unnoticed and disregarded.

The police officer in question didn't "obliquely" issue a warning; he explicitly said that young women should 'avoid dressing like sluts' if they didn't want to be victimized. And maybe his apology didn't go unnoticed, but just became somewhat irrelevant as the movement grew because while his comments may have been a catalyst, he's not the only person to ever express these views, and the SlutWalk movement is about a lot more than this one incident. As a recent post on the SlutWalk blog put it, "SlutWalk was a reaction to not one officer’s remark, but to a history that was doomed to keep repeating."

The demonstrators are following the old feminist mantra to be "in your face" about "women's rights."
She says (and scare quotes) this like it's a bad thing.

Feminists came to prominence in part because they were willing to do anything to get attention, no matter how outrageous. The SlutWalks are following in that tradition — that controversy gets more attention than Townhall meetings and walking the halls of Congress to lobby Members.
I actually think she's on to something here. Who's up for SlutWalk: Congress Edition?

The SlutWalks are encouraging the feminists into thinking that this so-called "grassroots movement" will revive the feminist movement. I think they err in thinking very many young women aspire to be viewed as "sluts." The inconsistency of "reclaiming" the word "slut" is similar to the incongruity of feminists wanting to claim "sex worker" status for prostituted women. Most women caught in sexual slavery (some 85 percent) want out; they do not want their victim status whitewashed with some respectable new title.
"Overuse" of "scare" "quotes" in this "paragraph". And the 'feminism is dead/irrelevant/passé/over/played out/so yesterday' counter is at four or five now, I believe. SlutWalk is a grassroots movement, and there's nothing "so-called" about it - all you need to do is take a look at the list of satellite SlutWalks that grew out of the original Toronto event to see that. And Crause says that she doesn't think that very many women are interested in reclaiming the word slut or participating in a movement like this, but again - there are satellite SlutWalks happening everywhere from London to Vancouver, Dallas to Detroit, D.C. to NYC, Miami to Seattle, Sydney to Stockholm. Look at all of the Facebook pages and Twitters and Tumblrs and blogs and comments. I think it's safe to say that there are many many many women who would tell Crause that she's totally wrong, if she could take a break from her busy schedule of declaring feminism dead to listen.

Gail Dines, the anti-pornography scholar and activist, views the SlutWalks as another way of "pornifying" and over-sexualizing our culture. I couldn't agree more.
I stopped reading at "Gail Dines".

Obviously, nothing justifies one person viciously attacking another person, whether that person is dressed provocatively or wearing a burka. And, yes, women should be safe from violence and sexual assaults. But "should" is not always the real world. In the real world, there are places that are simply not safe, and there are things that any person who wants to remain safe should not do, and there are places that they should not go (even if they are expert in martial arts). Having done those things or being in that place does not justify an attack, but it is foolish to deny the risks involved (often for men as well as for women).
Of course the thing is that if a woman really wants to avoid being raped, those places that are "simply not safe" and that we "should not go" are...pretty much every place in the world, including our own homes.

We also know that rape is typically — according to the experts — a crime of anger, not a crime of passion.
Isn't she basically arguing the Slut's case with this statement? If rape is about 'anger, not passion', then it doesn't matter how we're dressed or if we ever get drunk or go anywhere alone or otherwise - how did she phrase it? - "indicate [our] willingness to participate in a sexual free-for-all".

Following that logic, the female's dress is just one factor in a whole list that includes where she is and how she behaves. A rapist is not a normal person acting out enflamed sexual desire; and who can predict just what will set that deranged person off — including provocative clothing?
Okay, so we're right back to the victim blaming. Never mind. And it's interesting to watch Crouse walk this fine line of arguing that rape isn't about sexual desire (in which case it shouldn't matter what a victim was wearing), but women still shouldn't dress provocatively because that might set a rapist off.

Young women should be aware that certain places are hangouts for those types of problem men, and any wise young lady should avoid, as much as possible, situations where she has no protection and is vulnerable to attack. Further, all women should be aware that many such crazies exist, and sometimes they appear very normal, even attractive (a good case in point is Joran van der Sloot who is suspected in Natalee Holloway's disappearance). Since psychotics' anger can be triggered by heaven knows what — by even innocent behaviors — awareness, prudent caution, and wisdom are necessary.

The high-volume indignation of the feminists may attract the press and intimidate public officials, but it will have no deterrent effect on the twisted souls of the predators watching for an opportunity to strike. No amount of women marching the streets demanding the right to act however they please will ever do away with the risks that arise from the evil of which the human heart is capable. Moreover, let us be clear — as the case of Jeffrey Dahlmer, who killed 17 young men, clearly shows — evil stalks the vulnerable, males and female alike. It is not blaming the victim to clearly teach youths what they can do to avoid putting themselves in harm's way.
Deranged, problem men, crazies, psychotics, twisted souls, predators. In order to make her argument work, Crouse has to pretend that all rapists are the same and that they're all the 'random psycho hiding in the bushes' type. The truth is that approximately two-thirds of all rapes are committed by someone that the victim knows, and more than 50% occur either at the victim's home or within one mile of their home. There is no way to "clearly teach" someone how to "avoid putting themselves in harm's way". Personally, I would rather be out in the streets with my fellow sluts fighting for our "outrageous and passé" notions of "women's rights" than sitting back with people like Crouse and the CWA acting like slut-shaming is protection and victim-blaming is a solution.


Anonymous said...

I am a rape survivor. My exboyfriend is the rapist. I will be at my local slutwalk in my pearls and twinset because I was called a slut after people found out what he did.

No one ever asks to be raped. Someone who has been raped is the victim, not the accuser, not a slut, not dumb, not irresponsible.

How about some criminal-blaming for a change? Rapists cause rape. Rape is not a women's problem, it is a MEN'S problem.

Sonya JF Barnett said...

I love this piece.

I'm amazed at how much criticism is geared at SlutWalk regarding what it's about. No, we didn't walk for the right to bare our midriffs or the right to fuck whom we please. We walked because most women who are sexually assaulted don't go to the police for fear of having their lives destroyed even more. One officer's comment was the straw that broke the camel's back in a culture where consensual sexuality is frowned upon, and rape jokes prevail.

It's the Protective and Judicial systems that need to be criticized and blamed, not women and survivors.

Thanks for this blogpost. It was a breath of fresh air.

Yandie, Goddess of Pickles. said...

I heard a comment that pretty nicely summed up the point of SlutWalk. I don't have it offhand so I'm going to paraphrase:

Anyone at anytime, can be subjected to the label 'Slut' and as long as society views 'Sluts' as fair game for rape, then we are all at risk.

Melissa said...

...not to mention the heaping piles of ableism in that last paragraph. Yikes...

Anonymous said...

I think SlutWalk is an amazing idea, concept and movement. What I just can't understand though is how some people get so hung-up on the word "slut" that they can't even see to the real concept of the walk. I had a difficult time explaining the issues surrounding the walk to my parents for example, simply because they continually wanted to harp on the term "slut."

Anonymous said...

Yea....men rape period, heck men would even rape themselves if they could get in position. men shower in the dark cause seeing themselves causes them to attack themselves. Old trees excite men.

men rape....period....

Anonymous said...

Great post. I was so irritated by TCW's argument that "in the real world" rapists exist and look for vulnerable people, so women should be taught not to be vulnerable (through dress, location, behavior, blah blah blah). First of all, how can anyone just say "in the real world" as if it's immutable, like this is just the way it is and so women need to react accordingly? ? Don't we decide what the real world is? Isn't that what grassroots social movements are all about?

Secondly, yeah, there are sociopaths and rapists who look to attack vulnerable people, and maybe the SlutWalk won't deter them. But if it helps a rapist's victim to realize that she isn't at fault for being attacked, helps eliminate the blame that other people try to place on her, and helps her heal from her experience, it's immensely helpful. TCW completely misses that point.